Friday, June 8, 2012

Imposter? No, ma'am.

You think you know who I am. But you have no idea.

im·pos·ter  n. 

One who engages in deception under an assumed name or identity.

The Imposter Syndrome ~

A widespread phenomenon first documented by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in their 1978 study of 150 highly successful professional women in various fields.  “Despite accolades, rank, and salary, these women felt like phonies.  They didn’t believe in their own accomplishments; they felt they were scamming everyone about their skills.”

Wet eyes. Red noses. Mascara oozing.


What is it with us women? Why do we do this? This thing where we pick ourselves apart? This thing where we convince ourselves that we are mediocre when we are not? We tip toe through life, wondering how in the heck doors keep opening because all the while we are chanting into our own ears that it's all a sham. All of it. Who we are. Who they think we are. One big facade. And then. One bad thing happens and AH HAH! Told you so! One little shortcoming and now we suck? After all the good things we've done, just one imperfection ripples across and that wipes out everything we've done before?

Really? Really.


I swear. It's epidemic. Pandemic even. Thinking we "lucked out." Believing it was just "the right place at the right time." God forbid you actually EARNED it through hard work.


I'm tired. I'm rambling because I'm tired. Tired as hell of seeing amazing human beings -- mostly female ones -- with slumped shoulders and troubled eyes over this crazy idea that they aren't good enough. Or worse. Like they're some kind of imposter. Yes. I said it.


Did that resonate with you? Are you reading this and nodding your head hard and saying, "Damn, I've felt that feeling!"

You know. That feeling like everyone has been hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking you are exponentially more awesome-confident-smart-able-everything than you REALLY are. Because, see, only YOU know the REAL truth. And the truth is that it's all a big hoax. One false move and they will all find out who you REALLY are.


What we're thinking when things go right for us or when we get accolades:

"Oh, I say it, I say it again! You've been had! You've been took! You've been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amuck!" 

~ from the movie Malcolm X


You've been HAD if you think I'm at all the person I seem.

And gentlemen--while I have nothing against you, you have to admit that many of you, not all of you, do not struggle with this imposter thing one bit. You get that big promotion or get asked to be some head of some big thing or get some big-bodacious award and it never even occurs to you that you didn't deserve it. Not-a-once.

Some of you. Not all of you. So don't start going off in the comments because I get that some of you feel like we feel. Even if it isn't necessarily the natural dude-thing to feel.

But us? We are hard-wired to question our successes. To wonder if it was because of this or because of that. To wonder how in the EFF you managed to trick everyone into thinking that you were ALL THAT when you are SO NOT.

I looked into the (tearful) eyes of MORE THAN THREE different women THIS WEEK ALONE and told them:

"Know who you are. Who you are is ENOUGH."

All in the context of this WACKY idea that we are imposters.

One of those women was ME. Looking straight at my own face my mirror.

What the EFF? What in the world must we do to get each other to STOP this crazy practice of convincing ourselves that we are imposters?

Seriously? You knew I declared war on this in the past. But that was just with myself when talking to my own reflection. Now? I'm fighting mad. I am DETERMINED to intentionally take this fight onto the road.

I need some people in my army to help me. I do.

Women? Hear me. We are not imposters. YOU. You are not an imposter. So stop it. You are enough. E-fricking-nough, you got that? So read this and apply it to yourself or whoever around you needs to hear it.

  • Yes, you deserved to get the recognition that you just got.
  • No, it was not an accident that they asked you to be chief resident.
  • Yes, you actually are as smart as people seem to think.
  • No, it isn't just "luck" that got you this far.
  • Yes, there are other smart people around.
  • No, they are not YOU.
  • Yes, it is kind of weird that you've come this far.
  • No, it isn't as far as you CAN go.
  • Yes, you are an amazing mother.
  • No, you are not horrible since your two year old can't read yet.
  • Yes, your score on that exam wasn't as high as you would have liked.
  • No, this isn't "the universe saying that you shouldn't be a doctor."
  • Yes, you have gained a few pounds.
  • No, that doesn't mean that you aren't still one hot number.
  • Yes, you DID make a mistake.
  • No, that does not get to serve as an affirmation that you're really an imposter.

YES, I am sick of tearing myself up and seeing other women do the same.
NO, I am not going to stand for it any more.

No, I am not.

Brothers, if this applies to you -- please, know I welcome you into my army to fight with me. I see it like the civil rights movement---more than just us were getting oppressed, but the urgency and focus had to be where the issue was greatest. So, NO, I don't mean to leave y'all out. But women are on my radar with this.

Especially a lot of the ones that I know.

I will affirm you.
I will remind you constantly of who you are.
Please do the same for me.
Let's fight the little voice and replace it with a big one that says:



I'm exhausted now.

