“it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off’
Florence and the Machine – Lyrics from “Shake It Off”
We have a name for it now. That feeling of inadequacy and the doom that shrouds us when we consider ourselves, particularly in comparison to others, when we allow the not-good-enough to rule our minds and emotions.
I have been active participant in a dance with imposter syndrome ever since I can remember. My father made a point of sharing his displeasure that I had been born a girl. He often expressed that with more than his voice; fists were involved. Fortunately for me I was of the type that used the physical pain to overcome and fight against. The fight was only in my mind for many years until I developed the words to “shake him off”.
My mother was not a role-model for me, many years of domestic violence had whittled away at her for so long she didn’t know who she was. Even if there was a space for her in the world he created; her husband, my father, was far too controlling to allow any form of self-expression.
In my professional life, I chose the difficult path of engineering and construction. I didn’t really choose it, not back then. Back then it was a suitable use of my skills and the fastest way to a high paying long-term career – in my mind – escape! What I didn’t realise, that at no point was this industry going to make my dance with imposter syndrome smooth, more coordinated, elegant. It made it worse. And I still didn’t know what it was, just that I didn’t fit… anywhere.
I was in an industry that (back then) was much more resistant to females in the ‘power roles’ – admin and HR were perfectly fine – but engineer, leader? I was one of 10 women in my university course of over 600. I had some wonderful men who didn’t see my gender as an issue, they went out of there way to acknowledge that as I was bright, determined, and logically smart, I could make it. They supported and trained and mentored me before mentoring was even on the radar as a powerful tool. Since then I have become my own mentor, failing to find anyone who could fulfil that role for me during the early professional years of my life.
Fast forward through sever and on-going chronic illness, the final death of my father and my mother coming to live with me, and the many numerous projects and construction experiences I have had and it is only now, coming out of my thirties, that I feel I am now the lead in this convoluted dance. I chose when and how to turn, I choose the steps and the path. The imposter syndrome is now subdued, my pet almost, something that lifts it head for attention but does not insist any more than I dance to the tune of its making. I check in with it every now and then, because I also do not want to become its opposite – an ego monster, one so enamoured of itself that it becomes as consuming as the imposter syndrome once was. But it is now a tool, a function, one I have embraced and integrated into my life, rather than forced out. I stopped giving it permission.
The voice that tells me I have come so far from that scared, frightened, shy and subdued young lady is now a roar that echoes through the lives I have affected, showing the world and its propensity for shutting down the shine, that I am here and I am an incredible survivor, a high achiever, and I am not stopping any time soon.
I hope that your journey with imposter syndrome can be turned on its head and that you too can see the light that shines within you. I made it, I know you can too.
“pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel, like you’re less than f###ing perfect”
P!nk – Lyrics from Perfect
Becky Paroz doesn’t fit in. She has worked for nearly 30 years in the construction industry, taking names and making one for herself. She loves her workboots, colours her hair purple and speaks loudly with a strong and confident voice. Bek makes her place in the world, she has never waited for a space to open for her Moving beyond mentoring within industry for the last 10 years, Becky is now seeking her tribe to connect within and would love to hear from any fellow mavericks and nonconformists out there at any of her social media spots which you can find on her website www.wordsofbek.com.au