Impostor Syndrome. I used to have it and then I went to a special camp where the counselors made me sing all the verses of I Am Woman and cut marshmallows into shapes of accomplishments like wee puffy children on their way to Harvard, personalized license plates saying IMRCH and various types of men in suits kneeling in front of a thigh high boot. It’s not easy doing all this with marshmallows. Hence, the special camp.
I lie. I never had Impostor Syndrome. For those unfamiliar, Impostor Syndrome is when someone, usually a woman, thinks that their success is a fluke and not a reflection of their actual capabilities. It was just by way of luck or happenstance that they managed to run a million dollar company. An accident. So the Impostor Syndrome victim has the burden of dressing up each day like somebody who looks like they know what they’re doing.
Me? I had the opposite syndrome. I had the Light Years Smarter Than You Think I Am Syndrome. As long as I can remember, I have had to beat back the overwhelming desire to be the smartest person in the room, to have the answer to every question, an opinion on every issue, the statement deserving of note-taking. Write this down, people. I speak. Ah, my sharp elbows in the ribs of lesser intellects, let me to the fore.
And then I hit sixty and I just let it shine. Like ET’s glow. ET didn’t have to talk all the time. He just showed up amongst all the stuffed animals and sat in the bicycle basket with a blanket over his head. He said so few words but what he said was powerful, man, really powerful. “Phone home.” I speak fewer words now but have perfected the art of the gaze, refined my presence, am relaxed enough to coast on the river of other people’s assumptions, the years of my own marketing now bearing fruit. I joke. Somewhat. If there are accolades I am ready to catch each one with my bushel basket. No worries. I am claiming the rain that’s mine.
I think it is the ultimate internalized oppression to believe that what one has achieved is unrelated to one’s capabilities. I think spreading credit for achievements is swell and builds teamwork but when the achiever looks in the mirror, she needs to say, “This shit would not have happened without me.” You did it? Claim it. Don’t wave away credit, shrug off the spotlight. Because, guess what, if you don’t take what’s yours, someone else will. It’s not self-aggrandizement. It’s truth. As in, truth be told, I did this. I am responsible. I figured this out. I changed this situation for the better. Say it. Own it. And smile like crazy when someone else says it. Good for them. Good for you.
Is that having a big ego? I don’t know. I personally really like people who claim their accomplishments. I find false modesty, like the uniquely female trait of making fun of one’s foibles, very off-putting and disingenuous. So deferential and frilly like letting some dumb jock instruct you in algebra. So clenched lace hanky. I can’t stand it. Don’t make me guess that you’re really the person responsible for changing the course of history, tell me.
I’m waiting to hear how amazing you are.