One of my favorite things to read on your hundreds of responses to my butch job survey was your future ambitions--what you hope to be doing in five years. Most of you want to do something in (or related to) your current field. But a very substantial portion of you want to do something totally different. One elder care provider wants to be a tattoo artist, a mechanic wants to become a professional dog trainer, a college English prof wants to become a self-employed urban farmer, and there are lots and lots more.
These kinds of aspirations aren't just for the young 'uns, either. There's a paramedic who wants to become a spiritual lecturer and a flight attendant who wants to work at an independent coffee house. Both are in their fifties. I heard from plenty of other 40-, 50-, and 60-somethings, too. I love this, and it reminds me that we possess endless capacity for re-invention. (BTW, the courage and tenacity she showed in her own big career change is one of the things I admire most about my DGF!)
A couple days ago, I went to a workshop about my current profession, and one topic we discussed was the "impostor syndrome." Those of us who have impostor syndrome often feel a little bit like a fraud, a little like we're "faking it." We hope that no one will find out that we don't really know what we're doing, because then they'll realize that we're not cut out for this after all!
After that workshop, I thought a lot about you guys, particularly those who want to do something different with their careers or add a new pursuit to their lives (hey carpenter who wants to get involved in revolutionary politics--I'm talking to you!). I was thinking about how "impostor" syndrome tends to have an especially big affect on women, and I'm guessing this is particularly true for LGBT women, because we don't often look like all the other people in the profession we want to enter. This may go double for gender-nonconformists, people of color, and people from poor or working class backgrounds. The person you see in the mirror may not look exactly like the artist or fire fighter or food critic that you know most people have in their minds. (Our ability to overcome impostor syndrome as LGBT people, as queer people, as lesbians, and as non-gender-conforming people is especially important. The more we can overcome it and do all the things we want to do, the less it will leave the gay kids of the future feeling like impostors.) _
Imposter syndrome means that you don't give yourself enough credit for things. You look at what you've already accomplished and think it was due to chance or luck. You're plagued with self-doubt, and this self-doubt makes it more difficult for you to assert yourself and speak your mind. Not only does this make it harder to advance your career, but it also makes it more difficult for you to take risks, make advancements in your current career, or break into a new field.
The best remedy for impostor syndrome is action. So here's my challenge for you: think of one small step you could take today to get closer to what you want to be doing in five years. Sit down and write a paragraph about your book idea. Register a domain name for a website you want to start. See if your local community college has classes that could count towards your counseling certification. After you've got that small step in mind, do it. Like, now. Not after you make dinner or read the news or play one more game of spider solitaire. Now.
The more I read about impostor syndrome, the more I learn that the biggest thing separating those who make big life changes from those who don't is grit. Not talent, not intelligence, but the willingness to do something, and do it regularly, even on days when you feel like you're not making any real progress, and even if it seems like too small a step to be worthwhile.
Yeah, I know it's not easy. And I know I'm being a little "rah-rah" here. But it's something I really believe in. It would mean the world to me if those of you thinking about starting something new could sit down now and devote 20 minutes to your next step. Then please come back and write a comment on this blog telling me what you've done; I'd love to hear it!
This is very familiar to me, both the impostor syndrome and what to do about it. I was just talking to my best friend about what you call 'grit' and I call 'drive'. That lots of people have great ideas but don't have the drive and endurance to see those ideas to fruition. How many times have you heard, or said yourself, "That's so simple, I could have done/thought of that." So why is it that more of us don't? Drive, determination, stubbornness, belief in our vision, endurance. Talent, intelligence and creative vision have their place, but without the drive to see it through, to get through the obstacles and the sometimes very long and lonely hours between inception of a goal and realization, you just have ideas. Ideas that no one else gets the benefit of.
3/4/2012 02:47:36 pm
Well-put! You know, your comment reminded me of a Ze Frank episode from "The Show" that I really love called "Brain Crack." It's about how we get addicted to the perfection of our own unexecuted ideas. http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/replay/?p=363
5/8/2012 04:16:03 pm
I so agree with what you are saying. All my life I've felt like an imposter - it was worse before I came out and I know that trying to live the "big lie" of hetrosexuality was part of it.
3/4/2012 08:04:39 am
I think this impostor syndrome is more common than anyone realizes. The link below is a Commencement speech by Amanda Palmer in which she talks about this in the realm of creative arts. It's one of my favorite things ever.
3/4/2012 11:01:31 am
I signed this and thought about how I can begin to live it tomorrow at work. http://manifesto.softwarecraftsmanship.org/
3/4/2012 12:34:24 pm
Thank you for this. Going through my own career change right now and as exciting as it is, it is also nervewracking for the reasons you mention above. I feel a lot of pressure (mostly internal) to cave and present myself in a more feminine manner in order to get ahead, even though much of my reason for changing paths has to do with my need to do something that allows me to be more true to myself and my own interests.
Great post, I agree completely. I've suffered from imposter syndrome for geez, what feels like my entire life sometimes, and the only cure is just getting out there, and doing what you do best.
3/5/2012 11:35:05 am
Great post on something I know I've struggled with.
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