Last week, I woke up filled with an energy that felt so happy and free…yet so heavy all at once. I realized my life was “perfect”. All the things I had been praying and hoping for, for the past year, were all coming true. I felt confident in my walk in God, I felt safe in my relationships, solid in my school studies and excited for the future. I felt that I had made it. I was receiving honors, congrats, awards and opportunities around every corner. I was signing off on contracts for things I had in the making for months and making huge decisions that would change the lives of others, way more than change mine. For the longest time, I had wanted more responsibility, this kind of recognition, these opportunities to prove myself, but they didn’t feel right.
Because they weren’t perfect.
I felt myself trying to shake off the feelings of less than and not good enough, and realize that I got these things because I deserved them. I worked hard for them. Stayed up to 3 a.m. perfecting each of them. Drove around town all day for meetings preparing for them. But my accomplishments didn’t feel my own. I didn’t feel like I deserved them at all. Like I had taken them from someone else or like I was a fraud in someone else’s reality. Strange right? You would think, seeing the fruits of my labor bloom so beautifully right in front of my eyes would set a fire so deep down in my soul, that I would be jumping for joy and shouting my accomplishments to the mountain tops. But that wasn’t it.
A long time ago, I had learned about this phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome. Definition: refers to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Many powerful women such as Maya Angelou, Tina Fey & Michelle Pfeifer have all talked about their struggles with feeling like a fraud and/or thought that when people saw their work, they wouldn’t believe it was them or that they were not the ones responsible for it. Strange again, right? We all know these ladies. Have seen their work. Maybe even look up to and aspire to be like them, but they face the same struggles as I? How does that happen?
But just then, I realized I was doing it to myself. The obsession with everything needing to be perfect before release, without blemish before exposure and free of imperfections before sharing with others, was the perfectionists and type A personality in me, trying to control each and every detail. And that simply can’t be done. I know, for my perfectionist out there, you would completely die if you sent off a paper and one I was dotted or period wasn’t bold enough. You would chalk that up to not being good enough or not worthy or recognition or praise. But that simply isn’t true. I found myself putting all the negative thoughts about failure in my own head, that I so frequently tell others not to do to themselves. I found myself chalking up my accomplishments as luck and being in the right place at the right time. Not to my dedication I had been putting in. & that’s Imposter Syndrome for ya folks.
I think, that sometimes as women, we don’t see the true value of our accomplishments if they aren’t done “perfectly”. It’s like, they don’t really mean enough because there was one thing I forgot to add, or one glitter paint that’s missing from the poster or one highlight missing from the meeting agenda. Then we chalk them up as losses and say how next time we need to be better. Or next time we need to get prettier by adding another coat of mascara, using more under eye cream or watching one more Youtube makeup tutorial. The craziest part, is that just like those famous women I mentioned above, we have friends and family in our lives who feel the same way. People who we love and think that they have it all together. Or praise for always doing everything just right. But when we put in just as much work, get double the recognition and make just as big as an impact, we don’t hold ourselves to the same standard of doing a great job. That’s the strange part about it. How do we think that others deserve the praises we get, but we don’t deserve ours?
So this week, I decided to make a list of all the ways I was going to shake this off and turn around the thoughts:
- Stop comparing yourself to others – We’re all captains of our own ships, and just because someone else’s ship may get to their destination faster or have more passengers, it doesn’t mean that my ship will never get there. And if it doesn’t get there, it doesn’t mean my ship doesn’t have purpose. We may just be on different paths that once crossed each other.
- Keep record of all the sweet things people say about you – I know for some, you might not hear great words of encouragement everyday, but I know that I am blessed in the way I do. Whether it’s praise for a good idea at work, or applause for landing a great opportunity or even perfectly matching my earrings to my bangles, I keep it with me.
- Shift my mindset – I’m sure you guys have heard of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. If you haven’t, you need to read this book ASAP. It will help you develop in both your personal and professional life. Shifting my mindset from fixed about my talents and level of recognition I deserved to growth, where I know I am capable of change and am constantly learning, is really making a difference.
- Reflect daily – Even if I only have 5 minutes, I try to reflect on my day and my frustrations. Putting them down on paper and evaluating how important they are. If it won’t matter in a year, I try to let it go. If it’s something that has already been done, I let it go too. Knowing that I can’t change the past nor see the future is one of the easiest way to let go.
- Realize that I’m not alone – Seriously though. Self-doubt is not rocket science and neither is Imposter Syndrome. There are tons of other people who feel the same way. The good part is that you’re both wrong. You deserve success just as much as them and vice-versa.
Hopefully none of you have experienced this, but if you do, just know that you are not alone. Everyone has self-doubts at time but it’s really how you bounce back from it that says the most about who you are. You are capable of more things than you can currently imagine.
Until next time, have a great week & do at least one thing today, that your future self will thank you for. (:
*Looking for similar books to the one mentioned above? Check out my Reading List*