Mainstream feminists seem to think that the be-all and end-all issue to fight is the wage gap. However, studies show that, for the most part, the wage gap exists but not for the reason that people typically think. It has less to do with women getting smaller paychecks than men in similar positions, and more to do with how many women are not going towards those high paying careers.
Again, this doesn’t mean that the wage gap is a myth. In fact, the recent annual data shows that women working full time in Canada still earned 74.2 cents for every dollar that a full-time male employee made. And in some cases, highly educated women aren’t getting paid as much as men who have the same, or even less, credentials.
The main flaws in those numbers, is that researchers don’t consider different employment choices between men and women, or the number of hours they work. Almost none of them take into account the pressures women have on childbearing, and how pregnancy and motherhood can detract from a woman’s employment status.
In summary, within the Western world, the wage gap isn’t actually just as result of rampant discrimination. This belief leads to governments attempting to aid the situation with affirmative action. Thus, many men plead in defiance that they work just as hard, and women’s wages are still stagnant. This means that the issue is much more complicated than that.
I wanted to know why.
Why are so many capable women avoiding those high paying jobs? There are countless reasons, and multiple online threads attempting to convince me that women simply don’t want to do those jobs, that they aren’t that good at bargaining for a better wage. While some I deemed completely laughable, others seemed quite fitting. The actual fault can be traced to the psychological effects of living in a legacy of women being excluded from professional spaces in the modern world. And the one that hit close to home for me, was the concept of Imposter Syndrome.
So, what’s Imposter Syndrome?
Individuals who have Imposter Syndrome, “experience intense feelings that their achievements are undeserved and that they’re likely to be exposed as a fraud,” as written in a report created by the International Journal of Behavioral Science.
Mind you, this isn’t a gendered phenomenon. High achieving millennials and graduate students are plagued with this mindset no matter what gender they identify as. But it is inarguably and disproportionally afflicted by women – including myself.
My Experience with Imposter Syndrome
I found myself looking at the accounts written by female professionals, and connecting words that perfectly explained what I have been experiencing ever since I was a young adult. Like ever since I set foot on my university campus I have felt out of place amongst the academics and keeners who did everything on time and seemingly without flaw. Or when people offer me compliments, and tell me that I seem to have everything put together, I can’t agree with them. I immediately think of my messy room back home, the dirty dishes on my desk, and the piles of readings I have yet to finish.
In classrooms, where male students offer their opinions freely and confidently, I take time to repeat my answer over and over in my head until perfection, to the point where I still kind of stutter on my words, or the class has moved on to completely different discussion point.
I think about how social media has allowed me to curate a very edited version of myself; from the articles I share on Facebook, to the highly selective photos I’ve posted on my Instagram. Sometimes I am extremely thankful that I was born in an era where people can take a picture of themselves with the right lighting, angle, and dress so that those candids of double chins, belly bumps, or big foreheads don’t have to presented to the world. But then sometimes I scroll through my feed and feel like I’m lying to everyone. If one of those candids came to light, it isn’t that it’s an ugly representation of myself, but it’s actually the true version of myself.
There are even times where my friends send me links to entry-level summer jobs they think are a perfect fit, but I feel deep down there is a better candidate for those positions. So I don’t apply. I take away any chance of myself gaining more than minimum wage.
That, combined with my knack of belittling every achievement I have had, makes it seem like I simply have some poor self-esteem, except it feels like more than that.
It feels like I’ve built a small empire – of confidence, beauty, and success – on shaky infrastructure; a castle made of sand.
Why does it matter?
Imposter Syndrome is a complicated concept and it definitely cannot independently explain why women don’t allow themselves to go towards high paying careers. However, it should be examined much more than it is, when female law students, professors and CEOS “find innumerable means of negating any external evidence that contradicts their belief that they are, in reality, unintelligent.”
I do call on it when people condescendingly claim that the wage gap is a myth, or when people try to reason through that specific issue by explaining that women are just less ambitious. Both of those reasons are just examples of people attempting to continue the narrative that women are inferior.
I know I’m not. I know women aren’t, but I think we all have that voice in the back of our heads that makes us question our worth.
