Molly Bryant: Impostor Syndrome

“Impostor Syndrome” is the inability to internalize your intelligence and competence. It is the nagging fear that everyone around you will eventually discover that you have no clue what you’re doing and that you’re just fumbling your way through life. It is the very real feeling that you are somehow tricking your supervisors into thinking that you are smarter, more creative, more organized, and more valuable than you truly are.

Women tend to experience impostor syndrome more than men. We are taught to always accept our accomplishments with a healthy dose of humility. In fact, we make excuses for our successes. “Well, I just happened to find this” or “Sam pointed me in the right direction. I couldn’t have done it without her” or “anyone could have done this, really.”

As a proud feminist who wants to tear down the patriarchal constraints in my life but who also lives in society, I struggle every single day with internal doubt and self-deprecation. I know that I’m smart, but I also know that I’ve been privileged to have the time to devote to learning.

Recognizing our privilege is necessary, and recognizing our competence is also necessary. We advocate for our clients and try to set teach them how to be empowered individuals, so why can’t we embrace our own strength and empowerment without feeling guilty? I am working on diagnosing my bouts of impostor syndrome and self-medicating with extra strength, forced confidence.

Last Saturday night, I was reading the Oklahoma statutes on marital rape - as we all do on Saturday nights, right? - and I discovered a loophole in the law that allowed a spouse to have non-consensual sex with their partner if the partner was unconscious or drugged. Read that again. Yes, you read that correctly. When I shyly brought it to the attention of my practicum instructor at Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS), I fully expected her to inform me that I had read it wrong. Instead, she dropped everything she was doing, read through my research, and immediately started making calls to legislators and lobbyists to close the horrendous loophole during the upcoming legislative session. She also brought up my findings to the executive leadership team who all commended me for finding and recognizing the problem. I humbly smiled and said, “Well, I just happened to be reading this and noticed something was wrong.” Everyone countered with “but you figured it out!” or “no one else has caught this before!” My cheeks flushed, and I immediately wanted the conversation to focus on someone else - but admittedly, I also wanted them to talk about my badass discovery forever.

As social workers, we are have unique skills and education that we need to learn how to embrace in ourselves. Sometimes we do know things that other people don’t. Often, we are the experts on human behavior and how to advocate for others and even poorly-planned social policies that negatively affect marginalized populations. We are compassionate by nature and humble by socialization. Let’s learn how to be confident and proud of our accomplishments and successes too.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Melissa wrote:
This was such a great blog post! I feel like this in practice, daily. To know that I'm not alone and also to hear this feeling of reassurance in my own capacity, was so thoughtful and empowering. Thank you so much for your transparency and story.

Mon, December 12, 2016 @ 5:03 PM

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.