The Imposter Syndrome

Why do working mothers impose such pressure on themselves to be perfect?  I recently had dinner with my best friend from high school, an amazing mother who works in PR and balances work-family masterfully.    I sat down to the table and asked “how are you?”  Her response was “completely overwhelmed”.   She had just taken a new job and was trying to manage the Imposter Syndrome.   I asked “what is the Imposter Syndrome?”  She explained that it was the fear that people at work, or at home, will figure out that you are not perfect.  “Ahhh…” I said.  I know that syndrome all too well. 

Our wonderful male friend who was at dinner with us laughed and noted that we were both crazy.  Keep in mind that this guy is no slouch himself.  He has a huge job in media and is the father of two boys.  His comment perfectly captured the different perspectives of men and women.  He said”Come on.  It takes really bad work to get fired.” 

I laughed with my high school friend because our male friend had so obviously missed the point.  But his comment triggered an enlightening conversation for the three of us.  Our realizations were the following:

Guys go to work and they work hard.  But for some reason, they don’t have the burden of perfectionism weighing them down.  They aren’t worried that they will be “discovered” as an imposter.   They also seem to look at life as a bit more of a marathon.  Women, on the other hand, look at life as a series of sprints.  While they are sprinting for career of parenting, they need to demonstrate complete expertise.

That dinner conversation really made me wonder about women and our fear of failure.  Does it hold us back from asking the right questions when we don’t have all the answers?  Could this be part of what prevents women from seeking new professional opportunities?   How does this impact our parenting?  Does fear of the Imposter Syndrome actually make us afraid to just be ourselves?