The Truth about Imposter Syndrome
Picture this: you're overwhelmed with work, you're anxious about managing up, and you don't feel like you're really thriving in your role.
Now tell me: are these merely thoughts, negative self-talk? Or is it a wider environmental issue?
The truth is, it could be either. There's evidence to suggest that it's an actual thing, but equally, your environment won't help you either if it's not inclusive.
And to be honest, I'm inclined to agree with the latter of those. The only time I've truly felt imposter syndrome is when I've been in an environment I deem 'toxic'.
But it's already hard enough to be a women with a neurodiversity in a workplace that doesn't understand neurodiversity, so I guess it was obvious, right?
Not even close.
The thing about us neurodivergents is that we have an incredibly strong sense of justice... we just can't advocate for ourselves the same way we may be vocal for others.
Why? Because we have to unveil the mask. Seeing is believing, but we already see others' responses before we've even unveiled - so what's the point?
It's workplace induced trauma that's stopping us. A 1978 study researched imposter syndrome in high-achieving women, but they missed many intersections out... because... it was the 70s. So women of colour, women who have disabilities or were neurodiverse were left out. And if they weren't left out, then their differences weren't properly accounted for.
What they also failed to identify was why it was more visibility seen in women in the workplace.
So whether it set out to or not, the paper placed the onus of why on the women themselves to uncover the reason for their indifference - if there was no external cause for it, it must be coming from inside our heads, right?
Feeling unsure shouldn't mean you're an imposter. Trust me, as a neurodiverse person I feel unsure about a lot of things.
If I don't trust my brain normally (not seeing spelling mistakes when looks could kill, forgetting names and my brain draining from looking at a white screen for 8 hours, the normal stuff everyone goes through) and someone's telling me that I may have imposter syndrome, then I guess that's twice the fun in the workplace.
Factoring in the biggest secret behind why we choose to mask is also a pretty good reason for our so-called 'imposter syndrome', and that's the place we work.
The issue is simple: we're rewarding men in a system that excludes women for trying to reach the same aspiration, even if those men are completely incompetent. A system who views women as needed to be infantised early in their career yet are demonised when they start to gain influence is not somewhere I wish to work.
As for neurodivergent women, I can only assume from my own experience that the statement is adapted to this:
We're rewarding men in a system that excludes neurodiverse women for trying to be open and transparent with our challenges and needs, when men are succeeding by being anything but open and transparent.
Equality and how it should be replaced by Equity springs to mind when I think of imposter syndrome. Being treated differently in the same system clearly shows me that more's needed to lift women up, and more needed to level out those who are unfairly advantaged.