Category Archives: Ambition

Imposter Child

It’s been almost a month since my last post.  No, I’m not really that busy.  I’ve started and stopped a half dozen posts but always got intimidated by finishing the research, organizing the links or even establishing my position on the topic. 

This is really unlike me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of an all hat, no cattle dreamer.  I LOVE to think of big ideas, get people all excited and then move on to whatever the next thing to catch my attention.  I’m not much of a “sticker.” 

But having an opinion?  Expressing it?

I’ve got that down pat.

Or so I thought.

It has occurred to me over the last few days that I’m suffering from an uncured case of imposter syndrome. 

In college, I reached a little too far.  I remember being corrected by my beau about the proper way to eat soup while out on a date at a fancy restaurant.  I felt constantly unqualified to keep the company I did.  Exposure alone had made my peers cosmopolitan and wise.  I was constantly in fear of being discovered as the simpleton, scholarship kid I was.

Fifteen years later, I find myself engaging with women whose professional accomplishments dwarf my own and I feel the creeping fear of discovery cast a cold shadow.

Maybe not on my interactions with them, but my actions reaching to join them. 

I have been invited to write with a professional blogger.  She’s completed one book and makes her living as a writer.  While I would LOVE to be a part of this project, I feel paralyzed when I think about whether my contribution would actually be worthwhile. 

Another women I’ve known of for years, suggested we meet for lunch.  We share many friends but have never had occasion or commonality to strike our own friendship.  I felt myself apologizing for myself because she is so effortlessly rebellious and cool.  Where I try too hard, she wouldn’t have considered trying worthy of her attention.  Yet, somewhere within the span of our lunch there were some raw honest moments that might grow into a mutual respect.  She too, offered up the idea of collaborating on a writing project.  The boldness of the idea, the nakedness of the truths she proposed we would tell appealed and repelled me equally.  I don’t even know if I’m healed enough to revisit the experiences that would have taught me the lessons I’d share for the project.  Like Forest says of Jenny’s childhood home, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Finally, I discovered a really great potential friend almost by accident.  She’s my peer in years only.  Her career path has been nearly vertical, while mine has strayed from a flatline only to plunge occasionally. 

I’m the first to promote the idea that life, love, and work are not competitions. 

But my weaknesses have been baldly revealed by these new friendships and my self-consciousness makes me pause before proffering my opinion as anything other than the silly musings of a woman trapped by her own limits.

And so I’ve been silent for the last three weeks.

I just thought you should know.

This One’s for the Girls

I once had an interviewer tell me that his favorite hires were single women.  Why?  Because they had to support themselves (necessity is the mother of invention) and they were hell-bent on proving themselves (ambition, competition, workaholism).  I wanted to be offended but couldn’t be.  In my case, he was absolutely, bang-on right. 

It’s hard to argue with the truth.

My career was one manifestation of “Fake it until you make it” after another.  I own this; I don’t even hide the fact anymore because I actually did ‘make it’ in some sense. I’m also reasonably sure that 92% of people are full of crap so what’s the use of impressing them?   I know that I have a particular set of qualities and experiences that might be interpreted as skills to some.  I also know that those skills are pretty damn valuable. 

So when I was recently offered a consulting role in addition to my full-time position with Technorati, I had no problem turning down the opportunity because it didn’t pay enough. 

What is ‘enough’?  That’s highly subjective but my calculation went as follows: 

What is my hourly wage for my full-time job?  Easy enough:  Salary + Commission / 50  weeks / 40 hours.  But consulting would be in addition to those 40 hours.  It would be subtracting from time spent with my daughter and  husband.  They’re worth every bit as much as I am so the answer is 3x(hourly wage) = HIRED. 

Do I need three times my hourly wage? No. 
Would I do work for less than that?  Probably. 
Do I deserve to be paid that much?  You bet your @ss.  And so do you. 

Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge your value before discussing your bargain rate doesn’t KNOW your value. 
Why work for anyone who doesn’t know your value?

But what absolutely bewilders me is that women who are wildly accomplished in their field still feel that tape-worm of doubt gnawing away at their moxie.

Last night I enjoyed a social media event here in St. Louis that was well-attended by some such women.  These women have marked achievements in marketing, journalism, social media and the like.  They are successful writers, speakers, strategists, and entrepreneurs. And every single one of them said some version of the following:

“I don’t know what I’m worth.”

WHAT. THE. BLEEP.

There’s no easy way to say this:  If you don’t know your value, don’t expect anyone else to know it.

