I’m a 25-year-old law school graduate, living in Paris and working at my dream job. I have amazing friends, a supportive boss, and an ancient French landlady who bakes me bread and treats me like her surrogate daughter.
My dream job is in the area I always wanted to work in (helping victims from communities affected by genocide), and to boot, I’ve been promoted quickly since I moved here from the States in January. My working conditions (re: hours/leave/flexibility) are great, and I get amazing feedback about my work from my boss.
However, all the other members of my work team (which is small and tight-knit) have Masters degrees in addition to their law degrees, all speak at least one more language than me and all have at least three years more work experience than me. However, despite being younger and stupider, I’m consistently prioritized above them for important, substantive tasks like drafting motions and reviewing evidence and sometimes am even put in the weird position of being told by my boss to tell Person X to print and compile binders for court (when Person X has been working on this team for two years, and is my superior in literally every way).
My coworkers show no sign of dissatisfaction with this situation: they welcomed me into their existing social circle immediately on my arrival and there’s never been any passive aggressive comments about me. But my discomfort persists. I don’t think this is imposter syndrome because every single one of these people is, on paper, 1000 times more competent than me. I really just can’t figure out why I’m being promoted, praised, and prioritized in this way.
Bless you. This has been such a shitty week and I was dreading opening my inbox to sift through even more trauma and suffering when lo! here you are working at your dream job in Paris and causing yourself great consternation because maybe… your life is just too good? What a treat—like a perfectly flaky croissant brought to me in bed by a woman who wears a vintage robe but in a way that makes it look fresh and casual rather than hopelessly affected.
A woman who would laugh when I asked, “Remember when everyone thought they had imposter syndrome? Like just after all your friends suddenly had a gluten allergy but before people started posting about having synesthesia?”
“Non,” she would say to me as she lit a cigarette. Because she did not remember this.
Imposter, I would gently suggest to you that perhaps you are being praised and given extra work because you are a very eager recent grad who clearly thrills at the opportunity to draft motions. And perhaps your colleagues seem unbothered by this because they are perfectly content in their current positions and workload and have not been trained to see new hires as threats.
Ruthless professional ambition is not a universal condition. I know this can be a disorienting thing to realize after a lifetime of being told that you are locked in a Thunderdome-style competition for accolades or advancement but consider for a moment that if your highly educated, multilingual, superstar colleagues are truly smarter in you in any way it’s that they are able to enjoy working a job they like in a city they like without being wracked by anxiety about the whole situation.
Please, I am begging you, go sit outside and eat some freshly baked bread. Do good, meaningful work because it matters to you and come to see your colleagues as people trying to do the same, or at the very least assume they make more money than you and don’t give a shit who compiles the binders. Have wine with lunch.
Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.