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.

Tramps Like Us, Baby, We Were Born to Run…

Have you ever had to participate in one of those group ice-breaking activities? You know, where they ask you some random thing about yourself and you usually have to stand there for a minute or two and say “um” multiple times? Like, “if you were a cartoon character, who would you be?” (A mix between Lisa Simpson and Leila from Futurama, obvs.) Or, “Give us a motion to associate with your name,” to which I respond by recreating Olive’s Super Freak routine, move for move:

However, if I’m ever asked what animal I would be, I’m going to respond “bumblebee.” We’ve all heard that very scientific fact that the bumblebee should not be capable of flying because of it’s awkward body and tiny, fragile little wings, but it does.  In that sense, my friends, I am like the noble bumblebee. I’d like to think that my little legs get me where I need to go. Perhaps not very quickly, but I get there. So, this is probably why I surprised myself a little bit when I decided that I would participate in the 2nd Annual Campbell-Dickinson St. Patrick’s Day 5k Run/Walk in my hometown. I’m sure a lot of other people never expected me to want to participate in such an event, either. I chose this as a short-term goal for myself towards the end of last year. But, I actually really enjoy working out, when I can get to it, of course; it’s just that walking/running is perhaps on the bottom of my list of enjoyable workouts, which looks like this:

1. Zumba      2. Lifting      3. Running/Walking

 I just find it boring, especially if you’re on a treadmill or just walking around a track multiple times. You’re not really getting anywhere. I do enjoy using the ellipticals at the Rec Center, but I have a hard time finding one that’s parked below a TV with a channel I like. Most of the time, I end up on the machines closest to the TV showing CNN or VH1. I need something to motivate me when I work out, which is why good music is an absolute must. Zumba obviously has fun, energizing music to dance to, although I do appreciate it when there are Top 40 songs mixed in with raggaeton, salsa, and cumbia. It makes it easier for me to do the arm workout or squat songs at home. When I lift, I prefer something with a slower, heavier beat, that puts me in a kind of, let’s say… overly self-assured attitude. That should explain why Kanye West shows up a couple of times on my lifting playlist. Actually, looking at a small sample of it, a lot of it is rap, I guess:

1. Let Me Blow Ya Mind – Eve w/ Gwen Stefani
2. God’s Gonna Cut You Down – Johnny Cash
3. Amazing – Kanye West
4. Black & Yellow – Wiz Khalifa
5. Can’t Tell Me Nothing – Kanye West

Johnny Cash? Where did you come from? Whatever, that song is hard. Anyway, I’m walking in this 5k on Saturday, and I need to update my playlist. I’ve already taken out the songs I skip most of the time whenever I work out, and this is what I have left:

  1. American Girl – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  2. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
  3. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  4. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  5. Devil’s Dance Floor – Flogging Molly (It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.)
  6. Dog Days Are Over – Florence & the Machine
  7. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – The Blues Brothers
  8. Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen
  9. Get Me Bodied – Beyonce
  10. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
  11. Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars
  12. Kissing the Lipless – The Shins
  13. Let It Rock – Kevin Rudolf w/ Lil’ Wayne
  14. Please Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna
  15. Proud Mary – Tina Turner
  16. Rebel, Rebel – David Bowie
  17. Rebels of the Sacred Heart – Flogging Molly
  18. Renegade – Styx
  19. Sabotage – The Beastie Boys
  20. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
  21. Single Ladies – Beyonce
  22. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
  23. Tighten Up – The Black Keys
  24. U.S. Bumper Sticker – Red Wanting Blue
  25. Under Pressure – David Bowie & Queen
  26. What’s Left of the Flag – Flogging Molly
  27. You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White

But, I need your input. I’d like to have a few more songs on this list in case I don’t want to hear one of these. My only stipulation: absolutely no country music.

So, what would you suggest I listen to while I participate in the 5k this weekend? For those of you who have run/walked a 5k before, any hints or tips? I’ll check back in sometime next week and let you all know how it went. Thanks!

Paying It Forward: The World Needs a Little More Kindness

Note: This is part one of a double post (the posts, though, are unrelated and do not have to be read in order).

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I wasn’t planning on writing two posts tonight. I was simply going to come home, write up my review of the lemon cake mix cookies and go find something else to do. But my plans changed after something I saw tonight, something I decided that I had to share with you.

I went to dinner tonight with my Mom at O’Charley’s. (If you don’t know what O’Charley’s is, its a chain restaurant like Applebee’s.) Anyway, we were sitting at a table in the bar area, so space was tight and it was very hard not to be aware of what was going on at tables near you.

As we were eating dinner, I noticed that the couple at the table next to me were paying their bill, but the strange part was that their food hadn’t even come yet and the amount the lady gave the waitress ($20) was probably not enough to cover both her and her companion’s meals. This mystery was soon resolved though. Next to the couple, there was an elderly gentleman sitting by himself eating. When the waitress (the same one we and the couple next to us had) came over to remove his plate, she told him that he didn’t have a bill tonight. The man was obviously confused (I would have been too!), but after a few minutes, he accepted what the waitress was telling him, left his tip, and departed.

It soon became clear that the couple next to us had payed for his meal, just because. Just to be nice. The waitress came over and gushed how sweet it was that they had done so and that it had made her day. I was smiling inside too, but didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I knew what the couple had done.

When my Mom and I were getting ready to leave, the waitress came over to the couple’s table and asked if they were ready for their check. When the woman said they were, the waitress told them that there was no check for them tonight. When the waitress told the manager about what they had done, he bought their dinner.

These acts of kindness made an impression on me. So, I’m paying it forward tonight. Through the charity website DonorsChoose.org, I donated $25 to a Tuscon, Arizona 8th grade class who are looking to buy books to increase literacy rates and students’ interest in reading. Luckily, Chase Financial and Clear Channel communications are running a donation-matching promotion, so my $25 donation became $50.

So, I’ve paid it forward.

How will you make magic in someone else’s life?