Insecurity, even in Successful Women

08 Jan Insecurity, even in Successful Women

Say what you will about Sandberg’s Lean In, you can’t fault her honesty.

She doesn’t pull any punches about her first failed marriage, her negative experiences at Harvard, and her own insecurities in pursuing her future work. She claims at the root of the barriers that women face is the fear of not being liked. Not being liked for making the wrong choices, for overreaching, and “the holy Trinity of fear; the fear of being a bad mother, wife, daughter.”
Who can’t relate to this?

The imposter syndrome (the fear that success is just luck; that sooner or later people will catch on to us and realize we aren’t as good as we seem) affects both men and women but apparently women suffer significantly more despite being high achievers. Even experts in their field, women cannot seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter time until they’re found out for who they really are: imposters with limited skills and abilities.

Men will typically credit their success to their skills while women will attribute theirs to external factors like working really hard or getting lucky,  are having help from others. The same goes for failure. Men will say they didn’t study enough or were not interested in the subject matter while women will credit their failure to an inherent lack of ability. Frighteningly,  in situations where men and women each received negative feedback, women’s self self-esteem dropped to a much greater degree than did men’s, according to information Sandberg relays.

When Facebook went public,  the New York Times ran an article suggesting that Sandberg had been lucky and had powerful mentors along the way. Journalists and bloggers went wild, pointing out the double standard, saying the New York Times rarely claims men’s successes are due to luck…yet it was nothing Sandberg hadn’t told told herself 1000 times over.

She came to the realization in college but the real issue is not that she felt like a fraud but that she could feel something so deeply and profoundly and be completely wrong about it. It is this kind of honesty that makes Sandberg’s message readable and applicable to all women.

At Facebook  people are encouraged to take risks and one of her favorite quotes reads. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Sandberg says that writing her book is what she would do if she were not afraid. I applaud her for that and herein I find some inspiration: It’s time to pursue some goals that fear has stopped me from doing.

I like that message.