POD: Let’s talk about Imposter Syndrome
Write about this: When in your life have you stretched yourself to the point that you felt like an imposter? When was a time you pushed yourself so far outside your comfort zone that it was painful? How long did that feeling last? In retrospect, was the pain worth it?
What are you doing right now that cracks your shell, or makes you feel like an imposter? What would it feel like if you were able to reframe that feeling of terror into appreciation for yourself for making the stretch?
I recently questioned this imposter syndrome while sitting with my grandmother at the hospital. She only recently came back into my life after twenty years of absence. I told a friend, I wonder if I would have felt the need had my cousin who is her usual contact was in town to be there for her. I enjoyed being there with her, listening to stories about my extended family. When I got home the second night, my eyes filled with tears as my heart was sad that I had been robbed of twenty years of stories. I love to hear people’s stories and of course have a special interest in my own families because it is where I came from.
I visited with her daily and even made two special trips up to see her, despite not really having the time. Yet I still found myself feeling like an imposter, especially as others looked for me to give information about her. I had to continue saying, “you will have to check with my cousin” unless it was a very general questions – like who she lived with. My grandma told me several times “there is a lot you don’t know about me.” and she is right. I know very little about my father’s family. Of course even feeling like an imposter, it worth it. I will never be able to regain the time that was lost, I can only take every opportunity to know her know now.
There are a lot of times I feel like an imposter. Stepping out in corporate prayer, I generally feel like an imposter. God and I talk more causally, short conversations throughout the day, like a child to a parent. Or I write out prayers in my prayer journal, like I used to do when I had something I really needed to get out to may parents and didn’t think I had the courage to say. It was a way to get the conversations started. With the prayers in my journals I will generally continue to go back to them and pray them aloud. But to stand with a microphone and pray out what is in and on my heart, I generally feel like an imposter; like I have no right to prayer out loud before others. Nine times out of ten, I have to fight that feeling to even get to the microphone. Even when I fumble, it has always been worth it, as if a burden has been lifted from me when it is released.
I also feel like an imposter when I need to speak medical things. I work in a hospital, but I am not a nurse or a doctor. I can read words and generally know what they are talking about or will look it up. I can take information from the chart or from others and apply it to do my job. However, pronouncing those words aloud I want to defer to someone else. I feel like someone is going to call me on not being able to pronounce even the simplest of medical terms or medicine names, and yell “FRAUD” at the top of their lungs. The feeling only lasts when I am on that spot, and despite my stumbling most people are generous with their corrections of the terminology.
Even in my writing, I feel like an imposter. Not only do I question the formation of my sentences and grammar in general, I often question if what I am saying makes sense to others or even matters. I continue to stretch and put myself out there. I realize if it is there for no one else besides myself, it helps me to process. It is worth it for my own growth. If it helps someone else, even better.
The area I struggle most feeling like an imposter is in my career. I have a lot of skills, knowledge, gifts, and abilities. I have been doing what I love for over sixteen years. I love helping people. I receive positive feedback from my supervisors, peers, and those I help. Yet, I often feel like an imposter. I know that it is God working through me that makes me excel at my career. Yet I still feel like an imposter. I hold back instead of stretching myself. I don’t mind stepping out if it is already something that I am competent or excel at but I am not as willing to put myself out there, especially with peers.
I suppose if I really think about it, the discomfort only lasts for a little while. I was once a novice at all of the positions I have held in my career. There is always room for growth. There will be times of failure, even in areas I excel generally. The only way to retain the knowledge I have is to use it, and the only way to use it is to step out in new areas and obtain experience. I will not always be an expert. I can not always be an expert. Information changes, resources change, skills change, I have to be willing to be an imposter in order to gain what I need to grow in my career. I need to stop focusing on what I can not do right now, and focus on what I will learn in the process.
This post is prompted by
Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.