I think about impostor syndrome A LOT.
Really, it’s hard not to.
There are few things more insidious, more toxic, more corrosive than that loud, stubborn, internal voice that says “you don’t deserve to be here” or “you’re a fool” and to add insult to injury, “and everyone else thinks this about you too!”
Changemakers face a kind of double-whammy when it comes to #ImpastaSyndrome. On top of the refrain from above, we also deal with a voice (and a culture that reinforces it) that says “you’re supposed to be an outsider” or “you’re an underdog” and “if you stop being an impostor, you’ll become something worse. A traitor! A sell-out!”
it’s a sprint, not a marathon
Maybe in future posts, I’ll write more about how to unravel I.S. in general and in activist communities. On the bright side, I know that from now on, I’ll think about cute little pastas every time it comes up. Yay!! But today, I want to talk about 5 tangible things at the Salesforce Open Source Community Sprint that take what could be an #ImpastaFest and turn it into a productive, supportive atmosphere where people with a huge range of skill sets and levels of experience can collaborate.
I’m not going to say the Sprint was perfect (and I certainly don’t want to erase anyone reading along who felt left out, insecure, or Impostor-y, yuck!), but I think that there’s real leadership here (thanks, Judi, Cori, Jace and Erica!) and I have an obligation to lift up things that WORK so that we can make progress on dismantling Impostor Syndrome.
A newbie and a goodie
Kevin Bromer (VP of Product Delivery at Salesforce.org)’s made casual but moving opening remarks highlighting the contributions of the newest, least experienced people. Least experienced with databases? Maybe. Least experienced with problem solving? No way! No database techie experts can fix problems without hearing about the problems from the people who experience them first hand, day in and day out.
On top of that, during “Sticky-Palooza” I really appreciate how you can ask questions about features and functionality without feeling embarrassed!
Okay, okay, I mean sharing meals together. This makes a huuuuge difference because there’s less social awkwardness about being left out of group meals or not having the budget to go to more extravagant meals. Plus, eating together is a really wonderful and important way to build community. Thank you for being so intentional about this!
Who you are, not where you work
Judi Sohn (Director of Product Services at Salesforce.org) (and also my mentor and friend!) emphasized to me how she insists on nametags that show our first names in BIG letters and our job titles/affiliations in small letters. Little shifts like this can make a b-i-g difference in leveling the playing field.
It’s always good to be clear and deliberate about the dress code, whatever it is (even formal wear) so that everyone (especially new people) know what to expect and aren’t left guessing about expectations. But even more than that, it made a big difference for me, personally, that we were invited to wear whatever we felt comfortable in. Seriously, that took off so much pressure! I didn’t feel like I had to look a certain way to fit in (business wear? tech-bro black tshirts?) and signal that I belonged. It’s one thing to grant yourSELF that permission and “give no f*cks” about what other people think about your clothes, but it’s another entirely when event planners tell you to be comfortable. In fact, here’s exactly what they said #swoon
“Of course there is a dress code. There’s ALWAYS a dress code! Geesh! Ready? Wear what is comfortable and uniquely you.”
Last, but not least…
… here’s some protection against Impostor Syndrome for you (in cartoon form), to save for the next time it rears it’s ugly head.