Back to the Wage Gap
While millionaire actresses and celebrities stand with signs in their hands about the wage gap, uneducated as to why it actually exists, it makes their fight seem unworthy, and often exasperating. Not only to they stand with misguided signs, but are probably standing next to images of pink vulvas with the thought that all women are connected by same genitalia, and not mention, are all probably white. These acts are excluding many people and specifically disregarding how the wage gap disproportionally affects women of colour.
It’s extremely difficult to live in a time where everyone feels like everyone else is living better. It’s also extremely difficult living in the legacy where women have been excluded from the work force and academic spaces. Hopefully, the end of that legacy is closer than we think.
It is important to note that issues such as these cannot only be explained with numbers. It the lived experience that should be taken to account as well.
And in the meantime, we should create a mantra when those dirty, little thoughts sneak into heads, repeating over and over, “I can, I can, I can.”
Just over a year ago, I read an article that changed my life.
Maria Yagoda, an author from The Atlantic, wrote about the generation of young women who have been living undiagnosed with ADHD. She explained that the disorder had been stereotyped, associated with the hyperactive young boys who disrupted elementary school classes. And the “women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted”, and they had been left wondering what was wrong with them.
Immediately, I was enamoured. My eyes were peeled to the screen, and I kept reading. It felt as though someone had been explaining exactly what I had been dealing ever since I could remember, and especially since I started University. And now, skipping to just over a year later, I’ve officially been diagnosed with ADHD.
The road to a diagnosis
Trust me, the process in being diagnosed was not easy. I spent the next few months letting the information sink in and wondered if I actually wanted to be tested. Why would when I had already managed to live an exceptional life without one?
But then I realized I wasn’t… not technically.
In Elementary school I blended in with the other kids who didn’t focus, drawing when I wasn’t supposed to, but never disrupting the class. My lack of responsibilities in my youth let me live carefree.
At home, my mother and I fell into arguments about daily tasks that she would remind me in numerous ways at the beginning of each day. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher or putting my clothes away, would slip my mind by the time I got home from school. She thought I was entitled, and that I didn’t appreciate the life she had given me. It was hard to explain that small domestic tasks were something that did not come to me naturally, that forgetting was not something I intended to do.
High school was a solid four years of disengagement. At school, I would need more than both hands to count the times I was told by teachers that I would truly succeed, that I would excel, if I just focused. I sat at the back of class, doodling in the margins of my notebook or staring out a window twirling my hair, only looking up when my name was called or times when there was a discussion that sparked my interest. I left everything to the last minute but somehow managed to pull off straight A’s.
In University, I brought the same work ethic, but not the A’s.
I quickly realized I couldn’t write ten page papers worth thirty percent of my mark in one night – especially when I hadn’t done any of the mandatory, and tedious, readings.
The extremely structured schedule I cursed in high school was something I dreamed of having once again. Nothing was grounding me, and in the time that seemed free to use at my will was disposed of by wasting it.
My habit of hair twirling used to be cute, it was something I’d do when I was lost in thought and on the brink of sleep. Now, it transformed into something that I did compulsively, and obsessively. Something that people would stare at when we were conversing, or even told to stop doing at dinner tables, but a few short moments later my hands would crawl up and start twisting and pulling at that one unfortunate strand of hair.
The most frequent occurrence was when my mind drifted in the midst of conversations with professionals and friends. Staring them dead in the eye, nodding, irrelevant thoughts came to to the surface and suddenly the other person sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents. Then, they’d stop and I’d smile and nod as though I heard everything they were saying.
As a result of my inattentiveness, I was given the title of a bad listener, of not caring, of being irresponsible. My grades dropped to C’s and I gave off the impression of being apathetic, neglecting to remember coffee dates or birthdays, or important pieces of information. My undiagnosed ADHD symptoms were clouds, like overcast in my adolescence, and brewed into a storm in my early adulthood.
So no, to answer my earlier question, my life and my habits were not exceptional. For the life I wanted to live, and for everything I wanted to achieve in life, I needed the diagnosis.
