Imposters?

I recently started asking women if they feel like an imposter, because so many have indicated they do when the recorder is off.  They say, “I can’t believe you wanted to interview me.” Or “Well, I’m certainly not going to be inspiring like so and so.”  And yet, I did, and yet, they are.

“The Imposter Syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.” Wikipedia

So far, I am finding this to be at least somewhat true.  Not 100%, of course, but enough that it feels like a pattern to some extent.  I am interviewing one objectively amazing woman after another, and many of them are not only reluctant to own their own success, but they are surprised I even asked to interview them.

They often think the other women on the show are incredible, and are certain they do not belong in the same club.  However, to the next woman in line, they themselves are incredible. The hazard of interviewing amazing women is that subsequent amazing women may be intimidated.

Perhaps women are easily intimidated by other women.  Heck, I am intimidated by these women. They appear to completely have their act together. And they do. So smart, so thoughtful, so accomplished. But, what appears to be ease is sometimes actually a well-honed impeccability. There is data and anecdotal evidence that women have to be better, more competent, impeccable, to get ahead and to achieve success.  And these women have done very well.  Put another way, none of them have half-assed it to get where they are. They know it's hard, and yet on others, it looks easy.

What breaks down the perceptions immediately is intimate conversation.  Revealing themselves.  Finding common ground. Telling their stories.

Telling your story is powerful.  Powerful for the listener, and maybe even more importantly, for the storyteller. They sometimes feel naked afterward. Raw. Exposed. But, hopefully, they also feel seen. I am aware of the gift I have been given. Of the honor. I try to handle it with care.  Close the gaps before I leave.  Help them not go away feeling as vulnerable as they have become in the process.

There is a need to tell our stories, to be heard, to be recognized, to connect. To know you belong.  At the table.  In the room.  At the top. There are no imposters here.