When you feel like an imposter

We’re going through big changes at my job, which are in and of themselves going to warrant a completely separate post. Though it is insanely early in the process, I can feel myself growing and I can feel myself growing already because I an extremely uncomfortable and for the first time in a few months, it’s not because I am pregnant.

I watched at TED Talk today and I’ve seen it before. It’s not new and you can find it here. It’s called “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.”

In it, Amy, the presenter talks about feeling like an imposter. She had a major brain injury from a car accident and although he had major challenges, she found herself at Princeton and felt like she didn’t belong. She felt like she was an imposter. I relate to this so much.

I’ve had conversations with Ryan fairly regularly, at minimum once a year and usually during periods where I am trying to figure myself out and I feel like I don’t belong. When people give me opportunities, I find myself feeling like I don’t deserve them or I don’t belong in the room with the other people that are sitting there. I tell myself frequently that I need to sit at the table, but that doesn’t mean I actually do it and it doesn’t mean I always believe myself. There are times when it seems like the people around me are believing in me, but I am standing there wondering when they’re going to realize that I am not capable of everything they think I am capable of.

I haven’t been found out yet, which you’d think would be something that would remind me that I do belong and I am NOT faking it. I actually am good at leading a team. I actually am smart and I actually do have good ideas. It hasn’t fully translated there yet and I don’t really know when it will.

Today I had an epiphany though, and I realized that I am not faking it. I’m not. I have become what I thought I was faking this entire time.

I was sitting in a room last week staring at 16 different faces of people that I care very strongly for. These people are my employees. In this moment, they’d just found out that by the end of 2018, we may not have jobs. All of us, not just them. They were staring at me for guidance and honestly, hearing the news just the day before, I wasn’t sure if I was actually prepared to give them the guidance they needed.

The night before (or rather, the night of this conversation), I was up at 1am. I came to work with the biggest coffee that Starbucks had to offer. I stood there and watched hundreds of people learn the news I’d only found out 24 hours prior. Then I went to debrief with my personal 16.

I felt like I was at an impasse. In these moments, you learn who is and isn’t a confident leader. You have to become the leader that you want to follow and if you don’t, you really haven’t maximized the opportunity you’ve got to learn, to leverage, to empathize. These situations don’t arise that often in a person’s career and they can be make or break.

For the following hour, I talked with them. I lamented. I told them I had a plan. I told them what we were going to do. I lead them. There were people laughing and people crying. What there was not was a bunch of negativity. Instead, there was empowerment. I felt like I gave them a chance to see what they could control in this situations. I shifted the focus to what we could all do now and took it off what we can’t control. I did it and they were not afraid. They are still not afraid. We’re taking action, we’re not letting life happen to us.

Today, in watching that TED Talk, I realized I am not an imposter anymore. I don’t feel that way. I’ve spent years feeling like I have been given opportunities and chances, not that I earned them. I DID earn them. I am still earning them. I’m not an imposter. I’m a leader. I wasn’t an imposter the entire time I felt like I was, but I let myself get in my own way. In empowering others, I find myself empowered by extension. That feels good.

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