Oh, Shit! What have I done? This was my immediate gut reaction after releasing my blog out to the world last week and seeing those first emails land in my inbox, alerting me that someone had subscribed to the blog. Sure, my husband and my mom were already subscribers, but I just take for granted that they are always in my corner and share the title of being my #1 fans unconditionally (trust me, they see all the messiness and mistakes and still cheer me on no matter what I'm doing). But now, suddenly, I had other friends who had not only taken the time to check out my page and read what I had written; they had subscribed. Shit, that means they are going to be alerted when I post something new! (I do realize this is how a blog works, but it still caught me off-guard)
My mind took this and went on a 48-hour fear binge. What if I don't have anything to say? And who am I anyway to put my thoughts out there for others to see? And judge? A little (well, actually really HUGE) voice in my head was saying "Just keep your thoughts to yourself in your little paper journal where they belong." Imposter Syndrome was kicking in big time, as it has so many other times in my life. I had never heard this term until about 5 years ago and it immediately stopped me in my tracks because I had never heard a term that so accurately summed up the way I had and continued to internalize so many emotions and experiences throughout my life.
Imposter Syndrome is a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a fraud, or undeserving of a role/title, despite a record of accomplishments or preparedness. I didn't realize until very recently that imposter syndrome wasn't a term uniquely created to describe a small number of people like myself. In fact, most of us experience it as some point. Although I hear more women openly talk about it, I am beginning to hear more men express vulnerability around feeling like an imposter or ill prepared to competently perform a given role, despite having an incredible track record and skills to kick ass in that role.
It doesn't matter how long I have been doing something -- imposter syndrome can still creep in. I remember feeling like a total fraud majoring in molecular and cell biology/genetics in college. I had been a high school Valedictorian so I was used to being a focused student, and yet I felt like a fraud in college because I was studying a subject (science) that was totally new for me. So I invalidated my past track record as a strong student and instead fell into the belief that attempting to do this new thing made me a fraud. Even today, despite having worked in real estate for almost 15 years now, I find myself feeling like a fraud jumping into the commercial real estate investing world because this is newer to me. I spend countless hours each week studying it; yet still feel like somebody is going to call me out and tell me I don't belong in this space. I just registered for a real estate investment conference in Colorado next month and I've caught myself getting spun up by the image of me standing in a room with 500 savvy investors (at least in my mind, they are all savvy)...and then me (like Where's Waldo?) standing out as this total rookie newbie that clearly doesn't belong there.
Here's the thing: Knowledge is power and I'm now increasingly becoming aware of my patterns (that's also a key part of why I'm processing all of this via writing) so I can short-circuit the pattern quicker. One of those patterns I've observed is that I typically make the mistake of finding the absolute Master in any given domain and then I compare myself to that individual; therefore justifying that I am an imposter because I haven't achieved that person's skill and competence yet. I have none of the writing chops of Seth Godin; therefore I am an imposter. This blog is about connection and vulnerability, but I have none of the credentials or significance of the Master in this area of study, Brene Brown; therefore I am an imposter. The list goes on, whether in in my professional life, as a parent, as a yogi, I always find my idea of the Best -- the Master -- and then hold that person up as my reference point to validate that inner voice telling me I'm an imposter because I have nowhere near their skill, talent, or expertise.
Trust me, I can see the insanity of my logic, even though I let it take me on wild rides of fear or doubt. Truth is, even someone like Brene Brown talks about having experienced the exact same feelings of doubt, or inadequacy -- dare I say, imposter syndrome. And it's seeing it for what it is that allows us to short-circuit the cycle. We all start somewhere. We are all at different places in our process of learning a new skill (whether for business, sports, or a hobby). Nobody begins as the Best. Nobody begins at Mastery. But imagine if we never tried something new for fear of not being the Best. Or for fear that we hadn't yet achieved Mastery.
I heard a really great question that can be used as a tool to quiet that fear and doubt (imposter syndrome) when it sneaks up on us. The question is "What if you've been preparing for this your whole life?" What if we asked ourselves that question every time we felt fear about trying something new. Taking on a new role. Starting a new career or business. Attempting to learn something brand new. What if I've been preparing to become a real estate investor my whole life? What if I've been preparing to write this blog my whole life? Well, that might be a tad dramatic, but it does put my fears back in perspective. And it properly puts me back into the curious learner/student role that made me want to start this project. I can own that role.
I like to think of myself as an eternal student of many great masters and mentors that I learn from each day. People like Seth Godin, Brene Brown, and the looooong list of podcasts I devour. The list of people that I consider inspirational Best-of-the-Best's, (including many personal friends) is miles long! But just because I'm still a student doesn't mean that I'm an imposter and can't proudly share my voice and journey of learning. As long as I follow my true intentions with starting this blog (Why I started this blog and my Rules of Engagement), I will know I'm on the right path. And who knows, maybe I've been preparing for this role my whole life!