Now that I’m back in the comfy embrace of my media world, the reciprocity switch has been firmly locked in the upright position.  Peers, colleagues, strangers, clients, and headhunters have all materialized with ideas, projects, jobs, searches, requests, and business. 
The universe has affirmed my decision with a dance in the end-zone.

When connecting some industry friends to one particular job opening, I heard it again – the hushed tone that ordinarily uninhibited women use when admitting some perceived shortcoming.  This time, that shortcoming was social media knowledge.  This branch of marketing is so nuanced with tentacles in search, design, writing, word-of-mouth, reputation management, and CRM that nearly everyone I have ever met in my entire life has some kind of knowledge to contribute. 

Yet, these women were essentially counting themselves out because they hadn’t written the book, or any book, on the topic.  This is just crazy talk.  Everyone can’t be Chris Brogan, and even the man with the plan makes mistakes.

Me thinks there be a branding opportunity here:  The Dove Self-Esteem Project  for business women? 
No?  Ok, well we’ve gotta do something because y’all are too damn talented to keep underselling yourselves. 

Next time you forget that, call me.

I’ll tell ya.

The Devil Wears Pixels

I watched a deliciously girly movie tonight on FX – and amid the pomp and circumstance of the fashion and fuss, I was reminded of some amazing lessons I’ve learned in my career.

I’m not one of those people who is overly critical of movies. I consider films great if I laugh or cry and absolutely phenomenal if I get to do both. Beneath the gilded tapestry of lines in the Devil Wears Prada are some wholly un-materialistic value messages.

There’s a scene where Andi and Miranda are in a town car in Paris. Andi says “I could never do what you did” and Miranda retorts “You already did.” If you’ve seen this scene you know exactly how cutting this exchange is. If not, it is like your mother holding a mirror up to your face the morning after an all-nighter. You feel shame and disgust and guilt even if you didn’t do anything.

The thing is, I am so fascinated by the way women treat each other in life and in business. One of my favorite sayings is that ‘only ugly girls are catty’. If one looks ok on the outside and is still obsessed with cutting and undermining, well… that ugliness lives somewhere.

I remember in my teens and early twenties, I proudly pitched myself as a guys’ girl. I simply didn’t have anything in common with other women. They were idiots or bimbos or superficial or prissy or backstabbing or bobbleheads. And then I realized I was simply hanging out with the wrong women.

I credit my friend Martina with helping me embrace my universal sisterhood. As a transplanted woman, she focused exclusively on cultivating friendships with strong, smart, fun women. Since we’re still friends, I’m going to assert that she was wildly successful in her venture.

It took me a long time to figure out how to navigate the treacherous and often treasonous world of female friendships. Admittedly, I sometimes still get it wrong. But for all of the mistakes I’ve made (too often drunk at weddings when I felt my most awful and insecure), I have done some things right.

I believe in giving women compliments. I give them all the time. I give them to people I know and to total strangers. I don’t care if anyone knows or hears except for the recipient. Women don’t know enough good things about themselves. Women NEVER hear enough good things about themselves. There is nothing like a spontaneous compliment to plug the leak in the self-esteem drain.

I also believe in honesty. False support/friendship is a weakness and should be banished from our gender’s repertoire.

I promote the idea that two wrongs do not make a right. And a shallow, caustic comment should not inspire an equally biting retort.

This goes for work environments as well.

In advertising, I have felt privileged to work with a lot of women here, here, and here. I mean that. Privileged.

That doesn’t mean that I liked or respected all of them. And that doesn’t mean that my first impression was right all the time. But here’s the thing…

It is a mistake to stab people in the back, or the front.

Anytime.

No matter what.

In the movie, Andi goes to Paris instead of Emily. She says she had no choice – it was to preserve her future. Miranda scoffs at Andi’s repugnance with the comment “Everyone wants this. Everyone wants to be us.”

I

think

not.

(SIDE NOTE: Robyn Williams delivers a great speech to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Patch Adams” about being a dick. He says, in effect, that it is a mistake of youth to think that one has to be a dick to get ahead in life and naivete to think that that is a new concept. This is a brilliant statement to me. Simply brilliant. Because for all of our striving and struggling and scratching and clawing… what, in effect, will our legacy be?)

For me, I am laying down once and for all any feelings of betrayal or indignation or rage. People make choices that we cannot understand or explain or accept. But that is really, in the end, only their problem. It becomes ours when we hold onto it.

As for me, I plan to love and be loved. I plan to teach and to learn. I plan to hope and to laugh.

And to wear fabulous shoes.

Here’s to good women-
May we know them,
may we be them,
may we raise them.

(Reposted from Facebook, 8.31.09)