It is no secret that many women deal with insecurities when it comes to climbing the ladder of success at some point in their career. Many of these insecurities are steeped in the history of women not always being on equal-playing levels with men in corporate America. It also includes fewer opportunities for women and, equally as disturbing, less pay. These issues, despite many years of legal reform to combat it, tend to affect the psyche of women and minorities in the workplace and beyond.
Impostor Syndrome is defined as:
The psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others or having manipulated other people’s impressions.
Why would such accomplished women belittle their careers by thinking their success is a product of luck and not ability and talent? Is it humility disguised as self-deprecation? Is it a survival skill utilized to stroke the egos of those who sign checks and retain employment? Or is it a culmination of years of being told you were less than, not quite enough, or not the best at what you do?
I believe it is a little bit of all three, because I have been guilty of Impostor Syndrome as well on several jobs.
One firm in particular, I was totally not myself. I showed up to work every day with the personality of “Helen.” Helen is a good girlfriend of mine who is smart, pretty, successful and just plain old nice. She has a kind word for everyone and every time I see her, she has a smile on her face.
So, in order to be successful, I felt like I had to act like Helen. I had been told by previous managers and bosses that I am too opinionated, defensive and sometimes just flat out not doing the job right. op that with graduating from a school that is not considered “top tier” and being told by my Dean that the likelihood of my passing the New York Bar Exam was next to impossible and you have a woman, who by all means is looked upon as a success story, down playing her intuition, personality, God-given abilities and hard work just to make others feel comfortable.
I was ultimately let go from that firm because “Helen” was not a fit. I often wonder if “Rashida” would have been a fit– something I would never know because I was so busy being who I thought they wanted as opposed to being myself.
Additionally, we have seen it time and time again; a successful woman, who has achieved a major accomplishment, downplaying her role in the accomplishment. We as women are so afraid of being judged, disliked, misunderstood or made the focal point of attention, so we tend to negate the accolades, refrain from self-promotion or just refuse to own our successes.
We must end this today! Instead of internalizing our fears of failure, our past shortcomings and other’s perceptions of us; let’s own what makes us rock. Let’s not be afraid to speak up, be heard and be successful without internalizing issues that may or may not exist. As men and women view challenges and successes different, I am not opposed to embracing the differences, while still shining in what I have accomplished. You should too!
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.