Congratulations! You landed your dream role. You’re going to be doing what you love most. So why is there that little voice in the back of your head questioning if you’re really good enough? Meet that ol’ monster, imposter syndrome and figure out how to slay it!
Take a moment. Check in with yourself. Do you feel like a generally good human deserving of positive things? (I hope so, I know I do!) Do positive things happen to you? (Yeah, I mean, sometimes, which is great!) When positive things happen to you, do you accept and celebrate them as things you are worthy of experiencing? (Uh oh…I…don’t. I don’t. I almost never do.)
I often feel worthy of good things…until I get them. Once it’s reality, that’s when the imposter syndrome kicks in.
At work as an educator, being cast in a show, in my own personal life – imposter syndrome can find me anywhere. And I know that I’m not alone.
I was chatting with a friend recently who’s out in the dating world. A man who’s very discerning and smart. He’s got high standards and expectations, and he knows his worth. He’s confidently turned down many second dates, with an acute awareness of who he is, what he deserves and who makes sense for him as a person. He’s bemoaned bad texters and poor communicators, complainers and the passive aggressive.
Then he found someone he wanted. They wanted him too. Someone he liked who liked him back. Someone who passed the checkpoints and the qualifications, who presented with no major red flags. And after all this time ensuring that he would wait to settle down until he knew he’d found someone well-matched for him — he paused to ask, “Do they really even like me?”
“Why do they want me?”
“Do I deserve them?”
And I related to that in a big way, not just in my personal relationships but also as a performer.
In fact, that’s how I felt the first time I got a lead role in a show. I’m a character actor, so let’s be real – the leads have been few and far between. And though I might be confident in my training, my skill, my ability – actually being handed the thing I’ve always held out a little hope for? I jump to, “How did I get it? Why did I get it? Will people buy it? Will they think I deserve it? What if I’m not enough?”
I’ve always felt this ambivalence about myself. Two feelings at once. Both, “I’m awesome and deserve great things!” and also “How could anyone ever give me great things?” (Don’t worry, I have a good therapist.)
As performers, as artists, as educators, as craftspeople, as humans: it’s like we are not practiced in getting what we want.
Surely there is something we’ve been taught about downplaying or even questioning our own success. How many times have we vaguely acknowledged a skill or talent, only for someone to roll their eyes, “Wow! And humble too!” Shaming our pride.
This invisible, wildly thin line between acceptable confidence and acceptable humility has landed us all on one side or the other: perceived as overconfident, unlikable. Or perceived as weak and undeserving. We navigate how we’d rather be viewed, daring to pick a side.
It is no wonder that we can oscillate between these extremes about ourselves. We haven’t been taught to know a healthy balance.
What we’re often left, or at least what I’m left with, is imposter syndrome.
So how do we win over…ourselves? How do we move from knowing our worth to feeling our worth?
Well, jeez. I don’t know. But here are some phrases I’m practicing. Some ways of acknowledging or accepting when positive things happen. Phrases that feel humble enough, but don’t throw away my worthiness.
- “I’m really proud of myself for ___________.”
- “I worked really hard for ___________, and it’s really exciting that it paid off.”
- “I’ve never landed (a role this big, etc), I’m humbled by the opportunity.”
- “I feel so fortunate to be involved!”
- “I can’t wait to work with so many talented people!”
- “Thank you.”
Because the reality is: you’re human. You’re flawed. And that’s okay, because you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of goodness. That’s not how it works. It can’t be. You’re not an imposter in your own life.
You are worthy of the good that you receive. You’re welcome to accept it and stop denying yourself the joy that may come out of the positive things in your life.
Enjoy your lead role. Your promotion. Your true love. Your lead role that follows your promotion while you’re in love. We are all the heroes of our own journeys, right? So let’s act like it sometimes.