Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)
Have you ever had to deal with impostor syndrome? If you did, how did you overcome it/how do you deal with it? I’m struggling with it at work, and I could use any advice you might have. Thanks in advance.
Have I ever dealt with this? Hehe. Yes. Every day, pretty much. I’m not as good an editor/writer as I think I am, or even as other people think I am. I’m definitely not as good a mother as people seem to think. I’m not as clever, wise, kind, organised, energetic as people think I am. People only think I’m organised and energetic because they see me, like, do all these things, and they don’t know that I am driven by my desire to not be a flake, to not look like I don’t have energy. I am faking it 95% of the time.
Here’s the thing I have come to realise, though. It doesn’t matter whether the energy is real or I am only getting things done out of a perverse desire not to seem like a lazy flake. Because the things get done. It doesn’t matter whether my drive to spread kindness and beauty comes out of a need to fight back against the darkness that laps pretty much constantly at the edge of my mind, because the kindness and beauty still happens. It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I’m good enough if people keep supporting my work and buying the books I make. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if they don’t. I used to write predominantly to work shit out – like, self-directed therapy. If my words sometimes resonate with people and sometimes help, then that’s enough. You know?
The truth is, I think most people feel imposter syndrome to a greater or lesser extent. I remember asking my Mom at some point when she started to feel like a grown up, because I was (technically) a grown up but I didn’t feel like one. And she laughed and said, “Mostly, I still don’t.” We all bumble along through life doing the best we can with what’s presented to us, and mostly hoping nobody notices we’re just hot messes, the lot of us.
Cucumbers with anxiety, according to one internet meme. Perhaps very accurate. 😉
I don’t really have any good advice. Maybe try to be as kind to yourself as you’d be to your best friend. Maybe try to believe people when they tell you that you rock. Maybe try to step out of your own ridiculous standards for yourself and recognise that if anyone else were doing what you’re doing, you would consider them competent.
In my experience, a lot of people with imposter syndrome work twice as hard out of a fear that somehow people will know that you’re just faking it! If this is what you do (I sure do), realise that the work COUNTS even if your motivation or drive comes from a stupid brain place. The work is getting done. People aren’t noticing that you’re faking it because even if it feels fake, the work you do is still real work.
“But I don’t know what I’m doing!” That’s okay. Most of us don’t. And then one day you get asked a random question about something in your field, and you answer it knowledgeably because it turns out that while you’re working really hard to fake it, you’re also actually learning and becoming good at what you do. (I am still surprised every time I realise that I have become quite good at what I do, just by doing it (often in a blind panic) for a decade or so.)
Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friends, your partners, your children, anyone you feel disposed to give the benefit of the doubt. The fact that you’re worrying about this probably means you’re doing just fine. ❤