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What Would June Cleaver Do?

Fake it until you make it.  How many times have I heard that advice?  It seems trite, but there is actually evidence that “learned optimism” helps people overcome depression or addiction.  Unfortunately, the language of the phrase can also backfire…

Despite my incredible professional success, I was often plagued by what is called “the impostor syndrome or phenomenon.”  In a nutshell, this phenomenon occurs when, despite the evidence to the contrary, someone feels like they don’t deserve their successes they’ve achieved.  They believe they are a fraud and will be found out or exposed for what they really are: a big fat faker (note that this is different from those women who really are impostors…the phenomenon applies to those that believe they are big fat fakers but really are qualified for their positions).  After conducting numerous workshops on overcoming the feelings of being impostor, I know that women from every walks of life, including homemakers, can occasionally battle these feelings.

So what can we do?  Instead of telling ourselves to “fake it,” which we already feel like we are doing, we can ask ourselves, “What would (insert role model and/or heroine and/or latent persona here) do in this situation?”  We can then put the answer into play.  For example, I  have often asked myself what my Grandmother Lois or Great-grandmother Daisey would do when dealing with life frustrations.  This enables me to tap into my pioneer woman DNA and remember that I really have it good compared to some of the difficulties they encountered.  With this reminder, I’m able to face difficult situations head on instead of shrinking from them (or hiding under the covers of the bed like I really want to do).

As homemakers, we are constantly battling the myths surrounding “the perfect 1950’s homemaker.”  We may strive to be her, yet there really aren’t any guidebooks telling us how to achieve that homemaking perfection.  And so we may end up feeling like frauds or failures for not living up to that vague ideal.

I think the answer to this dilemma is to latch onto several role models–instead of trying to emulate the myth–and create our own persona.  The role models don’t necessarily have to be real, just realistic, and they don’t actually have to reflect the reality of the person, just our perception of the reality. I’m sure that there were times that Audrey Hepburn looked like a mess but my perception is that she had a trademark style that worked for her.

We start this process by making a list of our role models–from real life, fiction, history, anywhere.  We then list their traits…those things that resonate within us and inspire us.  From there, we can create our own inner persona that we can draw upon. For example, many years ago, I had a client who would call upon her inner super-hero persona whenever she needed to bolster her confidence before going into politically tricky situations at the university.

As we begin to “act as if” we were that person, we will begin to internalize those traits we desire to possess and before you know it, others will view YOU as role model and will be asking themselves what YOU would do in a particular situation!

What are the traits of your role models?

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  1. My role model has strength of character. By that I mean she has made the most of life experiences to develop inner strength, courage and serenity. She has developed a spirituality on which she relies. She is quiet in the face of bad news, accepting of hard work, and when she walks through your door, any adversity seems to fade just by her calming presence.

  2. I have realized that I am in need of Role Models before, but I have not made my list…I do think this is a very important exersize. I “know” June Cleaver, but I never really watched the show.

    Dr. Julie – do you remember in the seminar you were giving at COSIA retreat over the summer there was a participant who apparently had no idea what you were talking about in regard to the imposter phenomena – this really struck me. I don’t know if she was really sincere, or just was very committed to the ‘fake it or make it’ mode. It made an impression on me. Anyway, Kathy I like your description. Other than June Cleaver – do you and Dr. Julie have any fictional or well known real life people that would fit your descriptions?

  3. @Ann, I sure DO remember her! I had to do a lot of nurturing after the session because several of the attendees went into major impostor mode (e.g., “Obviously, something is wrong with me because this woman says there is no such thing…”).

    I like Laura Ingalls Wilder but most of my role models aren’t famous at all…they are people around me that I admire or that I’ve read about by reading their diaries from the westward movement. I plan on writing some more about this but the cool thing about The Ideal 50s Housewife is that she was VERY diverse in reality.

  4. Oh, I’m talking about my mother (who was about the age of Dr. Julie’s grandma). And of course, I agree that they were diverse and brought individuality to their jobs (homes). Perhaps the point is that she (the collective group “she”) valued the home in those days — valued the work of homemaker, whatever that was. I like to call this study the development of womanhood. Therefore the musings of homemakers (and others) whose works influenced the values of our 1950s prototype have inspiration for me.

  5. Pingback: What Would Trudy Campbell Do? — Modern Retro Woman

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