Who's down for fighting this with me? Please make your mark on the dotted line below.



Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .


  1. Signed so hard. I constantly find myself saying these negative things about myself, even when people with an outside view try to correct my biased, doubting perception of who I am. Enough already, indeed!

  2. This. this. What an important post. Sing it.

  3. You cannot have possibly gotten inside my head last night or during my drive home from the hospital today. Or did you? I am just astounded by the fact that you addressed EXACTLY what I was thinking. A male friend of mine was really taken aback yesterday by the fact that I was having such a hard time accepting that all the praise I have gotten from all my clerkship preceptors/attendings/residents is well-deserved. Yesterday... I had this conversation just yesterday!

    I could write pages on this topic... pages and pages... but a) this is the comments area, and b)I'm home early this Friday which means I should catch up on housework, get some extra reading done and get started on my presentation for next week early (I lead an exciting life, I know!)... so that I can stop feeling like a fraud and a loser at least for a little while.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

    1. I . . .know!!! See? Now you realize that it's not just you. It's SO not!

  4. I just reread your post, again! I will be reading it over and over in the days and months to come. This... this, I really needed. Thank you, again. I wish I were your student, I really wish it more than words can tell, but even from a distance, you are a teacher and mentor to me. Thank you!

    (I know I'm spamming the comments, but I can't even begin to tell you what kind of crazy self-disparaging I have been going through recently, especially in the last week and specifically yesterday. And you just heard me, all the way in Atlanta!)

  5. I'd sign it but I can't...I'm an inposter.

  6. Funny that I found this the same time I read your blog today:

    1. OMG, totally yes!! That article hits the nail directly on the head.Thanks!

  7. Uh... So I've heard of this my whole career from medical school on but always thought my "reasons" were real. So here I am in my mid-forties and finally saying wow maybe your right. Maybe it is right that I am here - not a mistake and not just luck. Wow, thanks for the thoughts and suddenly I have a lot of introspection to do. For better or worse and with trepidation, I sign on.

  8. Agree wholeheartedly.


    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  9. Uhhh----I'm not a doctor or any sort of professional, and I actually feel like an imposter every now and then as a mother or a "great" mother. You know.

    Thanks for the post. I'm signing the dotted line.

  10. Amen. I really, truly needed to hear this today so THANK you.

  11. Good morning Dr. M and all! I had to sleep on this one and then re-read it and think about it some more.

    You are right, of course, Dr. M. I see it constantly in the young ladies that I know best - my future daughters-in-law. I seem to continually tell them they ARE enough, just the way they are. Didn't make a perfect grade on that last exam? So what? Gained a few pounds over the winter? So? Believe if you were just a little more...*something*'d be better? Baloney! I see it in my female work friends, as well. And it's nonsense.

    It's nuts that so many young (and not so young) women still feel so inferior and less than. And I too remember occasionally feeling that way as a very young woman. But not often. No, not often at all.

    Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it's my age or maybe it's the fact that in my family, I was labeled the "smart" one. Maybe it's just that my older sister pretty much raised me from birth until I was 4 years old and thought I was the most wonderful, the most brilliant, the most beautiful, the most perfect little person that had ever been born. (And no, in spite of all that, I was never spoiled nor thought I was better than anyone else. My parents and brothers saw to that...LOL)

    Maybe it was because there was less emphasis (at least among the people I grew up with) on physical beauty or striving for perfection. Maybe it was all of those things and more. But for what ever reason, as I look back over my life, I can honestly say, I've rarely felt like I wasn't *enough*.

    Did I want to do and be better? Sure. Always. But just wanting to improve didn't (for me) equal not feeling as though I am already *enough* just as I am. And I am incredibly thankful that I do feel and think that way.

    Am I a doctor or some other type of highly respected professional? No. Am I the smartest person I know? No. Am I beautiful? No. Am I overweight with a few bad habits? Yes. Am I kind? Yes. Do I care deeply about others? Yes. Will I listen to you while you sort out your problems and challenges in life? Yes. Will I pray my non-denominational prayers for you? Yes, yes I will. And I am enough, just the way I am.

    I've raised three wonderful young men, mostly by myself on an Administrative Assistant's small salary. I've kept a roof over our heads and food on the table and the lights on. I've held onto the land that I grew up on and my parents left to me, when my brothers and sisters were selling theirs to the highest bidder. Why? So my sons will have the land we (their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and me - their mother) worked our fingers to the bone on. The land that they and I grew up on and thrived.

    I've lived through losing one of those sons much, much too soon. I've lived through job loss, not knowing where the next mortgage payment was coming from, knowing that I couldn't count on my ex-husband to help support his children. I've lived with next to nothing and still felt like the richest woman in the world.