The cost of a diagnosis
In the cold, desolate months of the Ottawa winter, my third year of University came to a predictable halt. Seasonal depression hit me like a brick amongst the impending stream of research essays, double digit negative weather, and the uploading of grades that really did not seem to match my level of my intelligence.
I found myself stuck, just like the last two years of school, wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
I watched my friends and peers, with equal drive and ambition, start assignments, go to work on time, and balance their busy social life with punctuality and a “just do it” mentality.
Why couldn’t I just do it?
I laid in my bed, staring across the room at an unopened text book and a Word document with one finished sentence out of a ten-page paper that was due the following day. Next to it, was even more work, dirty dishes, and a pile of laundry that grew and grew with each following week.
It’s hard to explain how it feels living in a vicious cycle of inattentiveness. While there were other factors in my life that caused depression, there had always been a connection to its consistent arrival in the winter of each year, and my inability to achieve the success I wanted in all areas of my life.
It’s even harder to explain what I was experiencing to a medical professional, in the latest hours a clinic that was opened on a Saturday night.
That one, I think I might have ADHD.
And two, I’m depressed.
To which, the white haired man in a matching lab coat scoffed and said the two could never correlated. He scrawled a referral to a psychologist anyway, but it was only for depression.
I left that clinic feeling invalidated and angry, it almost stopped me from taking the next steps I needed. I was incredibly desperate for an answer, and some help, but all he gave me was condescension.
However, I went from referral to referral, using also my University’s tactless resources, and found myself in a place that seemed promising
The cost of ADHD is a shit ton of patience, people not believing you, six hours of strenuous psychological testing, a cheque with a price that I curse.
On May 4th 2017, I was handed some papers with my diagnosis. So, I guess it was worth it.
How can a piece of paper change one’s life?
A piece of paper didn’t change my life, at least it hasn’t yet.
It’s been over a week since my last appointment, and there are still countless steps that I need to take to get back on track.
While I live in a world that has a ticking clock for everything, I’m a twenty year old woman and I have to remind myself that I have time to figure everything out. It’s a world that define’s ones worth by their productivity, I hope to be patient as I work through habits built over a lifetime, and to know that, for know, its okay to just be okay.
I also have to remind myself that the diagnosis isn’t an excuse, and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of me, small but impactful on myself and other people in my life.
But I’ll just end for now by saying this: If you feel as though there is a barricade blocking you from the life you want to live, look into it no matter what it maybe. And for others, listen to them, and don’t invalidate the barricade’s existence.
~P.S. If you, or someone you know, has experienced similar things, here’s a link with more information ~
A writer’s job is to create characters and worlds that are inspired by the world they live in; to delve into the mind and see how their cogs and gears turn. It’s a naturally empathetic hobby. But how do these ideas mesh in our world which is so upturned by issues like identity politics, or high tensioned racial disparities? How can a middle aged woman get into the mind of a young boy in a wizarding world? And how could a white man get into the mind of a black woman residing in the south side of Chicago?
Growing up, I’d always work on these impressively complicated soap opera-like plots in worlds that were even more complicated. I’d make these characters that were so deeply thought out they seemed like my friends. But in my teenage years I realized that all of the stories and people I created were white. And by white I mean incredibly White.
YA and its obsession with paleness
In Twilight, Stephanie Meyer found every way to describe Edward’s deathly pale skin, and I found it really interesting for some reason. It found its way into my own writing, describing characters from translucent pale, to peachy, and sometimes tan.
Hermione Granger being described in the Philosopher’s Stone as having: “lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth”, led a generation of young women of colour to rightfully assume that she probably looked like them. As a reader, I would read of how every character was described, and despite lacking descriptions of skin colour or race, I’d almost always assumed they were white.
Diversifying my own writing
As a writer and and a reader I began to challenge myself. I wanted to diversify the worlds I was creating and reading. For the latter, it wasn’t hard. While reading the Hunger Games it seemed positively certain to me that Katniss was supposed to be a woman of colour with black hair, grey eyes and olive toned skin. However, for writing it was much more difficult.
