Why Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Believe in Imposter Syndrome

Shonda Rhimes is a prolific creator, and her name means different things to different people. For instance, you may know her from her writing debut, the movie Crossroads, which starred Britney Spears. You also may know her as showrunner of any one of her hit series, including Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, or How to Get Away With Murder. Or you may have read her recent hit book, The Year of Yes.

However, a whole new generation may soon come to know her as an inaugural member of Dove's Girl Collective, which is a brand-new project that aims to increase the self-esteem of young girls. The collective kicked off on Saturday, October 6, at an event in Los Angeles that welcomed hundreds of women and girls. Rhimes gave a stirring keynote speech and other notable guests, like musician SZA and activist Jazz Jennings, were in attendance.

In her speech, she highlighted the importance of developing self-esteem for future generations. She said, "Media does an awful job of showing real people on television. The girls we see online, in TV, in films — they don't often reflect what is real. They don't reflect you."

She continued, saying, "Now, I'm well aware that at your age, outside voices can influence how you feel about yourself and how you see yourself. They can cause you to ask, 'Am I pretty?' or 'Am I too skinny?' or 'Am I too fat?' or 'Is my skin too dark?' or 'Am I pretty if I'm wearing glasses?' Which is enough already. Can you all say that with me? Enough already." The crowd responded, chanting it back loudly with her, "Enough already."

If you do not define yourself, someone else or something else will
define you, and that's no good.

She continued to ruminate on the overwhelming presence of negative opinions and the necessity of developing a personal armor against them. She said to the audience, "If you do not define yourself, I guarantee you, someone else or something else will define you, for you, and that's no good." Her words hit home for many of the women and girls in the audience, and likely resonate for others, as well. Directly after her keynote speech, I was lucky enough to meet her and chat about imposter syndrome, self-care, the #MeToo movement, and more.

On Writing Intense Storylines

ALLURE: Your shows have plenty of complex characters, which means that a lot of intense, relevant topics come up that have to do with mental health and sexual assault and things like that. How do you take care of yourself when you're addressing these topics on the shows? How do you take care of your colleagues?

The very act of being in the room means you belong in that room.

SHONDA RHIMES: You know what's interesting is, in a weird way, because we're addressing those topics and dealing with them, we are better taken care of than other people who don't address them, because we spend a lot of time talking about them. And because we're talking to mental health professionals about the issues and why they happen and how they happen, in a lot of ways we're providing each other with more support than I think people on the outside necessarily get when they're dealing with it.

ALLURE: So it's kind of a catharsis, you'd say?

SR: Yeah. You're talking to eight other women in the writers' room about some of these topics, or all the actors are on set. The whole team is very careful about making sure that everybody feels taken care of. It's an oddly supportive environment.

Shonda Rhimes during her keynote speech

On Imposter Syndrome

ALLURE: When it comes to imposter syndrome, what advice do you give to people who are experiencing it?

SR: I don't believe in it.

ALLURE: Oh! You don't believe in it?

SR: No, and here's why. It always breaks my heart when I'm around my friend, who says, "Oh, I feel imposter syndrome." I feel like it's one of those excuses that we give ourselves to not belong in a room. Do you know what I mean? You always belong in a room. The very act of being in the room means you belong in that room. And anybody telling you don't belong in the room, they should get out.

ALLURE: That's absolutely right.

SR: Also — men never say they have imposter syndrome. So because men never say they have it, women can't have it.

On Self-Care and Skin Care

ALLURE: Is there any particular like self-care thing that you do for yourself that you wish you started doing earlier?

SR: I started meditating, which I really love. And I'm terrible at it right now. I mean, I'm terrible at it in the sense that you're not supposed to be terrible or good. There's no way to be good or bad at it, but I feel like I'm terrible at it right now. But I actually love doing it. And my five- and six-year-old now sit beside me while I do it, and they pretend to do it, too.

ALLURE: Kids are often better at meditating and stuff like that than adults are.

SR: My six-year-old is amazing at it. My five-year-old talks every three seconds. It's really sweet. So I started to do that, and I feel like this is for me, more or less. I've also started doing the 10-step Korean beauty ritual and skin care thing, which takes forever. And mostly, it's like my time — it's quiet, and it feels meditative because it's just me by myself, slathering things on my face, which I absolutely am obsessed with.

ALLURE: I feel like just looking at yourself in the mirror and getting back in touch with yourself, especially at the end of a long day when you haven't even checked in for a while, is great.

SR: Right. And I don't think about work while I'm doing it, and I'm not worrying about anything while I'm doing it. Somehow, it's become this very soothing thing to do.

Apparently, this is how inspired I look while listening to Shonda Rhimes speak

To learn more about Dove's Girl Collective, check out the website here. To watch any of Rhimes's brilliant shows, tune in to ABC on Thursday night starting at 8:00 PM. She owns the whole night of television, and it's fantastic.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Follow Rosemary on Instagram, Twitter, and her website.

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