"I find it interesting that there are imposters out on the internet pretending to be Werner Herzog." (Werner Herzog)
I have a secret, irrational fear. Psychologists call it Imposter Syndrome -- a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates the opposite to be true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence. It is basically feeling that you’re not really a successful, competent, and smart person — that you are only posing as such. No matter how much success you experience, you’re never quite able to internalize it. It all must be due to luck or just being in the right place at the right time or your ability to charm and fool people.
I’ve got it, and I’ve got it bad.
The truth is, I’ve wrestled with it on and off for my entire life. I hear people say great things about me, but inside my head there's a little voice that whispers, “Yeah, but if they really knew what you’re really like they’d say something else.”
Recently, due to heightened stress, too little rest, and a series of unwise choices, I have been consumed with this fear that at any moment someone is going to stand up, point their finger right at me, and yell, “Imposter!”
Of course, I’ll know they’re talking about me and that at last the jig is up. I was able to fool them for a while, but in the end my incompetence was discovered. I will be disgraced.
I know for a fact that several people read this blog. I know that my Facebook page has more than 5,000 "likes". I know that I have more than 2,600 followers on Twitter. I've written several books -- one of which became a best-seller on Amazon.com. I've had some success.
I also know that many of you reading these words are very successful people in various capacities — writers, preachers, therapists, coaches, scholars, teachers, business people. Some of you are successful as well -- probably more successful than I am. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one here who struggles with these irrational feelings of insecurity.
I wrestle with imposter syndrome. I am so afraid that if people really knew me — really knew the real me — the one who says terrible things to other drivers…to myself…to my kids…to people right after I hang up the phone — the one who does the wrong thing about as often as he does the right thing — if people knew that guy…well…they wouldn’t like me very much.
And they might leave me alone.
And that's a terrifying idea for me to consider. I can’t stand the thought of being cut off and excluded — not invited into the inner ring. I am afraid that people will not value me or respect me. I am desperate to be accepted and valued and loved! To be completely known and still completely embraced — that’s what I long for.
I am desperate for two things: (1) someone who will love, accept, champion, and value me and (2) the courage to say this out loud to others.
So, that's what I'm doing here. I'm saying it right out loud.
I've been trying to live with more vulnerability of late, and I'm discovering something I never thought possible: Most people don't care. Most people don't care that I'm a mess. Most people don't care that my act isn't more together than it is. Most people don't care that I'm imperfect.
In fact, most people prefer me this way.
Don't get me wrong. There are people who do care. There are people who care a great deal. There are people who do not want me to be broken or messed up. They don't want to hear about it. They liked me better when I was a pretender. They wanted an imposter. They got angry when I took off the mask.
Most of them have left by now.
The ones who remain, the ones who are showing me how to be an even better version of myself, they have walked towards me in my mess, put their arms around me, and said, "Me, too." They know that I'm not as good as I can be yet. They know that I'm not as good as I often pretend to be. But they also know that I'm not through yet.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lies