I am coming up on another anniversary.
12 years ago, I walked away from my day job for the first time.
In the summer of 2007, I walked away from a corporate job. It was a good job. Corner office. Ridiculous salary. Great people.
Why? I couldn’t take it anymore.
Every day I went to work thinking, “This is it. This is the day they figure out I’m not worthy. This is the day they tell me they’re on to me. A big faker. Your services are no longer required. Pack your boxes. You’re done here.”
That feeling had been building for a long time. It was a slowly festering anxiety that continued to build day after day after day.
I now know it to have a name: Imposter Syndrome.
And like many who suffer from it, it was untrue.
It wasn’t until I started conversations with my boss about leaving that I recognized the falsehood. To paraphrase the conversation with my boss…
Me: It’s time for me to go.
Boss: Only if you let us take you out to dinner and celebrate all that you have done here.
It didn’t matter that I got great reviews every year during the annual performance evaluations. It didn’t matter that I was continuously given more responsibility and a steady stream of promotions. It didn’t matter that I always got my bonus. Always. Every day I walked in expecting to get the proverbial pink slip.
Can you relate?
Do you feel like you are faking it, hoping someday you’ll make it? Do you feel like you’ve built a fragile house of cards that is going to collapse at any moment?
It’s a horrible way to go through life.
Even stars are prone to this inner turmoil. In her iconic Oscar acceptance speech, Sally Field said, “You like me. Right now, you like me!”
This is often misquoted as, “You like me! You really like me!”
Ah, if only she had actually said that.
The misquoted version implies closure, a sense of finally achieving a sense of belonging, reaching a point of no return, knowing that you have finally made it and it can’t be taken away.
Instead, the actual quote captures the ongoing struggle.
“Right now, you like me.”
These words capture the still lingering angst that it is a temporary victory.
Right now you like me, but tomorrow I’m going to do something to screw it all up and we’ll go back to you not really liking me after all.
I wish I had great words of wisdom that would quell those inner doubts. I wish I could close out this post with a pithy phrase that would make it all go away.
All I can offer is that you are not alone. Hang in there. Keep going.
Chances are good that your fears are unfounded. Odds are that you really are worthy. People do like you. They really like you. Just as you are. You don’t need a trophy on the shelf to make that a reality.