It’s not so much that I was forcing myself to create diversity in my own writing, I was actually keen on creating stories that diverged from the majority of fiction, television and film that were white. I wanted the stories to reflect my own life and my own friends that had changed when I moved to a larger and more diverse city. But I realized I was breaching into territory that was not my own.
Much like formative years, I was creating stories and worlds that were incredibly endeavouring. I was trying to write stories about people from walks of life and from perspectives I couldn’t actually fathom. Some people’s lives, real or not, take more than the imagination.
When writing in the first person perspective, one has to have confidence in what they’re narrating. They have to do their research. But how can someone like me research the lived experience of a black man, a muslim woman, or a transgender teen?
The answer is, I don’t think I can. It’s just not my place.
So… what’s the solution?
White people just can’t write in the perspectives of people that don’t look like them? I’m not sure if that makes sense. The lack of diversity in the world of fiction, on screen and off, is a problem. Encouraging a white-dominated field to only write within their demographic would create a bigger divide and even less representation.
Third person is a great compromise; writing as spectator, as someone watching but not entirely knowing.
But most importantly, it’s not about encouraging the white dominated field of fiction to diversify their protagonists, but to encourage more people of colour to write their own stories, and for them to create their own characters and worlds that are inspired by the realities they live in.
Empathy in Readers
A Cambridge University study by Maria Nikolajeva, professor of education, said that: “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think”.
I credit my knack of reading from an early age to my ability to effectively empathize. One is stepping into another’s shoes when they read from another person’s perspective. It comes to no surprise that the people who read on their free time in their formative years ended up following movements like feminism, and stay attuned to other similar social issues.
By encouraging people of colour to write, it will open the doors to many people to see new realities, characters, and stories, and develop an even more empathetic readership.
As for myself, I recommend Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and perhaps even add these to your summer reading list.
So, here I am, once again the last one to move out.
This very much mirrors our first year in residence; my last exam was on the last day, you, Ellen were already across the ocean touring Europe, and you Riss, were back home and settled with your boyfriend. I sat in the middle of your empty room that had I spent countless minutes in like it was my own. I stared at the empty walls where pictures and posters once hung, I stared at naked beds usually unmade with you in them, and heard a quiet that was so loud.
History repeats itself in more ways than one.
I’m not that sentimental in person, so when you two were packing up I had not yet realized what was happening. It hadn’t hit me. Slowly, I watched this apartment disappear, piece by piece.
I’m a very habitual person, so it was in those moments when I wanted to watch The Office and wait for one of you to come out and watch it with me, or when I wanted to go knock on your door to tell you something about about my day – it was in those moments that I started realizing that I was moving out of my very first apartment, and moving away from two of some of the most important people in my life.
I could write about a million things and more. But I just want to say thank you.
Thank you for everything: the good and the bad, the clean and the messy, the loud and the quiet…
Thank you for growing with me, not in the same direction, but at my side. We definitely aren’t the same people when we first met, and were aren’t the same people when we moved into this apartment.
Thank you, Ellen, for craving sugar as much as I did. For the walks to Shoppers for gummy bears makeup-less and dawned in sweats. For filling the silence with laughter (at my lame jokes) and also allowing the silence to be comfortable. And just showing me that a young woman can work her ass off and truly be completely independent.
Thank you, Riss, for listening. To my weird theories and stories, and my troubles with boys. For saving a spot at the end of your bed for me sit comfortably as I exchanged words with you. For setting an example on eyebrow etiquette, and just showing me that being a good person is far better than having a disingenuous exterior.
And thank you, to both of you, for being a pain in my ass at times. I’ll miss that.
I learned so much: how to be a good roommate, how to compromise, and while I already knew how to be a good friend, you guys really reinforced it.
However, I have to admit, I’m kind of scared. I have lived with my parents, and then I lived with you – that is all I know. While I know we will manage without our rooms not longer being separated by paper thin walls, it’s just that it’s mind boggling to know I won’t be in your vicinity. And to see you will not just be a knock on your door, but a bus trip away.
If I’ve learned anything my adulthood, it’s that relationships take effort. I’ve made mistakes in my past and promised an unlucky few that I would continue to text and call, but then it stops, and we drift away. So, I expect both of you to know that I will be inviting myself over quite often.
