Monday, February 23, 2015


Top: Nordstrom (on sale, multiple patterns); Skirt: c/o Chicwish (on sale, under $40); Heels: c/o Rockport

I'm not sure if you've heard of impostor syndrome (or impostor effect), but it has been on my mind a lot lately. Impostor syndrome, for those that didn't study at a liberal arts college and don't read Jezebel/Slate/Salon/the Huffington Post, is the psychological phenomenon where individuals are unable to internalize their accomplishments. A perfect example is a successful and intelligent woman, advanced in her career, that doesn't believe others when they say she is doing a good job, and constantly feels like (as the phrase suggests) an impostor or fraud undeserving of accolades/title/position/salary. It's primarily ascribed to minorities and women, though it could apply to anyone that doesn't feel that they deserve their success.

I think we've all heard examples of this and I feel like I hear them on a daily basis - women starting their contribution in business meetings with "I could be wrong, but..." or female classmates saying "I'm not sure if this is right..." People that are absolutely smart enough, accomplished enough, or successful enough to make unapologetic contributions, still apologizing for themselves and doubting the validity of their place in an academic or professional setting. 

I am not quite advanced enough in my career (I'm technically still in an entry-level role) to feel like I don't deserve professional accolades or my position (after all, I have no accolades and no high-up position to feel that I don't deserve), but I do think that this subject is really important to think about as a woman trying to make both professional and creative inroads. I find myself, on so many occasions, doubting whether or not I should charge a certain amount for my calligraphy ("I'm only worth $20 for a logo"), feeling uncomfortable and undeserving of a raise ("after all, so-and-so makes less than me"), and wondering why someone picked me to partner with on a collaborative project ("I'm not good enough for this!"). Though I recognize when I am devaluing myself, it's hard to stop. I can come up with 1,000 excuses not to ask for a raise, not to raise my prices, not to deserve a promotion or a project. It's very difficult for me to come up with and act on just one that validates what I am deserving of.

As I interact with and hear more from the women my age making their first steps into careers, I can't help but see the same patterns. A close friend works 15-30 hours over her allotted monthly working hours to complete her projects, yet feels unjustified in asking for more pay "because everyone else isn't getting a salary increase." Another friend with a very low salary and limited opportunity for advancement at work doesn't think she deserves to look for another job "because she doesn't want to quit a job she has only been at for two years." I had a former colleague that, despite her seniority and proven success, didn't believe that her voice counted at work because she didn't have as much experience as her boss. I face the same issues myself - I don't deserve a pay increase because I make $5,000 more than one of my colleagues. Or I don't need a pay increase because I have a side business. Or I shouldn't ask for a track to management/a promotion/a title change because I have only been at the company for one year.

I feel challenged to feel deserving, to ask for what I want (and need), and to lean in on a daily basis in my professional life. I think it goes without saying that women have a lot of work to do in standing up for themselves, convincing themselves that what they have and will achieve is important, and that they are as deserving of raises, promotions, success, and accolades as their male counterparts. I'm not sure what we can do, but forcing ourselves to ask for what we think we deserve, instead of sitting back and justifying why we should not ask for that, is a good first step.

I plan on doing this myself in the coming months - learning how to say: I am worth it. I deserve it. I am good enough to ask. 

How do you lean in at work and conquer those inherent drives to devalue yourself?


  1. Great post! I'm so glad that you've mentioned this subject since I believe that all of us girls do the same kind of thing, questioning ourselves, our abilities and our "rights" and starting with an "apology" before going on with our task/ presentation.

    I still do this but not even close to how I used to be before... I did realised that if I think that I don't deserve something or that I can't have something, then pretty much it will be that way, I won't have it...

  2. The stripes and pleats are perfect together!

  3. Natali,

    Thank you for sharing! I think I've definitely gotten better over time too, but notice that I am still struggling to really get in there and ask for what I know I deserve. And you're so right - it's absolutely a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't think you deserve it, you'll probably make it so!


  4. YES. I love this post. You can't get for something if you don't go for it or don't ask for it. I learned this lesson very early on when I was promoted at 20 years younger than the rest of the executive team. You are your best advocate, and if you don't believe in your worth, no one else will.

  5. First, I love how the stripes and the pleats flow together well, it's so elegant. And, it's so true that women devalue themselves and to others by saying exactly what you mention - "I may be wrong but..." "This is probably a dumb question but..." etc. Consciously I stripped all those apologies out, or at least I'm trying to- there are other ones like "Just" or "I think" or "Actually" I still find myself deleting from emails! I never hear my fellow male peers say them, and I shouldn't either.

  6. Imposter syndrome is SO real! I have really struggled with that as a FL/C! Love this outfit!

  7. This is such an important discussion. I struggle with this constantly—knowing how much to charge for projects, especially because I freelance for a living. With a certain client lately, I've been thinking about how much good my work is doing them (bringing eyes to their web site, telling compelling stories, adding a new voice, etc) and focusing on that. How much is THAT worth to the client? That makes me more comfortable charging what I'm worth.

  8. What a great post, Kelsey! You are absolutely worth everything! Don't be afraid to ask for more or feel like you don't deserve it. Be confident in yourself and the rest will follow!!!
    BTW, I also love your outfit!!
    Vanessa Balli

  9. I have to tell myself I am worth it and I deserve it too... especially when pricing photography, etc. It's a HUGE challenge for me.

  10. This is a really great message! You are so right that many people devalue themselves, and I often find myself doing the same. I have really been working on recognizing my value and believing in my abilities. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Beautiful outfit too! Love the skirt!

  11. oh such a nice article ... frankly similar feelings all the time not just at work but at home too... i think you nailed it when you said "I am worth it. I deserve it. I am good enough to ask." and i think... i should do the same :)

    By the way gorgeous outfit!!! love your skirt...

  12. Great opportunity to read an interseting post, I love it. Stunning oufit , you look so pretty , thanks for sharing. AWESOME!!!


  13. i love this look on you, that blouse is beautiful! I'm transitioning jobs from the classroom to higher ed and i have the opposite of the impostor syndrome. I'm tired of feeling undervalued and unappreciated and i'm going for what i deserve based on my accomplishments and experience. I pray you do too love, good luck!


    C's Evolution of Style

  14. Great look and post. You are worth it and deserve it! Once you get comfortable in your role you will start to see the value that you bring, and stand up for yourself.

  15. What a great honest post. You are worth it - every penny and every second. It is a learning process to speak out loud- what you want. And I could be wrong but even the high paid women struggle from time with this syndrome.
    Moved from a different continent - even with having great expertise in my field - but knowing that I had to wait 5 years ( only one to go :-)) was a real life challenge. It meant starting from the ground- which opens new doors for me, I build up a complete new community around me and sure there are moments where I look and listen to people and know- they see me with different eyes or think I would be complete knew to this fields. Here is what I do to overcome those awards moments- where I am unsure if I am worth it.
    If this feelings comes up in a conversation - I decide in five seconds how important is this chat- where does is support me or what can I gain out of it. If I can gain something out of it- I will let the other party know that I have a deeper knowledge as they would expect. If I know there will be not connection and it suits not my needs or helps me to achieve my goals- I will only politely listen and smile into myself and try to see what other people's opinions are on this subject. Having this feeling at home or when I am alone- I make a note on a post it - in my cellphone what jobs I did in my life- what obstacles throw out of my life and what have been little magical mood improver in my life in the last three days.

  16. I think imposter syndrome is real and can be overcome by moving forward...even if we feel like we fake it. We are more powerful and make a bigger difference that we realize. I think you'll love this TED talk on the topic... xo


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