There comes a point in your life when your kids might actually know a little something more than you do. (Just a pinch.)
For example, the other day, the stars aligned, and Megan (my college music therapist daughter) and I actually talked on the phone. No cryptic text messages where we had to guess what the other person was actually thinking. We could converse. It was truly amazing! It is truly amazing when that happens before midnight.
Anyway, I was telling my daughter, Megan, about my blogging class and explaining how excited I was that I earned a good grade on my first blog post. Megan congratulated me and was truly happy for me. It was at that point; that a thought suddenly hit me, and I downplayed my own efforts saying, “Yes, but what if the teacher gives everyone a good grade so they feel comfortable actually blogging online?”
Megan responded with, “Stop right there, mom; you have ‘Imposter Syndrome!’ ”
I thought, “I have what? When was I afflicted with that?”
Megan repeated, “Imposter Syndrome. You know like when you accomplish something good, and you question your abilities. You feel like an imposter. But you’re not.” Apparently, I have been suffering from this affliction for quite some time, but I just didn’t realize it. Until now, when Megan put a name to it, and I finally realized it. I do suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Sometimes. (Okay often.)
Imposter Syndrome – yes, it is a new buzzword for anyone (not just me, thank goodness) who feels like a phony, a fake, like they shouldn’t be accomplishing all they are. Hundreds of thousands of people are walking around with this illness. I’ve felt it before I go into a conference, during meetings, when I accomplish a huge project and even complete it on time. I’ve felt it often. Who has given me that mentality? How did it happen? Who can it happen to next?
It is not just women who suffer from this affliction; it can also be men and even brilliant Internet Technology (IT) people like my son, Zach. Megan said she was talking to Zach ̶ I was privately ecstatic that they converse without my forcing them. ̶ and he said he was at a conference where they were talking in-depth about “Imposter Syndrome” in the IT Field. Apparently, even intelligent, smart IT people (I say that because my son is in that category and not just because I gave birth to him.) suffer from Imposter Syndrome where you accomplish something; but you don’t attribute it to your own success.
Zach recalls two types from his training, “This is you, mom. One in which you need to over-prepare. (Like writing 35 pages for an 8-page master’s assignment? Yes, I have actually done that.) So when you succeed, you don’t attribute it to what you know already. Instead, you attribute your success to your over-preparation, not your own personal achievement.” Self-admittedly, I do that; but I verbally pointed out his sister, Megan, is like that as well. (Lucky her … to get that from me.) Zach goes on to say, “So, the flipside to the Imposter Syndrome is when you think you can’t do it, and you put it off, put it off, and put it off … until you do it last minute really hurriedly. So when you succeed that way, you think ‘well, it was just luck and not by any of my own doing.’ ” I admit to that one as well in which my son, Zach, and possibly his sister, Hannah, gets from me. (My poor kids!! See I’m doing it again. They are lucky to have me.)
Forbes magazine estimates that around 70 percent of people experience Imposter Syndrome. Seventy percent! This reminds me of a phrase I have used quite often “Fake it until you make it!” The challenge is, what is “it”? Will I be happy when I accomplish my Masters? Do I celebrate the fact that my kids have turned out to be pretty darn swell adults? Why am I not celebrating that I have been successfully working in graphic design for over 30 years? While I have lost 40 pounds, I’m still not happy because it’s not 80 pounds! Why not?
Why can’t I take a moment to celebrate my accomplishments? Pat myself on the back? Look around and appreciate all that I have accomplished? I’ve raised three kids (without strangling anyone) who are hard workers, nice people, and good members of society. I’ve always worked successfully in my field (without strangling anyone) even though it has changed tremendously with the growth of computers and the internet. I’ve taught efficiently on the side for around 10 years (without strangling anyone). I’ve been married for more than 25 years (again, without strangling anyone), and for the most part, I am happy. Casey in my blogging class says, “Sometimes, we all just stress out way too much and don’t enjoy life successfully because we have to be perfect at everything and if we are not, we bring ourselves down to self-loathing and other insecurities.”
While the Imposter Syndrome could sometimes motivate me to do more and be more – there are moments when it could possibly kill me for trying to do just that. At some point, I need to be happy with “it!” ̶ no matter what “it” is. While there are times you will still need to fake it ̶ trust me, I do every day ̶ we need to take the time to listen to our feelings and fears, validate them, and then take note of our accomplishments ̶ even if that accomplishment is simply getting out of bed for the day. And then, stand up for ourselves – even if that means silencing our harshest critics: ourselves. Look yourself in the mirror and say, “Girl … or guy, you’re crushing it!” C’mon do it. Then fist bump yourself. In other words, take one moment to list, celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments.
Now, go call your college kids. Who knows ̶ what you might learn.