I hope both of you do the same.
P.S. Shout out to whomever made the only blonde girls on our floor first year share a bathroom. This wouldn’t have happened without them.
P.S.S. Ellen, you forgot a bunch of your stuff, can I sell it on Kijiji?
For the most part, I am pretty privileged to say that my life, with a gradual incline upwards, has been going at a slow and steady pace. What I really mean by that is, I definitely didn’t peak in high school.
My first day of high school kind of set the stage for how my next four years would play out. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, the uniform at my Catholic high school was something that really did not come natural to me.
My old friend from grade eight came to my door on the first day of grade nine, and somehow managed to perfectly avoid the regular awkwardness that came from adorning a never-worn forest green kilt and matching sweater vest.
I, however, wore the exact same pieces, including two butterfly clips pinning back my overgrown bangs, pink and blue patterned elastics on my braces, and a pair of white knee high socks to go with my two inch heeled ballerina flats.I watched as she gave me a once over, with a look that foreshadowed her embarrassment as we walked several blocks to the bus stop.
High school was a strange time. The years that followed weren’t far from the standard I set on the first day. The braces came with the whole package: off-coloured foundation that barely hid my acne, dark eyeliner on my waterline, and outdated lenses. But as I said, with emphasis on slow, my experience steadily went upward. Overtime, I gained more friends, got rid of my acne, and then my braces – shedding a little layer of myself that was no longer needed.
Besides my apparent awkwardness, what I also brought with me from elementary school was writing. I jumped from interest to interest, from visual arts, drama, and even singing in musical; I became a jack of all trades in the world of amateur art. But writing remained a constant. Writing was something I developed a passion for in grade three, and storytelling was was something I could remember doing with my stuffed animals before I was able hold a pencil in my hand.
There were few times in my adolescence I was able to share that passion. I entered a few poetry competitions in elementary school and completed some short stories the years after. After years of sheer naivety, my dream of being novelist became something that seemed out of reach. I thought maybe I needed to choose something a little more practical.
I set aside my ambitions and made writing something that I did on the side. That was until my final year of high school.
April 2017 is the third anniversary of a play I wrote and directed in grade twelve. It was called The Fitzgerald’s; a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family at funeral. It was a two act play featuring a drunken grandmother, a gay uncle, a trophy wife, all members fighting and obsessed with their reputations. It was a script that was chosen and supervised by my eccentric drama teacher. My best friend was the stage manager, and the tight knit group of incredibly talented friends I made in grade eleven, starred as the main characters.
For nine months I did rehearsals twice a week and tweaked the script to its best and final product. It went through a regional competition called the Sears Drama Festival. The first official performance was in this small town in a place called the Lighthouse Theatre. That night, with nails digging into my seat, I had never been more nervous is my life.
And it was amazing.
The theatre was packed with students and the parents of students and theatre-goers. When the actors came out in tableau a hush went over the crowd. They acted on their marks and added their own touches to characters that finally meant something to them.
The audience was alive; they laughed in all of the right places – laughed more than I would’ve ever expected. I even saw a few people cry.
When it was over, I embraced everyone that was involved, including my drama teacher who was responsible for giving methat opportunity. I went out to the lobby and heard someone yell out, “Who wrote that?” and everyone pointed in my direction. The girl actually ran up to me, and amongst the absurdity of that night, asked for my autograph on the playbill. My family was beaming at me with pride.
It was a first for many things; my first play, my first real leadership role, my first piece of writing that was made into something and received awards for. The first time I ever really felt like I was taken seriously.
When we went back to school the next day, back in the uniforms and into our daily routines, I was still living on high that no one but myself, the actors and the crew knew about. Yet this time, my path was carved out, which meant I could walk a little more boldly.
To be honest, I hadn’t let myself think about that memory or that play for a while. Much like high school, I’ve entered a lull in my university career, letting the tedious stream of formal essays take out every ounce of fun I originally found in writing.
However, this year in Ottawa, a young man was standing at the bus stop in my front of my school, staring at me like he wanted to say something. Eventually, he did and asked me if my name was Alannah Link, to which I replied with a confused yes.
