#117 – Her Popularity Comes With A Price


The term impostor phenomenon is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phonies, which appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women. Certain early family dynamics and later introjection of societal sex-role stereotyping appear to contribute significantly to the development of the impostor phenomenon. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persists in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample object evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief. Four factors, which contribute to the maintenance of impostor feelings over time, are explored. Therapeutic approaches found to be effective in helping women change the impostor self-concept are described.

reads the abstract of “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” – a paper written by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes from Georgia State University.

I was always fascinated by the term Impostor since the day I read an article about how even some of the great role model figures like Sheryl Sandberg, Emma Watson and Kate Winslet suffer from this syndrome. Popularity for women always comes with a price. And sometimes it takes toll on her self image and the scars last for a lifetime if not treated with proper care.

Impostor Syndrome is one such behavior. In their paper Pauline and Suzanne have gone to the depths of how this behavior arises and is prevalent among women. It’s not that Impostor syndrome is associated with specific gender. It is found both in men and women but it lasts longer in women as compared to men. The main reason for this being the stereotyping of women in our society.

It sometimes starts right from within the family when parents start being indifferent to their kids. When parents label one of the siblings as “bright, intelligent, creative” and the other as “sensitive, fragile, calm” kids presume those attributes to be true and act accordingly. Usually when a girl is always compared to her brother and told that she is a girl, so she has to be sensitive, compassionate, kind, and she is not good enough to pick a fight with boys, instead of empowering her, parents unknowingly are pushing her into becoming one impostor.

Ask how? The girl who has been now labelled as weak and fragile will continue to fight against that mental image painted by her parents. Each day she tries to break the glass cieling and fast forward this nature for another 10 years, you would get a perfectly crafted imposter syndrome stricken woman. A woman who would always doubt her abilities and always thinks “Maybe I just got lucky that my entrepreneurial debut is making a six digit income” , “Maybe the jury was being very considerate in nominating my name for the best business woman of the year”.

Added to all this, I have seen a lot of workplaces where if a woman has achieved something a man could never achieve all they would do is “Why not… after all she has got a beautiful face, boobs and pussy… she can get things done”. I might sound very lewd and disgusting for some. But the reality doesn’t change. In 2011, the Institute of Leadership and Management surveyed managers about how confident they felt in their professions – and half of the female respondents reported self-doubt in their jobs, compared to less than a third of men. It’s not that these women were inefficient or not qualified enough to take up their roles. It’s the constant fear of falling into the dilemma of whether to accept that she is fit for the role or to dismiss the entire fact and say “Hey it was just by fluke”. Either ways, she is not going to have mental peace until she accepts that she is as good as any other person in that role.

People should always remember that feminine charms are not everything in this world. A woman can be pretty and yet be dumb. These kind of women often drop off in the middle of their career in pursuit of love – marriage and – baby carriage. Taking these kind of women as an example you cannot target every other woman walking on the road as “She has boobs and pussy so she get’s things done”.

There are hundreds and thousands of women who are paying price for being smart, for being successful, for being pretty + badass, for being intelligent + creative, for being gutsy + sensitive and most importantly just because she is a woman. . They suffer silently throughout their teens proving their abilities to their parents, relatives and society. Once they get into their work places, they suffer even more because the stakes are really high. And how many more people are they going to prove if they become CEO’s of MNC’s , CIO/CTO’s of large tech firms (which is largely filled with male workers) , professors of reputed universities. The self doubt increases until there comes a point when each significant achievement they accomplish seems like “Ok. Maybe I wasn’t worth it. What’s next to achieve so that I can justify I really deserve this”. The loop doesn’t end. It goes on and on until it takes a toll on their self esteem and damages a part of their personality forever.

Here are some tips from famous super achievers among women who are dealing with impostor syndrome on a regular basis:

Sheryl Sandberg:

“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up … This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name — the impostor syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible to the impostor syndrome, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it.” —Lean In, March 2013

Emma Watson

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are. It’s weird — sometimes [success] can be incredibly validating, but sometimes it can be incredibly unnerving and throw your balance off a bit, because you’re trying to reconcile how you feel about yourself with how the rest of the world perceives you.” —Rookie, May 2013

Natalie Portman

On being a Harvard student: “So I have to admit that today, even 12 years after graduation, I’m still insecure about my own worthiness. I have to remind myself today, You are here for a reason. Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999 … I felt like there had been some mistake — that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove I wasn’t just a dumb actress. … Sometimes your insecurities and your inexperience may lead you to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values, but you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path — one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons.” —Harvard Commencement 2015, May 2015

Kate Winslet

“What people really think of me is something I remain blissfully unaware of most of the time. I love acting and all I ever try to do is my best. But even now I always dread those emotional scenes. I’m there thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m rubbish and everyone is going to see it. They’ve cast the wrong person.’ But I have come to realize that those nerves are all part of the process for me.” —The Mirror, June 2013

So the next time you hate a woman for being bossy and super successful, please remember the journey and the mental fight that she must have fought in order to feel super confident about her own abilities. Her popularity comes with a huge price. Respect the journey and hard-work of each individual irrespective of a woman or man. Before you judge others make sure you are “picture perfect”.

Quote Courtesy: http://ow.ly/1Wku30fU0jL

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