Fighting Imposter Syndrome and “Knowing Your Value”

As Abbie and Jeannette have stated in their posts this we Dames have been on a little bit of a hiatus. For myself, life has simply been unbelievably busy. I’m happy to report that my M.A. thesis is completely written and that I’ve passed my comprehensive exams. I still have to finish thesis revisions, but graduation is getting more and more tangible by the day.

I won’t lie, I have mixed feelings about graduating. I’m extremely happy to be moving on to something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring different job opportunities and just seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending a Ph.D. program next year. I’m okay with this though. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and after going through the process of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve come to realize that I need a break. There are so many things I can do, there are so many ways to find happiness — and I can’t wait to find out what that might be.

I had some trouble getting my thesis started back in February. Unfortunately, when I write I have to start at the beginning. I can’t write the body of a paper first and then go back later and write the introduction. I have to write the intro first, even if it means completely re-writing it later. Once I did get going though, I wrote, edited, and re-wrote almost non-stop — to the point that I almost made myself crazy. I constantly second-guessed myself, stressing about every little detail, worrying that my readers would think I was a fraud, that my argument made no sense, that what I was saying was a bunch of crap. I’ve decided that I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Everyone has insecurities about a variety of things, but school has always been a major part of my life. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been in school non-stop since age 3. That was 21 years ago. (God, I feel old — haha!) So, I forget sometimes that I’m not just a young student who has no authority. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I’m an adult, I have experience. I need to start remembering that and acting accordingly. Just because I’m still a student doesn’t mean that I don’t know things with relative certainty.

It’s the same idea with jobs. I’ve been looking around at different possibilities in between working on revisions. There are a lot of different jobs that I have the education, skills, and experience to do. But, I just need to remind myself that Ican do them. Yeah, they’re not “history” jobs — but that’s perfectly okay. They don’t need to be. I am not an imposter, in history or in terms of my other abilities. They’re not going to look at me immediately and say,  “You? Hahaha. We don’t think so.” I am not an imposter.

In addition to reminding myself that I am not an imposter, the process of writing my thesis also provided me with some insight on knowing my value. Even though I wrote almost non-stop for a month and a half, I didn’t write 24/7. In my downtime, I read a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC).

In her book, Mika Brzezinski discusses how she was re-hired at MSNBC in 2007 after losing her job at CBS. Grateful to have any job, Mika took what she could get — even if that meant only working a few hours a day for paltry pay and working the worst hours. A twist of fate resulted in Joe Scarborough singling her out as his desired co-host for a new morning show, but even with her new gig, she was still working on a host of other assignments for the network for far less pay than her Morning Joe co-workers. Upset with her unfair treatment and unequal (or, really in the same ballpark) pay, Mika when to her boss to ask for a raise. Her request was rejected.

This book, and my discussion of it, is not entirely about politics or the gender wage gap. Believe me, that gap is a real issue — but women’s consideration of their own value is equally as important in the equation. Mika, with the help of other famous friends, describes how many women (and some men too) lack the confidence of their own value in the workplace.

Instead of  asking for a raise in a confident manner,  Mika identifies that she went into the meeting with an apologetic tone — that she was sorry she had to ask, that she didn’t want to cause waves, that she understood money was tight and times were tough. She focused on the idea that she was so “lucky” to be on this program and to have a position at MSNBC — that she was grateful.

There’s nothing wrong with humility. But, at the same time, gratefulness isn’t confidence. Mika learned that she had to remember she deserved a raise. She deserved to be there. She was more than qualified for her job. She was valuable.

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“The problem is, a woman is socialized to accept that which she is given. So if somebody tells you that you can’t, you believe it. If somebody says you’re not worth it, you believe it.” – Suze Orman

“The key is to do your research. The most important thing that people don’t realize, especially women, is you can’t go in [to ask for a raise] expecting people to take care of you and that they’re going to be fair. They’re going to try to get the best deal they can.” – Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More

“Assuming power is everything. You have to assume it … [don’t] wait to be asked.”  – Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of Newsweek

“A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand. . . . If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Imposter Syndrome and not knowing your value go hand in hand. I myself am gulity of feeling lucky or grateful for simply being given the consideration for something. For downplaying my own achievements or my own intelligence to not stand out too much. Even to my own eyes and ears now, these statements sound a little arrogant. But they’re not. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses. But we are all valuable in different ways.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not valuable. You are.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…the great state of Ohio?

