You’re letting me do what?

Last night I when I went to bed I was tired. Very tired. I was looking forward to a night of healthy natural sleep. I had brushed my teeth, put up my hair, and put on this one song that’s supposed to make you sleepier than any other music-scape ever created. As my head nestled into my pillow, a pillow carefully selected for ultimate support and comfort, I expected to drift off.

My mind had other ideas. It wanted to have a chat with me. It wanted to know exactly what my qualifications are for an upcoming talk I’m giving. And also for another talk I’m giving. And also for my job. And some mentoring I do. Then it really went for a loop and started to question if I really think I’m doing my best work as a mother, because it’s not like I’m really qualified for that either.

Even as I write this post about these things I’m doing that I feel completely unqualified to do I find myself wanting to justify to you, dear reader, why I am qualified to write this post about feeling unqualified to do these things. And I’m torn between justifying my qualifications and just spilling the bright red truth all over this pristine white floor. You’re all going to find out eventually after all.

I’m completely unqualified.

For what? For all of it. Everything. How do I know? My brain said so.

Never mind that my brain isn’t actually qualified to make that decision. It doesn’t know anything about any of this. It’s just flying off the handle, spreading doubt and half truths. It doesn’t think you’re unqualified. Just me.

In my day to day life I have been fortunate to work with some of the most extraordinary people. People who dream big, and then implement and iterate. People with wisdom that astounds me. People with instincts so eerily accurate I often wonder if they possess a 6th sense. Writers, artists, developers, designers, entrepreneurs, makers, math marvels, plant whisperers, super chill people who meditate and exude mindfulness and calm, doctors, chefs, lawyers, humanitarians, social justice warriors, advocates for the under estimated, founders, dreamers leading social change.

People with education and expertise. With experience and degrees. People with passion. People with all of the above. People with super powers.

The kind of people that, when they speak, one might hang on their every word. Truly listen to what they have to say. People who can ignite that passion or understanding in others. Who, when they post an article, a tweet, or a picture, change the world in some significant way. People who are undeniably qualified to say what they’re saying.

It wasn’t so long ago in the grand scheme of things that I used to spend a lot of time not just around these people, but asking them questions, getting a sense of things, figuring out what makes them tick and sharing it all with the world. No let’s be clear… I didn’t feel qualified to do that either. But I did have my own superpower — curiosity.

That hasn’t gone away. I still have it. That deep insatiable curiosity. The desire to learn all I can about the people who are tipping the scales and remaking the world. But that super power is about asking. Not telling. And also it doesn’t count.

Because it’s me.

This is starting to sound self deprecating. That’s not the point. That’s not the intent. It’s not that I’m not good at being me. I am the most excellent at being me. No one can do that better. It’s just everything else? Am I good enough at anything else?

I don’t know. But I’m determined to find out.

I used to do a lot of public speaking. Attend a lot of events. Get to know communities and people. It was my curiosity. It was my passion. And then I stopped.

Reasons. Life.

Last year I decided that needed to change. That I needed to move past that. To step up and make myself vulnerable. But also to step back to a time when I was a little more self assured, or perhaps just a bit cockier. To a time when I was happy to get in front of people and say, “Hey, these are things I know. Let’s talk about them.”

So I sat down and asked what I know about… What am I passionate about? What matters to me that might matter to others? Do I have the strength to step up and share it? The answers were bleak. I told myself no again and again. Until I asked what I would tell someone else in my shoes.

What would I tell someone with my passion. With my experience. With my instincts, and knowledge and wisdom?

I would tell them, and have told them, that they’re more than enough. That I know it. That others know it. That the world would figure it out if they’d just let it. And if they didn’t believe that… well then fake it until you do.

image by Aaron Hockley

Earlier this week when I realized that three talks I’m giving in the coming months would all be announced in the next few weeks I texted my partner. Proud, but stressed. Excited, but doubting myself. Unsure how I’d found myself in this position. Unsure whether to stay very still and hope no one sees me or to push back as hard as I can. We discussed. He congratulated. And then I texted him again…

I need to either get over this imposter syndrome shit or accept it and decide to fool everyone

I was totally right. I mean, I don’t know which path I’ll take, but both are a path forward.

Back to last night. To my very sleepy head on my ultimately comfortable and supportive pillow. Back to me asking how on earth I am qualified to give any talks let alone the ones that are coming up. How I’m even qualified to do the job I’ve been doing for 6 years. You know the story now. On and on. Back to when I texted myself…

New talk idea: seriously why did you pick this talk? An exploration of imposter syndrome.

Perhaps that’s what comes next…

6 thoughts on “You’re letting me do what?

  1. Anne McCarthy says:

    A rugby coach said to me once, “ANNE – you have to fuck up with confidence.” I was being timid running with the ball unsure of where to go or how it got into my hands rather than running headfirst with force and conviction. The other team could smell fear and it got to me. When I started moving more forcefully, my teammates followed, the other team was more cautious, and I started making progress. I think back on his words often. The worst that happens is you fail…. then you learn! Always remember the other side of failure and, even better, remember that more times than not it all works out great. Can’t wait to hear about these talks and celebrate you. Wish you could see yourself as I see you, friend!

  2. mskope@frontier.com says:

    First, I love the picture of you with “not lying!” in the background. Second, the imposter syndrome must run in the family. Even after 37 years of teaching I thought I really pulled the wool over the eyes of administrators and parents who sang my praises. One of the great things about being retired is I don’t have to fool anyone about my teaching expertise anymore. :)

  3. tessak22 says:

    I feel the exact same way. I recently was offered a new role and I can’t help but think, “Wait, I wasn’t even qualified to have my current role, let alone get a new one doing even more!” Here is my analysis: The most amazing people I know have imposter syndrome — therefore, I have been telling myself that I AM qualified, I AM awesome and I DO know what I am doing. And I want you to know, that you need to say the same. You are freaken amazing and someone that I truly value and respect in the WordPress community. YOU’RE A BADASS, AND YOU GOT THIS!

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