No matter how strong of a person you think you are, there are few things in life that are worse than to be told by someone that you are not good enough. One thing that is worse?
When you tell it to yourself.
It’s one thing to say that you “aren’t good enough” when you don’t have something or have not yet achieved something you’ve set out to do. However, what happens when you have achieved or at least have made progress toward big goals, yet, you still tell yourself this?
This is what I consider to be the onset of Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is largely the belief that we are “frauds” in our own minds. It is that immensely uncomfortable feeling that if people look at us deeply enough, we will be exposed to be not as talented, not know as much, or not be as good as we think we are.
I am proud to say I am friends with TEDx speaker coach and success liaison Dr. Robyn Odegaard, who was the first person to tell me about Imposter Syndrome a few months ago. I believe she posted her TEDx talk about this (which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7HKJn7NDZs) on her Facebook page, but one afternoon, she sent it to me privately because she didn’t believe I saw it, which I hadn’t. I can’t tell you how glad I was to view this and to listen to her speak of it. Even more profoundly amazing was not only to hear her speak about it, but as you’ll see in the video, she expresses that this was something she went through herself.
I’m certain that by now, Robyn is probably sick of me thanking her for this, but the reason this was so wonderful to see was because it is something I experience probably a few times a day. I am not exaggerating to say that it feels enormously crippling at times.
I’ve already written about this in past blog posts (I did so shortly after initially watching the video), so I won’t drag this one out by repeating much of that. There is something additional here that I did not mention there, however.
The dictionary defines humility as: a modest or low view of one’s own importance. I posted something on my Facebook page yesterday in which I spoke about a woman who hugged me following a checkup with our daughter at the hospital, as this woman thanked me for my Army service. I mentioned feeling extremely humble whenever civilians thank me for serving and with a few other comments, none other than my friend Robyn left a comment to say, “Imposter Syndrome much?” which made me laugh out loud, leading to our two children to ask me what was so funny as I was cleaning the kitchen before bed.
I laughed because she was right. Robyn’s comment really left me to think about something I hadn’t considered, but really needed to:
When does humility become Imposter Syndrome?
I believe there is a fine line between humility and Imposter Syndrome. One thing I know for certain is that I cross that line probably several times a day. I never realize when I do it. Often, it is a comment from someone or a reaction that triggers this in my own mind and I tell myself, “I’m doing it again.”
Along with being an Army soldier, I am also an aspiring professional screenwriter. One thing I have said very often to my wife and a few close friends is this:
“I am just waiting on that moment where I hit the wall. There will come a time where I will reach as far as I will ever go with this. It’s just a matter of time and I will peak. The further I get, the more I feel it will happen. I know it’ll be coming soon.”
Knowing what I know now, that hurt to even write that, just this one time. Yet, I’ve said it MANY times over the past few years. How often have I thought it?
You don’t want to know. Hell, I don’t want to know.
Even worse is that it actually worries me sometimes that it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, I said worries. I am worried about success.
So this means, what, exactly? That when this happens, I will feel happy? Relieved? I will say, “There it is. It finally happened.” Is that how it will go?
I wish I could say a definite NO.
Pretty sad, huh?
As much as I thought I was being humble in what I wrote, seeing Robyn’s comment let me know that I had yet again, crossed that line. What I learned is this:
Humility is a respect for receiving something I deserve. Imposter Syndrome is feeling that I do not deserve it.
And when I look back at my post, I see phrases like “I really don’t want kudos for this,” and “There are days when I feel like I am really not worthy of any of it,” or “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special” that says it all.
Who goes out to drive and expects to crash into a wall? But isn’t that sort of what I said above as far as a potential screenwriting career is concerned? That I will eventually “hit a wall”? That I’m sort of “expecting” it? That I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet?
July will make 20 years of Army service for me. 20 years. That is a big deal. Doing anything for 20 years is a big deal. And the military is a profession a LOT of people tremendously respect. I joined back in 1997 thinking that my 2 1/2-year enlistment would be a struggle that I would barely survive.
Yet, there I was, after someone hugs me and thanks me for having done this, and I leave thinking it wasn’t deserved. That I didn’t do anything special to deserve it. That I wasn’t worthy of it.
I will figure out how to not cross that line one of these days. Then again, it took Robyn this time and other people other times, so chances are, I won’t. Not by myself.
And…here we go again…