Have you ever felt like an imposter while everyone around you had it all together? If so, this post is for you.
When I was a kid, I remember thinking that adults had it all together. I mean, they were adults, obviously they knew what they were doing. Right? Then, when I was technically an “adult”, I remember thinking okay, maybe younger adults don’t really have it together, but clearly older ones do. I was sure I’d feel like a “real” adult once I had a career, or was married, or had a mortgage. And in the meantime, I’d just fake it until it didn’t feel like I was faking it anymore. But then time went on and I realized – wait. Is EVERYONE just faking it? Does anyone actually ever truly feel like an “adult” or an “expert” or like they have it all together?
I felt the same way when I was in school to become a dietitian. Established dietitians, I thought, must completely have it all together/figured out/know everything. Right? Then I became a dietitian, and I thought, it must be those older dietitians who have it all figured out and are 100% confident and set in their skills, because while I feel like I’m good at this, I certainly don’t feel like I know everything or am perfect at it, and sometimes I find myself in situations that really challenge me.
The same goes with blogging – it’s easy to feel like those who have bigger blogs/larger followings have it all figured out, are 100% confident and completely on the ball and know exactly what they are doing all the time. Maybe some of you have even looked at my blog, or at my AnneTheRD nutrition private practice website, and thought the same thing about me.
I’m here to tell you today that just because you sometimes feel like you are faking it doesn’t mean that you are not good at what you do, or that taking scary leaps isn’t worthwhile (and important). Chances are those people who you look up to who seem like experts also had their own scary leaps to take – and may still occasionally feel like imposters, too.
I don’t believe it’s that I particularly lack in confidence compared to anyone else – I would actually consider myself a pretty confident person, in that I do take risks and push myself, even though I know it will be uncomfortable and scary. And I have confidence that even if I don’t know what I’m doing all the time, I’ll be able to figure it out, or at least learn as I go, and/or from my mistakes. I generally feel that I do my work well and that I’m worth listening to/hiring, and I have found a rhythm and niche with my work that I know I’m good at.
And yet… I still wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an expert, and I always find myself kind of weirded out when others do.
I had an interesting conversation the other day with my friend Heather about how we have realized that there’s probably no point in life where you really, truly feel like you 100% have it figured out, or are an expert. It would be easy to let that feeling take over and not try anything new or not take a leap just because it’s scary and it seems like someone else is already doing it better.
Heather wrote a great post recently about how she is a chronic under-preparer. It’s not the under-preparing part of the post that I really resonated with (although I’ve definitely been there, I tend to do well with the “prepare adequately but also leave some space to wing it because if I prepare too much I’ll just go crazy, and I do best if I need to improvise a little and think on my feet” approach), but rather the part about how nerve-wracking it feels when waiting for something new to begin that is a little outside of your comfort zone.
In the post, she talks about waiting for her first Girls on the Run practice to start (I remember feeling the exact same way when I was coaching GOTR, and I wasn’t even head coach), and explains how she started asking herself things like:
Why did I add this to my calendar? Why do I feel SO uncomfortable? Why did I put myself in this position/think I could do this?
And then, of course, the practice started and she was fine.
I really resonated with that thought process – it’s one I’ve definitely had with myself every time I sign on for something new – especially something like giving a presentation or being in front of/in charge of a group. I know that I am a good teacher and presenter, and yet I still have the same thought process right before the first time it starts.
Why did I think I could teach this class/course? What if I look stupid? What if I stumble over my words or don’t know the answer to a question? Why did I add another thing to my to do list? It would have been so much easier to say no and stay home in sweatpants… etc etc
My point here is that if you’ve been letting thoughts like this hold you back, this completely random post is just a reminder that EVERYONE feels like an imposter at least some of the time. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but you are scared to do it because you feel like all those people who are doing it already are “experts” and you couldn’t possibly be like them – do it anyway. I guarantee you those people have felt just the same as you do right now, and I’m sure they feel like they still have a ton to learn, too – there’s always more to learn.
As Heather said, even if you are scared or feel unprepared – just show up and try. This can apply to anything, whether a work-related event, the start of a hard class, a first date, or even the starting line of a race (or the first steps out the door of your first training run). I bet you’ll quickly find that you are better prepared and more able than you realize if you just give yourself a chance – and life is too easy if we never do anything that scares us.
p.s. When I read Heather’s post last week, I remember thinking: “I love her posts like this. I wish I could write something like that.” And then I reminded myself: of course I can, and I should. So I did, and I thought it might help inspire some of you to do something outside of your comfort zones, too.