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The Arrogance of the Impostor Complex

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Know why you experience the Impostor Complex?

Because you are high-functioning person with strong values of mastery, integrity, and excellence.

Awesome. 

But know why else you experience it?

Ready for the realtalktruth?

Your standards and expectations of yourself are realllllllly high. And though you won’t admit it to many people, you want to be THE BEST at everything you do.

(Do you know that still, after all this work, when I take the stage at a speaking gig, I still actually EXPECT - and assume I'm a failure if I don't receive - standing ovations. Every.single.time. THAT is the stunning arrogance of my Impostor Complex. It’s lie #3… “you are all or nothing.” Oy.)

And, like me, I believe that you want to be THE MOST qualified person on the planet to be doing the work you are wanting to do. (Because if you are not the MOST qualified, then surely you are the LEAST qualified. Mmmhmm.)

And the shitty fact of the matter is this: it is exceptionally likely that you are NOT the absolutely most qualified person on the planet to be doing the work that you are wanting to do. 

The odds are highly stacked against you that you are THE BEST Parent on the planet. 

The BEST Developer.
The BEST Writer.
The BEST Speaker.
The BEST Artist.
The BEST Actor.
The BEST Activist.
The BEST Leader.
The BEST Business Owner. 

HIGHLY stacked against you, my friend.

And even more improbable is that you are THE BEST PARENT ANNNNNND SPEAKER on the planet. (Though it would be awesome if you were, of course.)

Truth is, you know more than you think and you’ll never know it all.

Can you feel the grief and the relief in that? 

Me too.

Now, I’m not saying that the road to mastery and excellence isn’t worth the commute.

It TOTALLY is.

I’m just wondering why you never include grace in your backpack for your travels?

Grace... you remember that, right?

  • It’s the same stuff you dole out in great swaths to others when they stumble on video or on stage. In fact, you find their humility refreshing and it does nothing to erode your confidence in what they are saying.

  • It's when you forgive others for not knowing EVERYTHING, but instead find their earnestness charming.

  • When you give people on your team generous extensions on their deadlines because they are dealing with grief, but can barely allow yourself an extra nap.

Why do you hold yourself to such a different standard? Are you not also deserving and worthy of such grace? Or another way to ask: what makes you think that you are the only one who has such grace to offer?


And while we’re talking about offerings…  

Why do you CONSISTENTLY choose to discount the praise others offer you?

I’m thinking it's one of a couple of reasons:

You don’t trust their standards.

I mean, sure. I get it. As we’ve already established, you have strong values of mastery, integrity, and excellence, AND you don’t know EVERYTHING, right?

You know more than you think and you’ll never know it all.

So, maybe the person offering you the acknowledgment, the compliment, the praise is offering you reflection on what you DO KNOW. What you DO exceptionally well. What you DID exceptionally well. 

But because of your impeccably (impossibly?) high standards of yourself, you are out of sorts when someone compliments your work that is below your watermark. THEY mustn’t have very high standards, and as such, you don’t need to do the hard work of allowing the compliment to land.

Who was it that said that he wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have him as a member? Ouch.

You think “they’re just being nice." 

I’ve covered this off puh-lenty of times, and yet, for chronic people-pleasers, it still stings as it sticks.

Making the assumption that everyone is just being nice is as impossible as it is dismissive of their intelligence and free will. 

I mean, seriously: Who has the time to sit around blowing smoke up people’s nether-regions? Certainly not the people you respect and admire. 

Imagine lining up every last person who has ever lifted you, advocated on your behalf, complimented your work, allowed you past the velvet rope of academia, gave you a great mark, review, reference, testimonial, tweet, bit of kindness.

Go ahead. Line ‘em up against that wall over there. Ran out of wall? Imagine a bigger wall.

Got them all there? See them looking at you with the kindness and admiration and respect that they feel for you?

I will repeat: MAYBE, JUST MAYBE you ought to dare to believe someone when they tell you how truly remarkable you really are.

The university admissions committee didn’t make a mistake. Your clients didn’t make a mistake. Your boss didn’t make a mistake. You earned this. Stop assuming everyone makes such massive (and SPECIFIC) mistakes. 

When you diminish the value of another's opinion, you may ALSO be missing out on the honey that is their constructive critique.

TWEET IT

(Side bar: While we’re at it, when people thank you for your gifts, stop deflecting. It’s insulting to them. Just say “thank you.")

And let’s take it even further. When you diminish the value of another's opinion, you may ALSO be missing out on the honey that is their constructive critique.

