Impostor Syndrome. I used to have it and then I went to a special camp where the counselors made me sing all the verses of I Am Woman and cut marshmallows into shapes of accomplishments like wee puffy children on their way to Harvard, personalized license plates saying IMRCH and various types of men in suits kneeling in front of a thigh high boot. It’s not easy doing all this with marshmallows. Hence, the special camp.

I lie. I never had Impostor Syndrome. For those unfamiliar, Impostor Syndrome is when someone, usually a woman, thinks that their success is a fluke and not a reflection of their actual capabilities. It was just by way of luck or happenstance that they managed to run a million dollar company. An accident. So the Impostor Syndrome victim has the burden of dressing up each day like somebody who looks like they know what they’re doing.

Me? I had the opposite syndrome. I had the Light Years Smarter Than You Think I Am Syndrome. As long as I can remember, I have had  to beat back the overwhelming desire to be the smartest person in the room, to have the answer to every question, an opinion on every issue, the statement deserving of note-taking. Write this down, people. I speak. Ah, my sharp elbows in the ribs of lesser intellects, let me to the fore.

And then I hit sixty and I just let it shine. Like ET’s glow. ET didn’t have to talk all the time. He just showed up amongst all the stuffed animals and sat in the bicycle basket with a blanket over his head. He said so few words but what he said was powerful, man, really powerful. “Phone home.” I speak fewer words now but have perfected the art of the gaze, refined my presence, am relaxed enough to coast on the river of other people’s assumptions, the years of my own marketing now bearing fruit. I joke. Somewhat. If there are accolades I am ready to catch each one with my bushel basket. No worries. I am claiming the rain that’s mine.

I think it is the ultimate internalized oppression to believe that what one has achieved is unrelated to one’s capabilities. I think spreading credit for achievements is swell and builds teamwork but when the achiever looks in the mirror, she needs to say, “This shit would not have happened without me.” You did it? Claim it. Don’t wave away credit, shrug off the spotlight. Because, guess what, if you don’t take what’s yours, someone else will. It’s not self-aggrandizement. It’s truth. As in, truth be told, I did this. I am responsible. I figured this out. I changed this situation for the better. Say it. Own it. And smile like crazy when someone else says it. Good for them. Good for you.

Is that having a big ego? I don’t know. I personally really like people who claim their accomplishments. I find false modesty, like the uniquely female trait of making fun of one’s foibles, very off-putting and disingenuous. So deferential and frilly like letting some dumb jock instruct you in algebra. So clenched lace hanky. I can’t stand it. Don’t make me guess that you’re really the person responsible for changing the course of history, tell me.

I’m waiting to hear how amazing you are.

11 Comments on “Rainmaker

  1. This is absolutely brilliant, and I think your last line may just be my motto for my classroom! So self-affirming and, yet, personable–I think many of us can identify with how you feel in this piece and what you’re saying. Wonderful work

  2. Love this self-affirming post. I’m trying to grab that victory ring without feeling like I have to defend myself, explaining what I’ve achieved. Would a man feel so compelled to justify accepting a compliment? Would he discount his achievements? Hell no. We need to teach our young women to claim their glory. That’s where it all starts.

  3. I want to tell you how amazing I am, but I’m suffering from internalized oppression over here. You nailed that phrase!

  4. I so needed to read this today, especially when I am so overwhelmed by social media overload that I wonder if I am doing the right thing by sharing my posts or trumpeting my achievements from the rooftops of Facebook. I think I need to say this, for myself, as you so beautifully put it. Thank you, Jan!

  5. ‘Internalized oppression’. Never thought of it like that. I don’t believe compliments. Never have, never will. I justify them. ‘Well of course, it’s my husband saying that’ or friend, or acquaintance, etc. Because after years of hearing the opposite, those words are easier to believe than compliments. Old habits. When I receive a compliment on writing from a complete stranger I’m flummoxed, flopping around, trying to find the hidden reason so I can justify it away. Internalized oppression? Oh sure, youbetcha. Changing that? No idea how. But now that I have a label, I can remind myself to quit oppressing myself. Maybe it will help.

  6. And ditto from me dear Jan – you have really made me stop and think on reading this today. I have just finished day 1 of training for adults who are interested in companioning young people who have experienced grief and loss – a program which we run in Australia called Seasons for Growth. It has been a while since I have run training so today was very much about getting back in the saddle again and trusting that I had the skills and capacity to do what I was about to do. As I respond to you and reflect on how things went today, I know that who I am in this capacity is the difference for people who are journeying with those who grieve. I thank you for reminding me of this in your thoughts today *^_^*

  7. Oh, you beautiful thing. I give myself credit and yet don’t. Your reminder comes at the perfect time. Being in demand does not happen because of blind luck. I will take this into tomorrow . . .

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