Even Reese Witherspoon Has Impostor Syndrome

Kyle Buchanan at Vulture asks great questions of Oscar-winning, A-list, teacup-sized-person Reese Witherspoon and, because sometimes that works, gets great answers:

Cheryl had never been backpacking before she set off on this hike, and yet she did it anyway. As an actress, have you had similar moments where you felt like you were in over your own head, signing on to do something incredibly daunting and barely able to believe that you could make it work?

Oh yeah, a lot. Half the time on set, I feel like I’m hanging on by the seat of my pants and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I basically have a new job every three months where I’m like, “Uh, am I qualified to do this?” And I find out during the process whether I am or I’m not. This film was really a gift, and it’s exciting to not know if you’re gonna make it, or if you’re gonna break down in the right place. Really interesting creative things come out of that process.

Maybe Polly Pocket is feigning modesty here, doing a ‘Stars: They’re Just Like Us!’ routine. But she seems sincere, perhaps because she also comes off as thoughtful, and that’s harder to fake. (“I’ve never seen a film like Wild where a woman ends up with no man, no money, no family, no opportunity, but she still has a happy ending.”) Starting a new job every three months sounds incredibly stressful, after all; you’d have to have the preternatural self-confidence of a Tracy Flick not to let it get to you.

Another high-profile victim of Impostor Syndrome: Hello Kitty.

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WWYD — Applying to a New Job From a Job You Still Kinda Like

So I am two years into my first real, official, post-college big kid job. I like the job, and have learned a lot from it, but advancement potential is limited so the search has begun for job number 2. I am casually looking, seeing what is out there and only really applying to potential perfect/dream job. The problem is that a lot of these places require references, and my references that apply to relevant job experience are all at my current job. I don’t know what to do! I know using references without informing them is obviously not a great call, but it is awkward to inform supervisors and coworkers that I am using them as a reference … and am therefore thinking about leaving. If I was seriously looking, with a distinct timeline and real reason beyond “I’m ready to move on! Kind of. Eventually.” I might be more comfortable doing it. To be honest, more money would keep me here longer, though I have asked for a raise and been denied due to vague “financial issues.” (The raise request was legitimate — I permanently took on a departing coworkers duties in addition to my own, and my supervisor advocated for me. Some shady HR business went down involving fudging my job duties to prevent me from getting a title change or raise — not great). I don’t want threatening to leave to be seen as a ploy to get more money, and I don’t think of it that way! I just need a change.

To complicate things further, there have been several dramatic departures from my place of employment (6 people, a quarter of our staff) in the past few months. Everyone is stretched thin, and if I was to leave, that would stretch everyone further. I doubt that any of my references would sabotage me, but I’m sure that they aren’t in the mood to provide me with a glowing reference. And if I do stay, it is awkward for people to know that I might not want to be there. The departures also makes a raise seem more likely — fewer staff to pay and we are all doing more work for at least 6 months until the jobs are filled. What do I do? Ask for another raise first? Do I apply to the jobs and tell them to contact me for references, so I’ll know if they are serious or not? Do I just use my previous references-from college and nannying jobs? Or should I just bite the bullet and tell my references that I am casually looking? Help!

Dear Casually Looking,

First of all, you’ve done a lot of things right, so CONGRATULATIONS and take a deep breath. You’ve gotten a job out of college. Yay! You’ve stayed in it about two years. Amazing! Two years for a Millennial is like five for a member of Generation X. You’ve taken on more work and asked for a raise when you felt you deserved it. That is some pro-level stuff. Now, you’re looking to move on, in part because your legitimate request for a raise was declined. That’s fair and — considering the fact that it seems like your place of employment is in a state of disarray — even wise. But who do you list as a reference?

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