#BEYA – Authenticity and Imposter Syndrome

There are two people I need to mention before I step upon this soapbox.

The first (always and forever) is my mom, who is a fantastically inspirational woman.

The second is the SaaSy Sistah herself, who wrote this blog post, then challenged some of us to keep the dialogue going. Challenge accepted.

soapbox

I hate saying this, but I am smart. I really am. I am the kind of smart that gets bored easily or can reach logical conclusions based on information provided before it’s explicitly said. I don’t like saying that because it’s considered bad form to speak about myself positively.

I mention this because, especially as a woman who works exclusively with men, I often dumb myself down around people. (See how this just keeps sounding worse?!) I work with a lot of people who lash out at intelligence, despite the buzz words and the catchphrases that make it seem like they would embrace it. They feel threatened by it. So I keep quiet; I keep things to myself. I pretend I don’t remember things that I do remember when it would seem “weird” to.

And, yes, I get bored. If I don’t feel challenged in my work (in an enriching way, mind you), then I’m much more likely to find a way out. This has been thrown in my face – “you seem to have bounced around a lot, how do we know you will stay here?” I have to apologize for that? (I will say this for my authenticity – when asked this question, my response is “I have done a lot of different jobs, yes, and I’ve been successful in each of them.”)

Things that don’t bore me: fantasy books, comics, video games, and some movie and tv franchises. I’ve been accused of being obsessive at times…by more than one person. I get rather enthusiastic about things that I like, and sometimes it’s a really hot flame that doesn’t burn very long. If I had a nickel for every time someone complained to me about my intensity, I would have enough money to make up for some of this pay gap.

So in response, I resort to stoicism or self-deprecating humor. Easier to pretend to be indifferent than to be told that my enthusiasm is ill-placed or unwelcome.

It’s also easier because there’s a gender war in some of those arenas. Comic fans (even some writers) and gamers are typically white males, and if I don’t want to deal with harassment or arguments, I have to enjoy those things quietly and largely on my own. Does my blood boil when the hubby and I go to events, and he is treated with respect, when he knows less about comics? All the time. Does he know that and correct people? You bet.

And perhaps the worst part…is that I know all of this about myself. I know that I am intelligent, that I am a genuine fan of things, that I have a great memory. I know that I actively pretend to not be. Yet I still feel inferior.

On the Women in Tech Leadership call this month, Imposter Syndrome was the main topic of conversation. It was strange to me that I had never heard of this, but even before they explained it, I understood the concept. I mean, it’s in the name.

Essentially, what that means is that I’m wearing a mask over a mask. I wear a mask of confidence to hide my mask of insecurity, which hides my true self. Or maybe I wear a mask of timidity over a mask of confidence over insecurity? I can’t say anymore, and that is the worst part of all of this.

I’ve been thinking about authenticity all week; I’ve been thinking about Imposter Syndrome. and the most disturbing realization that I reached was that maybe I don’t even know anymore which parts are mask.