If there’s one thing we know that holds us women back like a mofo, it’s imposter syndrome. Sure, there’s the centuries of patriarchy and all the bullshit that goes along with that, but why add another layer of challenge and be your own worst enemy?
We all know those average white dudes with a sense of entitlement a mile wide. Hell, I’ve dated a good percentage of them – for some reason they all seem to be called Matt. Matt is annoying AF when he gets ahead at work or zooms up to the front of the merge lane so he can cut you off, but there’s something we can learn from him too.
The idea of living like a mediocre white man first came from writer Sarah Hagi, who tweeted her “Daily prayer to combat imposter syndrome: God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude.”
Women all over the Twitterverse were quick to relate, and we’ve been nodding about it ever since.
The reason, of course, is because it hits home. Mediocre white men have been feeling entitled forever, and while it’s super annoying that Matt asked for a pay rise and got it while you’ve been working for the same pay while doing your supervisor’s job while she’s on leave for no extra money, maybe we should forget about bitching about Matt and instead focus on what’s important: taking what’s ours.
There’s a well-known study that was done by Hewlett Packard a while back that found women only apply for jobs when they’ve got 100 per cent of the selection criteria covered, while men apply when they can tick off 60 per cent. Don’t you find that staggering? There are schmos all over the place applying for jobs you haven’t had the guts to even apply for. How can you win when you’re not even in the arena? This is why Matt is getting all those jobs, even though he’s a bit slow and has 10 years less experience than you.
Anne Summers wrote a new foreword a while back for her seminal classic Damned Whores and God’s Police, arguing that as women we need to stop measuring change with “how far we’ve come”, and turn our attention to the “invisible barriers – the ways women limited themselves and collaborated with the culture of oppression”.
“We need to resume that conversation,” she wrote, “because while we might have made major changes and mapped a path to full equality, I am not sure if we have sufficiently reinvented ourselves.”
The woman makes a great point.
So what can you do to shed the bullshit and start putting yourself forward like Matt would? Simple. When life hands you challenges and opportunities, ask yourself one question: What would a mediocre white man do?
We even made you a printable to keep next to your desk or on your fridge to remind you every day that you need to stick your neck out more.
These tips can also help.
- Let go of perfection. We know Elizabeth Gilbert called perfection “fear in high heeled shoes”. Perfection is you not wanting to put yourself out there, so you faff about with the details. Stop it. Near enough is good enough, almost every time.
- Take credit for your achievements. Keep a file at work of emails you’ve received praising your work, keep track of those times you’ve achieved something great, and stop blushing in meetings when someone says “good job”. Smile, nod and say thanks. And use that file of praise when you go to ask for a pay rise.
- Coat yourself in Teflon. Criticism is just one person’s opinion. Take it on board if it can help you get better, and let the other stuff slide off onto the floor. It’s not about you as a whole person, it’s one issue. Stop taking it all so personally.
- Ask questions and request help. You won’t look stupid, you’ll look engaged and proactive.
- Be aware that every situation has several interpretations. Are you interpreting things in a way that’s helpful to you? What can you do to change that?
- It’s okay to feel like a big phony sometimes. Matt feels like that all the time – but he doesn’t let it stop him from talking loudly in the lunchroom about that project he just aced, even though everyone knows it was a team effort and he was on holidays in Fiji with the family for half of it.
So next time you find yourself unconsciously supporting the Matt-dominated status quo and not wanting to put yourself out there, take a moment to look that discomfort in the face and ask yourself the question: What would a mediocre white man do?
He’d take what’s his, that’s what. And a bit extra too.