Catching up on the phone with my best friend on the phone other day, I told her, “I’m writing a book… I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you that. I feel like such a fraud. But you’ve known me forever so I can tell you.” Dear old friend that she is, she told me “Of course you’re writing a book. It’s the natural thing for you to do.” She reminded me that all women, (including herself, a physician with three young children) tend to feel like imposters when we take on something new. Men, on the other hand, tend to overestimate their skills and abilities when taking on new responsibilities. Don’t ask me to cite the exact source of this information, but it’s definitely true because my best friend and I both read it in Lean In. Also, if you live on Planet Earth then you have surely observed that in general, women tend to be much more insecure than men about going after what we want.
Worrying that the rest of the world sees you as a fraud is a big fat waste of time. I can say that with some authority, having felt the fraud thing and then gotten over it a number of times now. When I signed up for an ironman triathlon, at first I was embarrassed about it. I told myself, “Who am I to seriously tell people I plan to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles?” Even though I had run several marathons, and completed plenty of other, shorter triathlons, even biked my way across the Rockies, covering nearly 500 miles in one week, I still didn’t think of myself as an athlete. I told people my friend and I had talked each other into this race, and I had promised that I would sign up if she did. Which was 100% true. But it was not the whole story. I left out the part about how this ironman was something that was really important to me, something I felt compelled to try.
When I hired a coach to give me objective feedback on how to train for said ironman, I was embarrassed to tell people about that, too. Coaches were for serious athletes, and it had only just occurred to me that maybe I might be an actual athlete. I didn’t want anyone to get the idea that I thought I was special or important or, god forbid, serious- about triathlon. Looking back, this is laughable. Of course I was serious. I was training six days a week, anywhere from two to seven hours a day, including runs that sometimes began as early as 4:30 am, and swims that didn’t get me out of the pool until 9pm two nights a week. I spent $500 just to register for the race. Some days, I showered twice a day. I did about three loads of laundry a week (It doesn’t sound like a lot to me now, but this is a lot of dirty clothes for a single woman with no kids). I was not kidding around with this triathlon stuff.
And now with the writing- it is nearly as hard for me to say the words “I am a writer” as it was for me to say, “I am an athlete.” I have been blogging since 2007, but I needed Dan to practically jump up and down and yell at me to sign up for the BlogHer conference last summer. I’m writing a book, and I can barely admit it to my best friend who has known me since I was seven. WTF? This impostor complex is not doing me (or you, if you are a fellow sufferer) any favors!
Dan read a passage at our daughter’s naming (a Jewish ceremony to celebrate the birth of a baby girl) that I think accurately identifies the source of the impostor complex:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. –By Marianne Williamson
Here’s to letting our light shine…