He told me that he saw my play a few years back, and that him and his classmates all I loved it.
He didn’t know it, but he gave me a dose of nostalgia that reminded of me of that night, those people and that play. A story I wrote in the last year of high school and performed in front of just a few hundred people, found itself just 600 kilometres away from the town I first performed it in. Right then, the the world felt incredibly small. It made me want to search for that feeling again.
I recognize that I didn’t peak in high school, but I definitely made the happiest memory there.
Rough patches are common, and come quite often, but this is the first time in a long time that I don’t really like myself.
This isn’t one of the periods of life where I can’t get my hair right, or none of of my outfits look good, or my makeup can’t really hide that pimple. Just like every other young woman, I’ve been experiencing those things as well, but this has something more to do with my character.
Recently, I was thinking back to when I was younger, and how people always described me as nice. I was a nice girl. My mother raised me right; I had good manners, I smiled at strangers, I complimented girls in public bathrooms, and said yes to almost every favour someone asked of me.
I even perfected the formalities of professional gatherings adults would have, strongly grasping the hands of socialites, making the right kind of eye contact, and laughing in all of the right places.
I think I prided myself on that. I grew up in school with some girls who weren’t that nice; who could pretend in front of parents that they were a golden child, but would draw nasty things on my face when the lights turned off during a slumber party. Or later in high school, when those same girls would make fun of just about anyone who was slightly atypical.
I was not usually an active passenger of my meanness; it happened passively when I laughed at the wrong times or didn’t stand up for someone who needed it. Sometimes it’s because I was tired and impatient, acting irrationally towards someone who also didn’t deserve it. Either way, those incidents I’d always later regret, and ponder restlessly into the night.
When it came down to it, I was just a friend to anyone who needed one. I gave my time to people who did not deserve it, and offered generosity to people I knew would never give it back. There were people who really hurt me, and they never knew how much they hurt me. Perhaps someone could argue that this gave me a sense of heroism, but looking back I genuinely think for the most part I was being good, to be good.
The nice girl appeared in the first year university, too. But she appeared in areas of life that she had never appeared before. Like dating, and professional settings.
After joining organizations and doing a range of small networking activities, the definitions of nice and formality became interchangeable. I’d converse with associates and then two seconds later they would turn around and their bright smile would disappear. Genuineness became rare. More than anything, being nice seemed like a tool in a well constructed PR campaign.
Soon, some things became apparent to me. I didn’t actually have to smile at everyone. Girls who glared at me as I walked by deserved, in my mind, to be stared back at just with the same amount of intensity. A sorry didn’t have to escape my mouth every few seconds as I made my way through a throng people. A man was not entitled to my attention, just because they showed some kindness. I no longer felt obligated to keep toxic people in my life.
My gradual gain in confidence let me hold my head a little higher. Unapologetic for the space I took, I compromised less with people who made me feel like I was in their way, literally and figuratively.
It isn’t necessarily like my niceness has ceased to exist. It just that it isn’t on all of the time.
Now, I focus on things like a tone of voice or a look that carries an ounce of disrespect and immediately turn the nice girl off. I could get an angry customer at work or a pushy stranger on the bus, I would let them know with a lingering stare that their disrespect was heard, and I didn’t like it. I’ve allowed this space where my confidence has grown – with the idea that my time, my space, my feelings are my own – to also grow an annoyance that bubbles to the surface when people get in my way, literally and figuratively… With strangers, it’s different. With family and with friends, my quick temper isn’t excusable.
I haven’t been able to compromise between my old self and my new self. I think that’s where my fault lies.
People from high school would be surprised at how much I have changed. People I’ve met within the last two years would have a hard time can’t imagining me as anything but a little outspoken, confident and perhaps even to some, a little intimidating.
However, no happiness can come from reacting to every single act of rudeness. While being a good person makes one more vulnerable, I’d much rather be vulnerable than completely closed off.
The only thing I think I can do is plan to use the strength that came with my newfound confidence in all areas of my life. And with that, maybe allow the nice girl to visit more often.