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?