Listen to them. You’ve done your due diligence. THIS is a person you say you respect and admire, so listen to them. If they didn’t care about you and your work, they wouldn’t take the time and energy to offer you conscious critique. It just doesn’t work like that. To assume anything else is straight up arrogance.

And, as ever, you get to choose what to integrate... but it starts with listening.


What do you think you accomplish by holding your talents back?

I see a bunch of reasons for this. And they all come with no small amount of arrogance.

Avoidance of disappointment

I think you’re a big-hearted person. And I already KNOW you have super high values of integrity. This leads me to believe that you don’t want to raise the hopes of others and disappoint them, right? So maybe you hang back from offering your (well-researched) opinion. I mean, you don’t want to send them down a dangerous path of repercussions from following your shitty counsel. (Which it MUST be because it’s not PERFECT, right?)

Hmpf.

Can you see where this once again presumes another’s lack of Sovereignty? LET THEM CHOOSE. Give them your absolute best and know that THEY TOO can listen then choose to integrate.

You’re not avoiding disappointment. You’re hoarding your best, and that is not just arrogant, but also selfish.

(Like we say in The Starring Role Academy #stophoardingyourgoodshit)

On some level, you may not think people can handle the fullness of who you are.

I cover a LOT of the reasons you may choose to diminish over here.

It can be scary.

But if you’ve read this far, I think you feel like you ARE in a position to make a choice.

Stay behind the curtains or answer the call that keeps you awake at night. The one that knows that you NOT standing up for what you believe in helps NO ONE.

Your powers are blindingly brilliant, but they are not capable of hurting anyone. I, for one, am not afraid of them.

I’m just afraid of them burning out if not used and shared generously and expansively.

So. Let’s make a deal, you and I.

Let’s ease up on our expectations of ourselves. If your expectations exceed what you would ask another of themselves, you may be asking too much of yourself.

Let’s ease up on our arrogance and give ourselves the big swaths of grace we offer others.

And let’s rise up and meet our desire to activate on the best work possible, and serve the world with generosity and joy. Parent. Developer. Writer. Speaker. Artist. Actor. Activist Leader. Business Owner.

Will it be the BEST WORK IN THE ENTIRE WORLD? Likely not. But that doesn’t make it any less valuable.


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Down with Diminishment

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Of all of the behavioural traits that present themselves when someone experiences the Impostor Complex - that is to say: people-pleasing, procrastination, perfectionism, leaky boundaries, comparison, and diminishment - it’s DIMINISHMENT that comes up most often in my clients, readers, and audience.

Diminishment is the way in which we consciously dim our light. Dumb our message down. Take up less space. Play smaller. Avoid displaying actual confidence at all costs.

I suppose this should come as no surprise to me given the evocative language I use in and around “Stepping into your Starring Role." It’s INTENDED to be a calling forth of those hiding ever so slightly in the shadows off-stage.

Which is to say... YOU.

Diminishment is a nice and safe way to avoid feeling like an Impostor. No one can call us fraud, charlatan, or cast us aside if they can’t see us, right?

To be certain.

And of course, it doesn’t just look like staying off the metaphorical stage.

When you tell me that you were so lucky that the universe sent you the perfect designer, I will remind you that YOU made it happen. YOU took the chance and went on a coffee date and were open and willing and transparent. That YOU have built up a reputable business through tenacity and with excellence that anyone would be thrilled to be a part of. That YOU did your due diligence and knew what the market would bear and made the ask, even as you feared rejection. But yeah. Sure. It was the universe.

When you tell me that you are having a hard time filling up your Yum and Yay folder because “they’re just being nice” with their praise, I will remind you that nobody has time to just be nice like that and if they sent you a lovely thank you card because you helped them find a new way forward with the problem that they have been grappling with that MAYBE, JUST MAYBE you ought to dare to believe them when they tell you how truly remarkable you really are. In fact, MAYBE, JUST MAYBE you ought to take their words and add them to your testimonials page for the world to see truth.

So yes,
Diminishment looks like discounting others’ praise.
Diminishment looks like downplaying our successful decisions and wins.
Diminishment looks like handing over credit where credit isn’t due.
Diminishment looks like hiding behind your clients.
Diminishment looks like a crisis of presence.
Diminishment looks like the opposite of sovereignty. (This is informed by a sacred conversation in The Starring Role Academy lead by my dear friend and guest teacher, Ronna Detrick.)

Now, you have good reasons for hiding your glory from us, I am certain.

Maybe you have experienced the pain of the Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Maybe you have seen, far too often, the good person corrupted by the limelight.
Maybe you have experienced the sting of online haters and trolls.
Maybe you have committed the Sin of (Out)Shining.
Maybe your strong value of humility fears getting it wrong and having to eat humble pie.
And speaking of pies, maybe you’ve been told you’ve already had too much pie.

