I’m convinced that we are all faking it until we make it and that none of us knows what the **f** we are doing. This could be extended to many aspects of life, but for the sake of this post I’m talking about jobs..
A few years ago I got invited to give a Tedx talk. By the way, even though it’s on YouTube, I still cringe when I think of it and refuse to watch it.
Anyways, like the professional procrastinator I am, I accepted the offer politely (ever the people pleaser) and then proceeded not to think about it for the next 3 months. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Until 4 days before. I’m not sure what I was thinking - maybe I hoped the speech would just write itself.
I proceeded to have a massive freak out and then asked my then boyfriend for help. His sister was a doctor who prescribed me beta-blockers, so I’d feel less nervous and wouldn’t get sweaty palms on stage. Or at least she said that’s what I would feel.
I whipped together a PowerPoint and wrote down a few notes, rehearsed it approximately 2.5 times and thought, “I’ve got science on my side! I’ll be fine!”
Except I totally wasn’t. I felt a pit of dread in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. I took one beta blocker and the feeling continued, so I took a second and third one.
My hands were sweaty and I felt so out of place and dizzy. Why weren’t these pills working?
I got on stage and proceeded to blurt out a few lines out of order and then skipped a slide entirely. It all went by quickly and honestly I think I blacked it all out. The next thing I remember, my boyfriend and I are driving back to the city, him begging me to eat a bagel.
The whole scene is something that should’ve been a highlight of my career and in reality was anything but.
What was I so terrified of? I had been asked to give a TedX talk. Isn’t that a huge honor? Well, it should’ve been, but I was so terrified of someone finding out that I started a nonprofit that only had 3 part time employees and one executive director (yours truly) who really had no clue what she was doing. That my “executive board” was my dad and two of my friends. One of my employees at the time had just stolen money from me, while I was in the hospital. I felt like a bad boss and barely knew what was going on with my team.
It felt so nerve wracking to put on a face like I was some sort of expert who knew what she was doing when I was actually riddled with self doubt and paralyzed with fear that someone would call me out for being anything less than a stellar leader.
Looking back on that time, I realize how hard on myself I was. There were 5 other TedX speakers there, and I’m sure every one of them was going through their own versions of the internal stress that I was feeling. But no one shared it – so we felt all alone in our impostor syndrome.
Something I spoke about with my coach today is how we all judge our insides against everyone else’s outsides. We think other people have wonderful, fight free relationships, perfectly designed houses and families that love each other and play flag football at Thanksgiving. But just as every family is dysfunctional, every human is imperfect.
I am very guilty of trying to create a cultivated, perfected persona to the outside world, for fear that if people saw the “real me”, then they wouldn’t give me money or want to work with me.
However, in the process of creating that persona I became lonely. Our vulnerabilities are what leads to true connection, not images of perfection.
Do you struggle with feeling like an impostor? How do you deal with it? Share your comments below.