Out Sick: Impostor Syndrome
I had to take a break from writing recently because I came down with a case of impostor syndrome.
You know – that feeling like you’re pretending to be something you’re not, or making it up as you go? God, please tell me you’re all nodding along with me right now.
I started writing this blog, and other material, with that same energy and hopefulness that comes at the beginning of most new things. I also understood fundamentally that to build a business and a profile, there needed to be (cue the thundering voice here)… THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. So, I set out to provide just that. Then I was hit with a sort of panic.
Thought Leadership. What is that really? I mean I know what it means, I made a career in PR and marketing. But how “leader-y” is this thought leadership really? Was I just saying the same things other people were saying? How is that leadership? Were these valuable thoughts? Did I really mean them all? Who really cared anyway?
As the dread continued to creep over me, I made the choice to stop writing because my worst fear was being triggered – that I was being inauthentic. I mean I started a company with the values: Real, Connected, Courageous. I wasn’t going to let myself not be real! Real for me has always been about doing the work to understand who I am and not misrepresenting myself just to fit in or make someone like me. I haven’t always succeeded at holding myself to such a high standard and this has probably been where I’m hardest on myself and where I’ve learned my biggest lessons.
With that same loud voice playing in my head, I would reread my old posts and began to wonder – do I really sound like that? Do I have to use “corporate speak” to sound serious? Do I want to be writing about things that aren’t so business focused instead? If I do, will people still take me seriously as a business coach/healer/strategist/person? These questions occupied my thoughts like a merry-go-round each time I sat down to write.
Luckily, I’ve learned a trick for when I descend into the dark world of panic and circular thinking - which is to just get curious. To get curious about the feelings and thoughts and about others who may have felt the same. It never fails to bring clarity.
I started to look for impostor syndrome everywhere, even throughout history and the heroes I study and hope to emulate. Then I realized that they all felt it. Every single one. Einstein wasn’t sure people took him seriously (many didn’t), Edison didn’t actually have a light bulb even though he promised the world he did (he obviously figured it out much later) and Oprah often talks about having to push past her internal story of not being good enough to get out there every day and build what is now her cult-like following (myself among them).
While I’m no Oprah, Einstein or Edison, I have realized that the one trait they shared was courage and that I was so focused on the REAL part of my value set, I forgot the courageous part.
So, while I am afraid of not being real, in order to be connected to my community and the people that maybe get something out of what I have to say – I need to be courageous.
Part of that is about just telling the truth and the other part is about showing up and being myself. How others take me, well, that’s their story.