I’m like most people. When I step out into the world, I try to put my best foot forward. I quickly check myself in the mirror before leaving the house, smile when I’m greeting someone, and work to maintain a positive attitude in my daily interactions. I do these things habitually and without any real thought as to why. I assume it’s to avoid friction between myself and anyone I might come across.
In working to be an “acceptable” version of myself, I can sometimes lose the feeling of authenticity. I’m conflicted by the contradictory narratives that I hear: be self-aware; fake it until you make it; set your goals high; don’t forget where you come from. How do I hold all of these ideas simultaneously - aspiring to greatness, remembering how flawed I am, ignoring my weaknesses and being content? No wonder imposter syndrome creeps its way into my daily thoughts. Whom I feel I should be and who I am hasn’t been defined in a way that I can be sure of where I currently stand.
When it comes to sharing my journey, these mixed feelings usually lead me to my favorite spot - hiding. Inadequacy swells up and nervousness tells me I’m not ready to step out onto a public stage. However, my work requires me to be out in front of people — speaking, sharing, and asking questions — it’s hard to stay hidden for long if I am trying to make progress. There is no place in the shadows for work that matters deeply to me.
With social media, the fear of showing my flaws are magnified. The power to filter, edit and re-shoot can make it look like we have everything together. On a platform where one can always appear on top of it, I forget how human we all are. I forget that other people fear negative comments and criticisms. They are just as worried about being wrong, looking foolish, or showing their imperfections. I’ve let those worries keep me from revealing my true self. I’d prefer to wait until I’ve made it — until I can be a shining example of success — before sharing anything. However, only showing people the finished product is probably the most unhelpful thing I could do. It only continues the subconscious belief that our path must be without fault if we are going to make it. It doesn’t let people see that even if you screw up every day, you can still make progress.
I’m learning to see the value in sharing my journey. It is hard to shed the internal desire for perfection. Starting a new career has tested me in that arena. Even two years into this new venture, I struggle. I have to muster up the courage to start each day knowing that I will make a mistake. It's part of the process. I’ve never been trained in Human Resources, nonprofit management, marketing or any of the other duties assigned to me. Errors and missteps will be part of the learning curve. Perfection is not an option, nor should it ever be. If we are to remain in a state of growth — in which we challenge ourselves to achieve what is currently out of reach — we will find ourselves continually struggling. I’m learning to embrace the difficulties and share them more openly. It is the best way I can serve others: showing that our perceived inadequacies don’t disqualify us from living our ideals lives.