I’m finally reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and I know I’m late to the party, but I’m kind of stubborn & couldn’t get excited about her book for some reason. Recently I didn’t have any books on hand and I spotted Lean In on a shelf in my department managers office so I asked her if I could borrow it. I’m only in chapter 3 or 4 and I’m 100% reading this book with critical eyes and a critical heart. I have my own beliefs about women in the workplace and struggles that we may or may not have and I don’t know if they are the same as Sheryl’s yet. Surprisingly enough though she has already struck a chord that I’ve started to pay attention to and it’s the weirdest thing to me.
She talks a lot about women tending to feel like “a fraud” when they are doing something well. Like they could be “found out” by everyone at any second, even if they have been proven to have the skills they think they don’t have. (One thing I do appreciate about her book is that she cites studies to back up her points) She shares about different studies and personal scenarios where women, or she, admitted to feeling like a fraud in comparison to their male counterparts. These examples range from school settings to career settings. This whole idea of women feeling like frauds has me PUZZLED!
Wouldn’t you know a day or so after reading that I started hearing my female friends talk about experiences where they felt like a fraud…. What the what? I guess it’s similar to when you buy a new car and then you think that everyone has the same car as you now that you’ve become aware of that particular car on the road. I’ve now become in tune with my female friends who feel like a fraud. Three examples in a row from three different female friends about feeling like a fraud at different times.
Then last Tuesday I had lunch with two other volunteers that serve on my local SHRM chapter and the topic of mentoring other professionals came up. This was awkward. I don’t need to be mentoring, I need a mentor. My pal said she didn’t feel like she had enough experience to be a mentor (she has more experience than me, so if she doesn’t have enough I sure don’t have enough!!!) and that considering being a mentor made her feel like a fraud. It was really strange to me that she used the word fraud. (Side note-two days later this topic came up at our board meeting and the men in the room had a different reaction than ours of course). This was the fourth time in a two week time frame that a female peer specifically used the word fraud when talking about their professional attributes. And then a light bulb went off and I realized, I feel like a fraud often.
This really did blow my mind because I, and several people who know me, would consider myself fairly confident. Yet I have at least one shining “fraud” example right now hanging over my head: when I think about my volunteer position for next year on our board I feel like a fraud. Like how long can I be in that role before the entire membership realizes I’m not fit to serve in that position and vote me off the island? Are we wired to feel like frauds? Maybe this is learned behavior? Maybe we really are frauds?
A question specifically for the women, do you ever feel like a fraud at work? What causes you to feel like a fraud? Is it comparison? Is it something else?
If you do feel like a fraud ever may I suggest finding a friend who knows you have something to offer to your profession?