« Review: How to Train Your Dragon | Main | How to interact with people with disabilities »

Awesome women


Karen H posted a great entry recently in which she invited women to post about their awesomeness.

She writes:

Too often we put ourselves down. Too often we think we are useless, not good enough, less than perfect and thus less than acceptable. Too often we demur praise, or will not praise ourselves. Often we outright hate ourselves, and much of the dominant media and various cultures around us are determined to make us feel as bad as possible, usually so that we will buy things.

In the comments to this post, I cordially invite you to tell me why you are awesome.

And she asks that you do so without self-deprecation or apology. You are allowed to be awesome in whatever ways you are awesome; you don't need to worry about whether you're the right kind of awesome or whether you're awesome enough.

If you (as Karen puts it) "identify as a woman/lady/girl/female human type of any classification," I encourage you to go post about your awesomeness. Even if it's scary.

And regardless of your gender identity, I encourage you to go read the comment thread. There are over 300 comments as I write this, and they are full of awesome.

(And before anyone starts in on arguing, please let's not have the discussion about men being awesome too. The thread is about and by women.)


Funny you should say this...I just got home from orientation at a new job at a pharma company, where all of our [female] presenters from HR, who all had degrees in science, continually put themselves down as "not understanding what the scientists here do, hee hee" and "it all goes way over my head" and blah blah blah. I wanted to SHAKE them.

Thank you for sharing this! Reading those comments was, in fact, awesome, and I have passed on the link. And commenting felt good, even though I can't quite shake the feeling that some foul finger of vengence will fall down on me for daring to say it out loud.

I was fine posting, but I felt my post was too long. Even though it's shorter than my standard bio. Somehow, standing in a group of other women posting, I felt like mine shouldn't be longer than anyone else's. I stifled that feeling long enough to post, but it still bothers me. I keep wanting to go back and edit it, so people don't think I'm showing off.

Do guys get that feeling too? Is this a girl thing, or a human thing?

There's a widely-held belief that impostor syndrome disproportionately affects women, but studies have shown that it has no gender bias: "Early on, this phenomenon was associated with women, a belief that persists today. But subsequent studies, including another by Clance, have shown that men are affected in equal numbers." [link to Science] I see that you're asking people not to "start in on arguing," but I think it's worth risking it to raise awareness of the fact that irrational insecurity can affect everyone.

I posted because the comments were too awesome, not to be awesome too. But it was really hard not to qualify my post with all the ways in which my awesomeness was tempered by being woefully inadequate. And I get that this was part of the point of the posting but I had a really hard time.

Jere7my, that's interesting about imposter syndrome. I'm not sure that's exactly what I'm talking about, though. I am very familiar with the imposter syndrome and how it affects me, and I agree, it seems to affect everyone I know in academia, regardless of gender.

But what I'm talking about isn't about not being sure I'm good enough / qualified enough / etc. But almost the opposite -- KNOWING I'm good enough, knowing, in fact, that I'm better at some things than most people around me. But feeling that, for the good of the group, the good of society, etc., I'm supposed to pretend to be just like everyone else. And if I don't pretend, if I don't diminutize my accomplishments, I'll make other people feel bad. (And, by implication, they'll punish me for it.)

Is this something men worry about?

MAry Anne: Yes, it is.

Monica: I hope those women find a way to give themselves permission to be awesome, and to acknowledge it without apologies or excuses. It's hard to do.

I'm glad to see you posted in that thread!

I've now posted a followup entry with some more thoughts, and a link to Karen's followup entry.

Thank you, KJ and Mary Anne and Fran and Jillian and other friends, for posting about your awesomeness! I loved the whole thread, but I was especially pleased to see y'all's posts. And thank you for getting past your qualms and discomfort and posting anyway.

[I heavily edited/changed this comment after seeing j7y's LJ thread on this topic. In case anyone saw my original comment, it was not intended as a response to j7y's LJ thread, which I hadn't seen when I wrote the comment.]

J7y: I'm fine with your noting that irrational insecurity can affect everyone.

Thanks for keeping the rest of the argument out of this comment thread.

Mary Anne, re feeling that [...] I'm supposed to pretend to be just like everyone else. And if I don't pretend, if I don't diminutize my accomplishments, I'll make other people feel bad. [...] Is this something men worry about?

My take, based on nothing but my own gut feeling, is this:

It's something that some American men worry about in some contexts; in particular, some men have been socialized that it's not polite to brag, nor to indicate that you're better than someone else.

But in general, on average, across modern American society as a whole (other cultures may be very different, I'm not sure), I think women are much more likely to receive that kind of socialization, and to get stronger doses of it and internalize it more.

I think in general we see it as much more acceptable for men to talk proudly about their own accomplishments and abilities than for women to do so.

Post a comment