If you want to come out from behind the shadows and take the stage with your message, your vocation, your calling, it will be worth every moment of tension.

TWEET IT

But if you want to come out from behind the shadows and take the stage with your message, your vocation, your calling, it will be worth every moment of tension.

It will involve you being brave enough to confront the reasons why you stay out of action and the resistance that is keeping you from what you say you want.

It will require you to look at all you have done, without the red pen of editorializing and discounting the efforts you’ve made and the outcomes you’ve created.

It will demand that you not go this alone. It will mean you will gather your people, assemble your cast, bring your fans in close, and trust in them. But, above all, it will demand that you trust in you.

Like we say in The Academy: More pie, please.

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Fourteen

My Darling L –

You are fourteen. FOURTEEN. An age I remember like yesterday. The time of shoulder pads and slouchy boots and chunky jewelry and Aqua Net and hair scrunchies. It was all “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” and Whitney and “Top Gun” and “Fame."

Gah. Like... YESTERDAY.

On your eighth birthday, I made some wishes. They continue to hold strong and true.

On your ninth, I shared some wisdom from truth-sayers intended to light your way.

On your tenth, I called in some reinforcements to reflect back the wonder that you are.

On your eleventh, I invited you to trust your body, your knowing.

On your twelfth, I made an apology and some promises I’ll never break. Namely, this: “I will never withdraw my love. I will always be your soft place to land. You will never go wrong if you are always yourself.”

On your thirteenth, I shared a story that I will never forget.


Today, on your fourteenth, I’m attempting to do the near impossible:

I’m trying to reflect back what I see in you. Yes, near impossible - like bottling dancing glints of diamond sunlight on the breeze-kissed lake, but I’ll try.

Because, as you reminded me when you were but six: "We have now."

Do you remember that? We were reading Charlotte’s Web and I started tearing up when Fern headed off to the fair, and you took my face in your hands and looked into my eyes as you said it. My Buddha Babe.

Yes. We have now.

And here’s what I know about now.

It’s been a tough year. Plenty of changes and transitions. You have navigated them with questions and grace and finesse.

Making decisions about high school, going away to summer camp, saying farewell to beloved neighbours who felt like family, THEN saying a final goodbye to Pops. Did you know, Sweet One, that the last moment of real connection that we had with him as he lay dying was when I told him you were reading Catcher in the Rye? (It was among the books he hand-delivered to you on your thirteenth birthday along with roses well before you woke up that morning). His whole body relaxed as he smiled and nodded. That was the last time he responded to any of us.

That’s YOU. That’s YOUR power.


Someone asked me to share what I say to you when you need a boost in confidence. I would love to hear YOUR answer to that, but I know I always come back to what I understand to be Unshakeable Confidence: Presence (knowing yourself, having love and reverence for the sacred being you are, and feeling your own power), Integrity (being true to your word, being true to yourself, and being obedient to what you say you want) and Action (being resilient, being willing to fail, and being tenacious).

You are all of this and more. So, so much more. (Though I suspect when you need a pep talk you hear your Pops say in his own inimitably gruff way: Illegitimi non carborundum... "Don't let the bastards grind you down.")

Watching you explore your own musical terrain is thrilling. Yes, your love of Father John Misty and Said the Whale and Ben Folds and Aimee Mann comes straight from your Dad. Your appreciation of P!nk and Bruce Springsteen and The Killers and Beyoncé comes from me. And your fondness of bluegrass and Vivaldi and Fleetwood Mac comes from a blend of your grandparents.

But you’ve brought Dear Evan Hansen and Mika into our lives, so we’re even.

We are perpetually finding balled up socks and stray earrings and old valentines in the oddest places. We find glittery pipe cleaners and silly band bracelets attached - the THINGS from when you were under seven that are the landscape of our lives - we simply cannot/will not untangle them.


Your loyalty to your friends is exquisite. The way your (final?) Hallowe’en costume honoured every.single.classmate with some symbol of them on your person.

My heart soars at the way you ask big and deep and vast questions and really sit in the exploration of the answers. And then, in the next breath, you’ll present a riddle that reminds me that you are, indeed, perfectly fourteen. “What’s the difference between a dirty bus depot and a lobster with breast implants?” (One's a crusty bus station and one's a busty crustacean.)

Your delight in calling out your father when he unconsciously mansplains something... especially feminism. (Bless his cotton socks.)

Your activism in your school, in particular your involvement in the Rainbow Club and commitment to diversity and inclusion. Your political aspirations.

