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At work, I’m usually the youngest person in the room.
As a woman in her mid-20s starting her career in journalism, I’ve been fortunate to have landed gigs at several media organizations, including my latest as an intern here at The Globe and Mail.
I’m beyond grateful these employers have seen a spark of potential in me and given me a chance to show what I’m capable of and a chance to learn from them.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that I am acutely aware that I am much younger than most of my colleagues, many of whom have decades of experience, wedding bands and kids – some my own age. Me? I have two roommates and mounting student debt.
My age often leaves me feeling like I’m not qualified to be in that room. In the news business, context matters, and the truth is, sometimes I have no idea what that context is because I’m too young to have experienced it.
All that brings me to imposter syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy, of self-doubt, and it affects some groups more than others. As Brian Daniel Norton, a psychotherapist and executive coach in New York, told Sheryl Nance-Nash, who wrote about her own experience for the BBC, “Women, women of colour, especially black women, as well as the LGBTQ community are most at risk.”
It’s no wonder members of marginalized groups, who are routinely shut out of leadership roles, are left to feel this way. As Nance-Nash writes: “Corporate culture exacerbates the problem of imposter syndrome, particularly for women. According to Lean In, a U.S. organization that focuses on women in the workplace, women are less likely to be hired and promoted to manager. Its 2019 research shows that for every 100 men brought onto teams and elevated to management, only 72 women experience the same thing.”
The situation is no different in Canada, as Globe investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle’s Power Gap series details. In a recent edition of this newsletter, Doolittle had this to say about what her work reveals: “We collected public sector salary records for nearly 90,000 employees and what we found is that – while salary was an issue – the much bigger problem was the lack of women; the lack of women in six-figure paying jobs in general, in executive positions, on management teams, at the top, on the way to the top and in the middle.”
We all know that creating more equity in the workplace is a systemic problem that needs to be tackled on multiple levels. I have hope that things will improve, but it isn’t exactly going to happen overnight. And in the meantime, I really don’t want to keep feeling like this at every (Zoom) meeting I attend.
So, I looked up the advice of Dr. Valerie Young, an internationally known expert on imposter syndrome and author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
It boils down to: “The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter.” Sounds great, Dr. Young! But how?
You can find the full list of her 10 actionable tips here, but one that really resonates with me is: “Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being on the receiving end of social stereotypes about competence and intelligence.”
I also related to this advice from Ashley Abramson in an article on how to overcome imposter syndrome for the American Psychological Association: Celebrating successes and cultivating self-compassion can help people let go of the perfectionist mindset that comes with feeling like an imposter.
To be honest, I’m not expecting this feeling to instantly disappear now that I have some steps to follow. But here’s where I’m starting: With fostering more pride when I see my stories published. The amount of effort, time and care that go into each story is proof that I’ve done a good job.
Plus, I know I won’t be the youngest person in that room forever.
What else we’re thinking about:
I recently reread Missing from the Village by investigative journalist Justin Ling about convicted serial killer Bruce McArthur, a book that left me feeling heartbroken and angry. Ling goes beyond the news to chronicle the history of the LGBTQ community through the stories of McArthur’s eight victims and the voices of their loved ones. The CBC podcast, Uncover Season 3 - The Village, which Ling hosted before publishing his book, is a window into the time when the men went missing and how far police still have to go to restore trust within the LGBTQ community.
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