Being and Imposter Syndrome


How does a "real" business person dress? Do I look like a "real" marketer?

Skirt: JC Penney

Tank top: NY & Co.

Cardigan: Target

Heels: Sam & Libby via DSW

Like the outfit? Click here for more details!


I talked about motivation in yesterday’s post, and I’ve been thinking about another topic that coincides with motivation, “being” vs. “acting”. Remember when you were little, and you played house, played teenager (don’t lie, you know you pretended to be in high school when you were 6!), or played cops? When I was younger, my CPA father had to work on Saturdays during tax season, and he’d take us to his office sometimes. He’d give us pens and post-it notes, and, no kidding, we’d play business (yes, I was that nerdy). I played business at my grandmother’s house too, with a box of blank payroll checks for a defunct business and her fancy clip-on earrings and purses. My brother and I would take turns owning the business, and I’d stuff a bunch of checks into my Granny’s purse, clip on those earrings like I was ready for the office, and strut down the hall to the back bedroom, where I’d wave my hands around telling everyone to get to work. Man, I was AWESOME at imaginary business!

The funny thing is, I really do business now. I really slip on my high heels, really go to an office, and really approve invoices. And yet, sometimes it still feels like I’m playing business, like everyone will eventually find out that I’m just a little kid in my grandmother’s clip-on earrings, or scribbling on post-it notes on the floor of my dad’s office. There’s a frequently-used name for this phenomenon, imposter syndrome. Essentially, you feel like you’re lying about your skills or intelligence, being the ultimate pretender in your professional abilities, and eventually, the truth will come out that in fact, you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s not just early career people that feel this, it’s high-powered lawyers, doctors, and professors.

This concept of “playing” at something goes back to my initial thoughts of “being” vs. “acting”, and the motivation for actors. Are you ACTING like a business person would act, or are you BEING a business person? Are you imitating what you think business people should do, or are you taking actions that a business person would take because they make strategic sense? What makes it a “real” business look, decision, or action anyways? I have this vision of an actual business person in a black, pinstripe suit, briefcase in hand, clicking along a marble hallway with large glass windows, on their way to an important presentation to the board. Does this mean that I’m not a real business person in the outfit with color? Am I just pretending to be a marketer if I don’t carry a briefcase? What, exactly, indicates that I’m being a business person, and not just acting like a business person? I think it’s the motivation. I don’t want to imitate business behavior simply because I think that’s what business looks like. It’s part of the reason that Silicon Valley start-ups have non-existent dress codes: they believe business is about DOING business, not playing the part of a business person by dressing up in fancy clothes and waving around worthless checks.

Are you playing business, or doing business? Are you acting like a business person, or being a business person? Are you an imposter, or a smart, driven, no-holds-barred force in the business world? Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

2 thoughts on “Being and Imposter Syndrome

  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered why we get along. For Halloween in the sixth grade, I dressed up as “businesswoman” in my mom’s suit and my dad’s extra briefcase.

    I don’t think acting and doing are mutually exclusive–acting the part goes a long way in actually being the person, and as long as your “playing business” actually produces something valuable, it can be useful to inject a little fun into the droll aspects of work.


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