You listen patiently as I lecture you while chopping the vegetables at the kitchen island, and though there may be a day when this no longer happens, you invite my opinions AND manage my expectations about what you will do with my counsel. That’s #nextlevel, Babe.

You are the sun the moon and the stars. You take our breath away.


I want to remind you again, once again, always again:

You will be right sometimes, and you will be wrong; either way, your words matter. As does your listening.

Things do have a way of working out, but mostly when you show up to do the work.

Standing up for others isn’t a “nice” things to do, it’s the only thing to do.

Things do have a way of working out, but mostly when you show up to do the work.

Your job is not to be good. Nor perfect. It is to be you. More of you. You can’t take up too much space.

And if they can’t handle your shine, Daughter? Hand them some shades.

Yes. You’re right. We have now.

Thank you for the gift you are, NOW.

Love,
Mama

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Do It. You're Ready Enough.

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There are twelve lies of the Impostor Complex. Lie number seven - “you’re not ready yet” - shows up right after you’ve decided to do it.

You can no longer unsee all the changes around you that need to be made. You have things to say, words to write, stages to climb, and systems to take down and rebuild.

"YES," you say. "I will be the one."

Then, immediately, the Impostor Complex sidles up to you, real cozy-like, and says:

"Listen, kid (yeah, it’s patronizing as hell, that one) -

one day you’ll be ready. But that day isn’t today.

Maybe you’ll be ready when you get that NEXT degree. Or put ANOTHER ten years under your belt. Or make that discovery. Or win the award. Or get that client. Or get the nod from HER. Or lose the pounds. 

So sit back, cool your heels, and keep working it."


And so, you prepare and you train and you polish and you sharpen the pencil.

Because you have high standards of excellence and mastery. (That’s good. And the number one reason why you experience the Impostor Complex.)

But then it shows back up once again, whispering:

"The pencil isn’t sharp enough.

The pitch doesn’t gleam with startling shine.

Your thighs - they need to be more toned, taut, and tanned.

You’re not smart enough.

Wise enough.

Brave enough.

Charismatic enough.

Gorgeous enough.

Spiritual enough.

Wealthy enough."

(And let’s not even get started on TOO smart, TOO wise, TOO gorgeous, TOO wealthy. Not today.)

Now, what your thighs and wealth have to do with how prepared you are to ask set up the appointment with the CEO or send your manuscript off to the publisher is something well beyond me, but this much I DO know, with every fibre of my being:

Do it. You’re ready enough.

The manuscript is close enough to done.

The pencil is sharp enough to write the words that can change everything.

Your voice is strong enough to say what needs to be said. (Even when it trembles. ESPECIALLY when it trembles.)


Two things:

As you sit down to make the call or write the book or step up to the mic to deliver the talk that will change EVERYTHING, think about how everything you have ever made, delivered, sold, created, drafted, crafted, survived, healed, and done is coming together. Right here and now. For this very purpose. For this very moment.

And?

No one was ever fully ready. For anything. The pencil tip can always be sharper.

The space in between the systemic changes you want to see and the brave new world is your decision on whether you are fully ready or not.

Do it. You’re ready enough.


Join me live on Facebook this Thursday at 1:30 pm EST to talk about just this. see you there.


 

 

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Getting Right With My Heart

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After my dad died, I made some promises to myself.

I’m excellent at keeping the promises I make with others but don’t have the best track record with keeping promises to myself.

So, it's no surprise that “keeping the promises I make with myself” moved to the top of my promise list.

The second promise I made was to get into right relationship with my heart and begin treating my heart with the same reverence and care that I give to others.

Revolutionary.

And, in truth, it’s a curious time to explore it, what with grief being seventeen thousand kinds of messy.

It’s hard to know which way’s up and which way’s down. And it’s hard to know if I can trust my emotions. Hard to know if I can trust my heart.

But that... right there - that’s the lie I’ve been telling myself:

That I can’t trust my heart.

It’s my HEART that should be mistrustful of ME.

I’ve ignored and shelved and bartered and negotiated and bypassed and done everything BUT listen to my heart in more ways than I care to admit over the past couple of years.


So, to get us back on the same page - what this has meant (so far in any case), is that I need to listen to my heart when it summons the courage to ask me for something. And offer it what it desires freely and enthusiastically and reverentially. Nomaddawhat.

Also revolutionary.


It’s Valentine’s Day and my heart asked me to write this to you. So I did.

Take some time and space to love into your own heart today, will you?

Listen to it. And honour it above all else.

You’ve only got this one.

Treat it like the source of all things sacred that it is.

Because it is.


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