Friday, April 6, 2018

I Want to Punch the Impostor Complex in the Throat

One of my core missions on this earth before I inevitably die in a fire (or in jail for civil disobedience, hopefully) is to eradicate the female impostor* complex wherever and whenever I find it, and stomp it to death like the pestilent cockroach that it is.

Impostor complex is essentially an inability to internalize one’s own accomplishments, coupled with “a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.” Unsurprisingly, women suffer from impostor complex in disproportionate numbers.

Truly, I cannot fucking STAND this phenomenon.

I don’t blame the women who have an impostor complex, not at all. I blame society for giving it to them, and I see it as my self-assigned job and purpose on earth to dismantle the impostor complex one woman at a time, wherever it is found.

My most recent bout of rage-stroke apoplexy over this issue was triggered by yesterday’s NBC news report of a new study (one of many with the same results) showing that men in STEM fields “overestimate their own intelligence and credentials, underestimate the abilities of female colleagues, and that as a result, women doubt their abilities—even when hard evidence such as grades say[s] otherwise.”

The same phenomenon exists in the legal profession, too. Just recently, in fact, I heard a Big Deal Type Man™ greet a very high-level, adult female professional as “young lady.” This is really “no big deal” when you think about it; it’s more worthy of an eye-roll, or, in my case, a widening of the eyes to the point they almost fell out of my head. 

But when you “unpack” that greeting, what you get is a message that this woman is not to be taken seriously, or no more seriously than a school girl, even though—objectively—she has staggering professional accomplishments and responsibilities.

This is just one tiny micro-aggressive example of how women come to believe—wrongly—that they are “impostors” in their work lives. When I mentor young female lawyers and law students, I try to drill into their heads these messages:

You are smart.
Trust your talents.
Trust your gut.

Trust yourself.
Don’t let anyone—especially a man—make you feel “less than.”
You are not an impostor.
You are not a fraud.
You are here because you earned it.
You are valued.
You are valuable.

You get a seat at the table.
Your voice deserves to be heard.
You belong.

*I had a brief impostor complex about how to spell impostor, and found out it can be either impostor or imposter, but that impostor has the edge.

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