Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I shouldn't be here

(This is the 23rd post of the one-month challenge I gave myself!)

While I was at Georgia Tech, I participated in a survey for female students, intended for high-performing women who were not completely satisfied with their achievements. (Turns out that was in September! How time flies!)

Think of yourself (or if you are a guy, get into the shoes of a woman you know very well.) You are a high achieving woman- you went to a good college/grad school and performed excellently. Or work for a reputed organization and are regularly lauded for your work. And yet you feel that you don't deserve it. "I'm not smart enough for all that, I don't know why everyone says I'm good- I am doing well purely by chance". 
When someone praises you for a good job done- you think "I have done nothing at all. I just got lucky that whatever I tried worked". And when you get a salary hike or a promotion or a new offer, you are scared to tell people- you know it's superstitious, but you feel that telling people is going to screw it up. In fact, you feel that you have just been lucky so far and are going to fail tomorrow. Sometimes, when you are overwhelmed by a task, you imagine you are going to fail and be the laughing stock of the office. When you see a  small problem you can't fix, you think "I can't do this. I'm such a fake."

'I shouldn't be here.'

Well, THIS feeling is called the impostor syndrome. (No, I am not starting a series on different syndromes. I promise.) I was surprised they have a name for it, because some of these feelings are pretty common.

At first, I thought many of this is simply perfectionist behavior. But then I asked one of my friends (a guy) with about the same qualifications as me to fill the survey. And guess what- he did not feel any of the things I mentioned in the last paragraph. He was worried about details, didn't think he had done anything great with his life (common for any ambitious person), but he didn't think that the praise he got was undeserved. He had never once felt he had got anywhere by chance! Contrary to that, most of the women I know admit to having felt one or more of these things at different points in their lives.

Anyway, like a true grad student I read a paper which tries to explain why this syndrome is more common among women. The short explanation is that many women achieve a lot but grow up hearing that they are not good enough (or not hearing that they are good enough) compared to the men around them. This creates a subconscious low self-evaluation that keeps nagging them even when all the evidence points otherwise. The explanation sounded a little roundabout and sort of Freudian to me. But then, with no other explanation available, I will have to accept this I guess.

In any case, after all that reading, I began to consciously notice whenever I felt any of these things and try to push out such thoughts from my head. Which is why I decided to write about this for all the women out there. It is easy to think you are going to screw up and everyone's going to think you are an idiot. But the more you pump in confidence into yourself, the more you will appreciate yourself AND have the world appreciate you! 

If ever you think 'I shouldn't be here', just remember- you wouldn't be wherever you are if you didn't deserve it! In fact, the 'I shouldn't be here' is true in a different sense- you shouldn't be here because you are better than this. You can get ahead of 'here'. And you very much deserve to!

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