When I was starting out in my career I spent several years slaving away — quite literally, I am talking 20 hours days and I mean 20 hours, not 16 hours that seemed like 20 — at a well-known consulting firm. On one of my first projects there my manager was a woman. She was ridiculously impressive, you know, the works: Multiple graduate degrees, ultra sharp, creative, a great speaker. We got to know each other pretty well — working our 20 hour days and all — and at the end of our project went out for a late-night drink. And that’s when she dropped the bomb…
… she told me that she is afraid that soon the higher-ups will find out that she is really not as smart or as good as she might seem and fire her.
I was stunned. When I tried to argue with her that she shouldn’t think that, she she is amazingly smart and great at what she does, I realized there was nothing I could say — she felt the way she did very strongly. This seemed so strange to me until the day when I began to feel it myself.
I’ve had, what you might call, a fairly successful career — interesting jobs, management positions, respect from my colleagues and partners. Yet for a lot of it I’ve felt that somehow, I am not really as good as people think and boy, when they find out, I am in trouble.
I call this the female impostor complex simply because I’ve never heard a guy talk about it but have talked about it with some of my friends who are women and who can relate. It’s almost like we’re not able to get behind our own success, like we — OK, let’s get real, I — don’t feel like it’s for real, but rather, a fluke.
Don’t get me wrong, though, in a work environment I don’t let on for a second that I might feel this way. (You know, I am not currently blogging about to hundreds of people.) I know that confidence — whether you feel it or fake it, baby — is critical to getting what you want, even though confident women risk being considered bitchy at work.
So, anyone else feel this way (or have thoughts to share on the subject)?