So many people—especially women—experience feelings of being a fraud when trying to achieve something, whether it’s moving up in their career, starting a business, or simply following their dream. They’ve done studies on this and it’s been given a name: The Impostor Syndrome. This is the fear that their incompetence, in whatever task it is, will be discovered.
There are so many reasons for this, the most obvious in my mind being that women have been taught from an early age that they shouldn’t do better than men, and that they’re not as smart or as talented as men. Aren’t we told that on a pretty regular basis? Not necessarily to our faces, but in indirect ways: our achievements not being recognized, and being underrepresented in every field. (Although, we are told that to our faces sometimes, especially now in the era of brazen discrimination.)
There was an old piece of advice given to women on winning an argument with their husbands: Let him think he won (or that he’s right), and then do what you want anyway. I think for the times when this advice was given (basically, any era before the 1990s), it was probably good advice, because women weren’t taken seriously in any situation. And, after all, women were supposed to love, honor, and obey, right? But in today’s world, advice like that is insulting. It implies that men not only want to be right, that they should be right, and that their spoiled asses should be coddled. Well, fuck that.
But, unfortunately, the fraud syndrome continues to exist, even in our post-feminist, first-world society. Women can have degrees out the wahzoo, get to the top of their game, so the most amazing things, and they will still feel as if they aren’t worthy of the recognition/salary/position/acclaim/award.
This applies to writers as well. I’m not sure how prevalent it is within the lesfic community. I imagine that it’s a little less so than in mainstream publishing because our only competition is other women. Plus, the lesfic community tends to supportive, rather than competitive (there are exceptions, of course).
But I wonder how lesfic writers feel when they get that awesome review, or award, or designation as an expert on something. Do they feel that the recognition is warranted, or do they feel as if their writing really isn’t as good as that reviewer made it seem, didn’t deserve that award, or that they really don’t have the expertise that people think they do? In other words, do lesfic authors succumb to the fraud syndrome?
My guess is yes. I know I personally do. Not just in my writing, but in my other life’s career as well. There’s always someone who is better at it, deserves it more, knows more than I do.
I’ll give you an example. When I decided to go to culinary school, I had to do a lot of financial juggling. I applied to several scholarships, and actually was awarded one. You know, I actually felt guilty for getting it. I thought, someone out there who should be getting this instead of me. Someone very talented, who’s going to take her culinary career to great heights. It wasn’t a lot of money, yet I felt as if I were taking away something tremendous from someone else more deserving. Take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one. Others around you are feeling the same way.
I’d venture to say that most women who go through this don’t even realize it’s happening. But I hope by calling attention to it that it makes women–in all areas of life–stop and think about their thought processes and shift gears.
You are deserving. To quote Stuart Smalley, an SNL character, repeat after me:
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.