    I'm sorry this turned "book length" but I think it's important to remember that there are those of us that - for whatever reason - know that YES - WE ARE ENOUGH. Just the way we are. And those of us who do believe this way have a responsibility (I believe) to pass that along and encourage other young girls and women to believe the same about themselves.

    So sign me up Doctor M. I'll be right there by your side, in spirit at least, encouraging young girls, young women, to look into themselves and see what wonders are there. Because when they FINALLY "get" and SEE how wonderful they are - they will be amazed and it will change their lives.

    Much love to all of you wonderful ARE ALL ENOUGH.

    Jae in Clayton

    1. Oh Jae. I'm sorry that I am just replying! Thank you for these lovely words and for sharing your testimony. Book length is fine with me -- but it may mean that you have a blog inside of you just waiting to get out! :)

  12. From the Deck of the Poop

    This 68 year old black man has had this affliction for many years. I bamboozled my way through engineering school when I clearly didn't deserve it. I was given promotions not because I was smarter or more capable than my competitors but because I was better at BS than they were. When I reached that office on the top floor in the northwest corner of R7 and had a title on the door Director and General Manager of F-15 Programs, I sat and looked out of the window. I turned around to this huge mahogany desk a smiled and said to myself, "boy you really got them this time".
    I too could write a book in this subject but , I'll just sign my name on the line.


    1. Glad to have you signed on, Poopdeck. I knew you'd pipe up and tell me about your experiences. I do think many underrepresented minorities are just as guilty of this as women tend to be. So yes, Dad, I do hear you. As I always do.

  13. hi there! I cant tell you how much this spoke to me today. This week, I am transitioning out of my job-and as I was getting all these accolades and praise, confess that I had many of these same thoughts. I remember thinking "whew, glad im leaving before they find out that Im not as good as they think I am". Kudos to you for putting this to paper (internet, blogspace?).

    Its been a while since Ive been to this blog, but im putting you in my daily queue!

    1. Awww! Hey Dr. Odicie! Soooo wonderful to hear from you. Yes, you know we all thought the WORLD of you when you were a resident and I am sure that things were no different in your practice. You will never get away from people thinking you're wonderful. Because you ARE. Hello?

  14. I think my post above may have sounded arrogant and "know it all." Please know that I didn't mean it that way at all. I'm just thankful to be alive, loved, and able to love. I don't take any of those things for granted though. Thanks for a great article, Dr. M.

    Jae in Clayton, NC

    1. Nope. Didn't arrogant at all. That's the little voice trying to make you hate on your wise words. :)

  15. Thank you. I'm crying right now but only because this is precisely what I needed to hear at this exact minute today. I'll be passing this on to a couple of friends who need it more than I do right now. Thank you.

    1. Crying is welcomed here. Ugly crying, too. Go right on ahead. Snot doesn't bother us one bit.

  16. You're hitting the nail on the head this week with this post. I've allowed self-doubt and feelings of inferiority to hold me back and I'm ready to say ENOUGH. Thanks for the pep talk, Coach!

    1. Yes, yes and YES! Thanks for joining in my army. I need as many soldiers on board as I can get.

  17. WOW! I am a pre-med student who happened to stumble across your blog today and I feel like today was the day that I needed to hear what you had to say. Of all the things I have been going though recently - your writing has really hit a cord with me. Especially this post, as I am guilty of doing all of those things. I constantly tell myself "I am not good enough" or "I am not smart enough!" and that only leads me to second-guess myself if I am even smart enough to become a doctor. I recently quit a stable, decent-paying job in a field that I was not interested in, to become a full-time pre-med student. You can imagine how many people shook their heads at me and said "you're crazy!" So sometimes It's hard for me not to doubt myself. All I can do is just know who I am and stay true to myself.

    I definitely needed to hear this with all thats going on in my life. Perfect timing to stumble across this blog, especially this particular one. I enjoy your blog <3 and look forward to reading more.


    PS: I've signed;)

  18. Dr. Manning,
    I CANNOT thank you enough for this post! I suffer from this DIS-ease daily and have forever. I am an English instructor at Bennett College and wonder how I got very first job after grad school! Sheer luck, surely! I graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a 4.0 GPA...well, it took six years so,I should've, right? Then I repeated that 4.0 in graduate school at North Carolina A&T State University...but, my professors were so nice. They just really liked me, right? And on and on...But it is time to stop! So I join you in this war. My first battle is against ME. Thank you so much!!!
    SN:A wonderful young doctor named Dr. Briana Buckner (my honorary "niece") introduced me to your blog via Facebook and I am not medically minded--although both my sisters are nurses--But I am so glad she did. I read it religiously, and I love it!

    S. Cooper

  19. I just caught this TED talk today and it hints at the "imposter" fear. Well worth a watch...


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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