Dora Jolene

The Imposter

The only way for her finger not to touch me was to back up against the wall.

She was telling me her truth without any regard for the impact her words would have on me both personally and professionally.

Early in my tenure with the real estate company, we were attending one of the many social events outside the office, where my drink of choice was being served, tequila. Not just any tequila… good sipping tequila with a water-back. Forget the sweet and bubbly added items… good sipping of tequila just went down well. Sipping, not shooting!  Add that to the Latin music-filled parties we were having in the early 1990s for our growing company and it created some fun and memorable times.   I was new to this part of the company, after working for the regional franchisor. I was learning how to navigate being the one who managed the money and operations, together with being the boss’s new wife.  

Music, pool tables, laughter, and fun.  When she approached me, it sure looked like she had something to say. And she did.  For the past 4 years, she had known me as the awards and event coordinator at the regional office, tracking and producing the plaques that now hung from her wall as evidence she was a top producer in the community of real estate agents. There was no social media to share her success, only reputation, plaques on the wall and announcements in front of her peers at local and regional events (which I also was responsible for planning). And on her business cards.

While my business card now said “co-owner/operations”, my confidence with the title was still finding its footing.  I knew who she was. I knew she was important to the success of my newly adopted position. So when she approached me, I was curious and happy to converse.  Little did I know, this would be a defining moment in my career and life.

Granted, I was a bit fuzzy that evening at the party from one too many sips of tequila … but to this day, I remember what she had to say and she did it with gusto!  Without hesitating, she lifted her hand in front of me, with her index finger pointed at my chest… which backed me up to the wall with nowhere to go but to wait until she said what she had to say…..    “You only have this job because you married him”.    

The words not only rendered me speechless, but they stung. They stung like a wasp as they burned into my confidence and memory. I was devastated. My tipsy mind spun like I was on a playground spinning thing.  Is this what everyone else was saying? What if I was so unqualified for the job? Was I an imposter?

Mind you, this is a respected and successful top producer that continued to be in our company, even after I resigned and left many years later.  And she probably never realized the impact of those harsh words that took her 10 seconds to say, but took me years to get over and eventually heal. 

My husband at the time probably never knew what happened that night.  Nor do I think I ever told him.  At the time, I was speechless and was too embarrassed to share what had happened that night.  But I did make decisions that defined my work for years after.    

  1. I will prove you wrong and work so hard that no one will ever say that again. Nor, have the opportunity to say it.
  2. While the top producers may seem nice, they can tear you down and you have to take it because you need them.   They are not your friends. 
  3. Never let them see you cry.

My point… I kept those words to myself.  I then watched for evidence, real or imagined, that made them true in my mind.  If you asked me now, I would say that I did originally get the job because of my marriage….and, I was still the best person for the job.  I made it a success and I played a key role in the success of the company through those years. I may not have been the face of the company, I know I did my part, and I did it to the best of my abilities.

I earned the right to be called an Owner / CFO / COO.  I was not an imposter …. I was learning, growing and serving those people who wanted to succeed as I was. I still stay connected to many, who I consider friends first.

I also learned through observing, that top/successful producers were not all alike. They are all doing the best they can in a what can be a difficult industry.  I really was honored with the opportunity to provide a foundational place where they could be successful. Where I really learned how to be of service and make things happen too, even though it was backstage operations.

This was just one defining moment in my career. I made the words of an individual… be it, we were both tipsy that night at the party … to be the TRUTH.

I continue to examine the TRUTHs that I carry around with me daily. Many I’ve healed, many I’ve exposed to be untrue and just one person’s opinion … and many are still invisible to me. What I know for sure is that I’m always learning and willing to investigate. 

What “truth” have you taken on that impacts your work?  Have you ever felt like an imposter?