Does success ever make you feel like an imposter? It’s time to change that

Society has continued to tell women that their success should be measured by their ability to keep a clean house, care for a husband and children and do all this looking well groomed and fabulous.

Women may have careers but those careers should be in the caring professions or not surpass their roles as mothers and wives.

Women who defy these stereotypes are often labeled as feminists, bitchy, bossy, lesbian, cold or career driven. As if there is anything wrong with women who are feminists, bitchy, bossy, lesbian or career oriented.

There are many more women choosing to break the gender stereotypes of the domestic goddess who is in stilettoes and pregnant in the kitchen.

More and more women are climbing corporate ladders, pursuing higher education and disrupting previously male dominated industries. Yet, many women still suffer from the Impostor Syndrome.

A syndrome that makes you feel you are faking your success, that you do no know what you are talking about most times, or that you are living someone else’s life.

A condition that many women asking themselves: how the hell did I get this far and not be caught out?

A state where women’s default first response is to think that there has been some horrible mistake or that their achievement is a prank because as a woman, we could never be bestowed such an achievement (whatever it is).

Many women hold middle and senior management positions yet sheepishly go about their work feeling like they are faking it or don’t deserve the accolades bestowed to them.

Many women do not pat themselves on the back, instead the first thing they say when they are congratulated for an achievement is: “Please stop, it must be a mistake” or “I really don’t know how I got this position” or; “ it must be a quota thing that needed a woman”.

The effect of this is that many women internalize the belief that they are not worthy of success and for many results in an inferiority complex that continues to undermine and not recognize women’s success.

Both men and women are responsible for reinforcing this condition, as there are very few affirmations or true recognition of women as autonomous agents ready and capable of success outside of the domestic sphere.

Very few women I know who are thriving in their chosen fields seldom say: ‘Yes, I deserved this promotion or actually this is my success to own’.

I include myself in this category. The other day I caught myself talking down a very competitive and prestigious scholarship that I was awarded. When I shared my good news with friends and family and they congratulated me, I started saying: “thanks for the congratulations but it’s really nothing. I’m not sure why they chose me.”

Actually, I know why the chose me. I worked damn hard to pass my Masters degree and have been consistent in maintain a high quality standard in my career and this award is just an affirmation of my ability to do well and excel.

My call to action for women and men, is to affirm women, to support each other for gains made and give praise to women who are working hard and achieving success.

When you hear a woman talking herself down, let your response be:

 -  You are success, own it.
 -  This is your doing, enjoy it.
 -  There is nothing wrong with speaking about your achievement, so tell anyone who will listen. Speak about, write about it and love yourself for it.

Follow Rethabile Mashale on Twitter.

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