Ah, Ohio.

Known for its extremely supportive Cleveland sports fans and…well, that’s all I can think of.

Be honest. When you think of the 50 states that make up this great country, what states come to mind as those that stand out for their beauty, reputation, or life of luxury? When planning your honeymoon in the United States, do you dream of going somewhere warm with sand and a beach such as Florida or California, or do you think of going to a place where the weather is so unpredictable that you can experience at least 3 of the 4 seasons in one day as in Ohio? Planning an extended weekend trip-would you rather go to NYC and see all the wonderful attractions it has to offer, or travel to Ohio to visit…?

You get the point.

When people think of the United States, I highly doubt that many of them think of Ohio as being extremely notable for a whole lot. In fact, many people who I know who live here sport bumper stickers on their cars, similar to this:

It’s sad to think that even people who live here have many complaints about being here. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly times in which I wish lived somewhere in which the weather was a little less unpredictable and where I consistently had a winning sports team to cheer for (I’m kidding here-I’m a Cavs fan through and through, with or without LeBron). Despite my whininess (yes, I did make  up that word) about the weather and the complaints of my fellow Ohioans, I think we may need to reconsider the importance of this state in the grand scheme of things. So do presidential candidates.

Before discussing that, I’d like to point out some really awesome things about this state (which may reiterate some of Abbie’s previous post):

‘Ides of March’ starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling was filmed (at least partially) in Ohio!

Parts of the new ‘Avengers’ movie was also filmed in Ohio! (The street scenes are in downtown Cleveland!)

Speaking of Cleveland, it is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, visited by thousands of music lovers and Rock fans alike, not to mention their many inductees (Prince, Bob Seger, George Harrison, Miles Davis, Madonna…and the list continues). We have the Buckeyes, the Browns, and the Cleveland Clinic (couldn’t think of another B there).

Enough about that already. As we all know, this is a very important year in terms of politics. Within the next few months, we will be choosing the person who will lead our country for the next four years. Will Americans choose to reelect our current democratic president, Barack Obama? Or, will our citizens decide they want a fresh face in office and support a republican candidate such as Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum? Regardless of who you support (frankly, I don’t care as long as you are an informed voter), Ohio will play an important role in this upcoming election.

Did you know that in the last 27 presidential elections, Ohio has picked the winner 25 times? As a result, did you know that without Ohio, it’s unlikely that your candidate may win this upcoming presidential election?

If you doubt my accuracy in these statements, just look it up. Oh, and if you think, ‘So what, the candidates don’t really care about Ohio’s 18 electoral votes…” Guess again.

In the last presidential election, I was impressed at how many political representatives came to both Ohio, and specifically my community. During the course of the election period, we were lucky enough to: have Barack Obama speak to our community at least twice (including as a visitor to our university where I worked the event-as did at least 1 of the other dames), host Hillary Clinton at an event (which I also worked), have Joe Biden visit, and have Good Morning American filmed in our community where John McCain was a guest (…gotta love getting up at 4:30 am to see these politicians). Furthermore, former speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi also hosted an event in our community (I have pictures), as did former senator Ted Kennedy. The crazy thing about all this is that this was all in my community and does not even account for the many visits that these individuals made throughout this great state during those crucial election months.

My favorite event that we hosted has to be Rock the Vote! When Rock the Vote came to our town, they brought Sheryl Crow, the Beastie Boys, AND  Ben Stiller (who looked like he had just walked off the set of ‘Meet the Parents’ I might add)!

Ohio’s primary is coming up in March and I expect things to get a little crazy here in the next few weeks. Even though I’m getting my graduate degree in psychology, I have a certain (hidden) love for politics. I guess I feel like I have to put my political science degree to use some how. I’m really looking forward to seeing who makes their way here and look forward to seeing as many candidates as possible (Republican or Democrat).

So…if you doubt this great state, think of this and all that it has to offer. Think of the role that we are going to play in November. Whether you vote for Obama or the Republican candidate, just remember that your vote does matter (sorry…didn’t mean to get preachy there).