If you google “impostor syndrome,” you get a page full of results saying that everyone deals with this and suggestions for combating it. This is also what comes up when you google “not quite impostor syndrome,” which is what I did this morning. I don’t know a term for the way I feel. Impostor syndrome is defined as “individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud'” (according to Wikipedia.) Which a lot of people do struggle with. But that’s not what I’ve been feeling. I don’t doubt that I am qualified for the work that I am doing. I am proud of and deeply attached to my accomplishments. The work I do and the results I see give me a lot of satisfaction and a feeling of purpose. But I don’t have any idea how I got here.
There are days I feel like I woke up in someone else’s life. A grown-up’s life. And I don’t know how it happened. When did I become someone with a career? With meaningful work? With opinions and thoughts that other people care about? When did I become a peer and not just some kid who works here? It bewilders me.
I began thinking about this a few weeks ago when I took a meeting with a new marketing coordinator for a local transportation company. She was looking for ways to partner to serve people with transportation challenges in our area. The meeting was interesting and some good ideas were thrown around. But then I mentioned a few projects I had worked on and she suddenly started taking notes. She asked me for ideas and I was able to give them to her. I was able to share resources with her that she had never heard of. I left that meeting feeling for the first time like I had been a mentor to someone. It was surreal.
Me…and also Me:
The HR director at my organization is someone that I get along with really well. I often go sit in her office and we chat. And she asks me how I would handle difficult situations between employees and listens when I answer! She has told me that she considers us mutual mentors. I love this. I love being taken seriously. I have no idea when this happened.
When I get together with my friends, we talk about work and our homes and financial woes. We also talk about our relationships like we always have, but it is no longer the drama of dating. It is the quiet and everyday drama of marriage and in-laws and bosses and coworkers. Last Christmas I was talking mortgages with my little brother. When did this happen?
As it always does, writing helps me to process. As I have been writing this, I began thinking about when this change started to sink in. I think it was about two years ago that I began to actually internalize the change. My life went through a huge upheaval two years ago. When the dust settled, a lot of my old patterns and even my old sense of self had fallen away. Been shattered, really. And thank god. They weren’t healthy. But what remained was the person I was supposed to be in the first place. The person I had always been but hid behind ditzy flirtatiousness, extroverted chattiness, and never-ending cheerfulness. I was happy, but I was only superficially me. I wasn’t joyful, and I wasn’t content. I am now.
I allow others to see more fully the person I want to be and am trying every day to realize more fully. The responsible, intelligent, sarcastic, serious-minded, still cheerful, clever, and hopefully kind woman I was intended to be. I think that is what people have begun to respond to. I take myself seriously and treat myself like an adult now. Only took 30 years. Others are then able to do the same.
I’m not done yet, of course. I’m only 30 and I think maybe have only just begun to see what I can do.
Years ago, I met a nun named Sister Peggy. She was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She was in her 70’s and had lived an incredible life dedicated to God and to serving others. I could have sat at her feet and learned from her for the rest of my life and been content. She told the group of us that were with her that day that at 70-something, she was still not fully herself. Still not fully “Peggy.” I think I begin to understand her. She was still just beginning to see what she could do. I hope I keep that same feeling of exploration and expectation.
I wasn’t expecting this piece to be quite so serious. Funny how these things happen. I don’t know what you believe about God and the universe and everything, but for me, I believe that we were created with limitless gifts. I look forward to the continual realization of these gifts in myself and others. Thanks for reading along with me as I figure this out.