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.
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?
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.
(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?)
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.
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.