Are You For Real?

I was in a gift shop one lazy afternoon, sort of lost in my own little world. I wandered about reading pictures, posters, and plaques on the wall. I looked up at one, completely mesmerized at its profound identity with what I had been feeling for weeks:

“Always be yourself. But if you can’t be yourself, be a unicorn.”

Right about then, I wished for my fairy godmother to change me into a unicorn.

I had recently been promoted to a Business Analyst position and, to be honest, was still pinching myself at the reality. I had studied relentlessly and asked to be put on complex projects that drilled deep into the analytical side of my brain so I would be ready to work with Information Technology teams. Finally, I made it through all the interviews and the job was mine. A few weeks later, still ecstatic about my new career path, I felt divided … unsettled … incapable … like an imposter. I couldn’t understand the conflict going on between my head and my heart. If you’ve ever been there, you have to know this. You are not alone.

Two of my best friends were good sounding boards while I worked through what is known as imposter syndrome. Even though one was in upper management and one was a vice-president, both revealed they, too, were sometimes flooded with skepticism. “What if ‘they’ find out I’m not as good as they thought? What happens when ‘they’ discover I don’t know everything?” According to Wikipedia, the term Imposter Syndrome was coined by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes who describe it as people feeling unconvinced of their competence despite the evidence that they deserve the success they’ve achieved because they have proven themselves to be skilled and capable. Neither men nor women are immune to imposter syndrome.

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh-oh, they’re
going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re
going to find me out.” – Maya Angelou

If you’re still with me, maybe you’ve had a few face-to-the-mirror pep talks and you wonder how if ever, you get over it. Let’s get real.

Perfect is just a word. It’s not a state of being. Some of us were born with the ability to forgive the mistakes of others but are dead set against cutting ourselves some slack. Remember in the third grade when your teacher made you write “I will be kind to others” 100 times? Maybe it’s time to journal your thoughts on being kind to yourself, forgiving of your unintended mistakes.

“Do not think of today’s failures, but of success, that may come tomorrow.”
- Helen Keller

Reach out and help someone. When you take the focus off yourself and help someone else, it changes the dynamic of your thoughts. It’s easier to be pulled down into the pit than to pull another person up out of it, but using your talents to support someone in need often leads to self-discovery of hidden potential.

“You can have anything in life that you want as long
as you help others get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Once upon a time …. Tell yourself a story - your own story, just between your heart and your head. What makes you, you? What do people remember about you? What skills come naturally to you? Where do you love to spend your time? What would you like to do more of? What do you wish you could do less of? What do you want to learn? If you could go back and do something over, how would you change it? Who do you admire and respect enough to emulate? Get to know who you are at your core and nurture the seeds planted there. If you get the inside right, your life that shows up on the outside will take care of itself.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important,
although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal
satisfaction.” – Margaret Thatcher

Losing does not make you a loser. Not a day goes by without something coming along to make us feel like a failure. From dumping a five dollar latte in our laps or setting off the fire alarm in the kitchen or backing into the telephone pole that suddenly sprang up in the parking lot, life is full of irritating moments that set the tone for our days. We walk into a meeting where decisions will be made only to realize the meeting we prepared for today was the one that happened 24 hours before. We are in mid-presentation when the CIO walks into the room, takes a seat right-up-front, and suddenly that train of thought derails. That contract that needed only a final signature – well, it isn’t going to happen. These are losses, but you are not a loser.

“The greatest accomplishment is not in never failing,
but in rising after you fall.”  - Vince Lombardi

Be thankful. You are where you are in this moment because of decisions you have made and paths you’ve chosen through the years of your life. Many times you may have been forced into situations that were not your first choice; you might have felt stuck, you might feel stuck now. Be thankful? As difficult as it is, as impossible as it seems, find something to be thankful for every day. In fact, look for the thread of good, even in bad circumstances. Yes, what is happening isn’t fair; it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking, and you feel shredded and torn. Find something to be grateful for, even if it seems insignificant. Start there. “I’m thankful that I have a support system of friends. I’m thankful for even the smallest moments of sunshine. I’m thankful I have transportation. I’m thankful for electricity and communication systems and yes, even the Internet. I’m thankful for commercials because nothing bad ever happens in commercials. OK – so that’s maybe a bit out there. You get the picture. If you can’t be thankful for something that did happen, try being thankful for something that didn’t.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes
only one day at a time.” – Abraham Lincoln

Imposter syndrome is real. If you’ve never experienced it, your co-worker has. Feelings of dread can creep in at the most consequential moment and affect mood, attitude, work quality, confidence, competence, even relationships. If you struggle with imposter syndrome or if you suspect someone else does, practice acceptance, understanding, and empathy. Candidly and truthfully talk about what is real. Pull each other up.

Are you for real? Yes – you are for real and you are capable, skilled, and put together just the way you should be. Attitude is everything.

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