You know that little voice in your head who tells you’re not enough? Or how about the one that says no matter how hard you try, you’ll never measure up. If you’ve never struggled with this, snaps for you, and please, tell me all your secrets. Because as long as I can remember, that little voice has been whispering how unworthy I am of basically everything. Also, when I talk about this little voice, I don’t mean I am actually hearing voices. It’s our inner dialogue I’m referring to. I’ve named mine Winifred. And y’all? Winifred is a bitch.
Winifred represents the very real imposter syndrome I live with every day. So, what’s imposter syndrome? To me, imposter syndrome is feeling like a fake. Feeling not good enough. All. The. Damn. Time. When my daughter’s teachers say I’m doing a wonderful job with them? Well, they don’t mean it. They say that to all the parents, don’t they? Or maybe at work. The boss says you’re killing it! Excellent work! Winifred says to me, you know she’s saying that just because she wants to make you feel good. Ugh. I wish I was making this shit up.
When I sit down and think about it, does that really make sense? This past year I ran into a scenario that really challenged me in a whole way that I wasn’t ready for, but ended up being pretty damn essential to my growth. You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. “Bookworm” was a title I wore with pride. Not only did I love escaping for hours and days at a time into these stories and make friends with these characters, but I also wanted to be someone who created them as well.
Author. Poet. Writer. All things I was sure would grace my resume. Unfortunately, they were also things that teachers and academic counselors told me would never be able to pay my bills. These people (who supposedly knew what they were doing, ’cause adults, amirite?) told me, “These are great hobbies, but you need to have a plan.”
And so I did — well, I tried to make a plan. I stumbled and fell through one different career plan after the other. First, I was going to be an educator, then I was going to be a prison psychologist (think Dr. Huang from SVU). I considered being a counselor and a lawyer. But instead, I somehow fell into sales and banking, and most recently found myself as a fraud investigator for over five years.
Long story short, I never felt I was doing this adulting thing right. It’s like I was a fake. I was the fraud. I had no fucking idea what I was doing! And then, in the midst of it all came the opportunity I’d been waiting for, literally, my entire life! The opportunity to be a writer, and Winifred (see above) was doing everything to make sure I knew I was laughably unqualified.
It began with a few articles here and there. Some were assigned, and some were words I asked to write. The feedback I received was fair and encouraging and nothing major, considering I’d never done this before. And instead of gaining confidence in myself and my abilities, moment by moment, I doubted myself more and more. My old pal Winnie reared her ugly head. She’s only saying that to be nice. They know you’re no good but don’t want to hurt your feelings. You’re a fake. A total fraud. It will all come crashing down because you are not worthy of this opportunity. I had to agree, right?
Wrong. This opportunity was something I always wanted, hoped, and dreamed for, but I didn’t pursue it. Stars aligned, the universe conspired in my favor, and it happened to work out. There were people I’d never met and who I didn’t know. I’m sure they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to be mean, but there was also very little emotional investment. If things didn’t work out and I didn’t have what they were looking for, I would have gotten a thanks, but no thanks.
That’s when I realized Winnie was made of complete and total bullshit. There was no obligation to continue working with me if they didn’t want to. It’s easy to say now because we all know hindsight is 20/20, but on some level, part of me still doesn’t believe it. I wish I knew where the deep-seated insecurity about not being good enough came from. Yes, I’m working on that in therapy, but less for myself and more for my daughters.
I never want them to doubt themselves. I don’t mean like jump into dangerous situations headfirst without thinking, but I don’t want the fear of being imperfect to stop them from going after what they want out of this life. Trust me y’all. I’ve spent decades doing just that, and it ain’t it! One more time, for the people in the back. Get out of your own damn way. You are not a fake, you’re not a fraud, you need to give yourself the grace you give everyone else in your life. Ugh, I’m not crying — you’re crying.
Don’t let your imposter syndrome tell you that you can’t. Because I promise you, if you tell yourself that, then you absolutely won’t. You are worthy of whatever you want for your life. It’s such a simple reality, but one we deny ourselves far too often. You don’t have to be more of this or less of that. You are everything, just as you are.
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