"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel." - Steve Furtick
I may be the last person who knows me to have realized this, but I have never, in any situation, thought that I was "good enough".
By day I'm a programmer. I've been one for almost 20 years. I have what is to me the perfect job. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love the people I work for. Yet, every single day I struggle with wondering whether or not I'm good enough. Am I living up to their expectations? Do they ever think about letting me go? Don't they realize that there are more qualified people out there? Do they know that I'm a fraud?
To Hell with Fear
My first tattoo in over 25 years. The first one with meaning.
I don't think I even realized how paralyzed I have been by this fear. Not until a co-worker recently shared an article entitled To hell with fear. It spoke of, among other things, impostor syndrome, which is apparently such a well-known thing that there are numerous articles about it. The article resonated with me so much that I went out and had the words indelibly inked into my forearm.
Unfortunately, just knowing about impostor syndrome isn't really enough to overcome it. Because obviously everybody else who feels inadequate is suffering form imposter syndrome. But not me. I'm really not good enough. At least, in my mind.
A friend asked me the other day, "What will it take for you to feel like you're good enough?" He suggested maybe going back to school, as it's always bothered me that I don't have a computer science degree. My wife and I had discussed this in the past too. Perhaps taking a few courses in the evenings would help. But at that moment, as the question was posed, I realized that there's nothing, no external force, that will give me that validation that I crave. So what will it take, then?
It will take me believing it. No amount of certificates/diplomas or years of service or respect of my peers or having written a book will do a damn thing until I allow myself to believe that it just might be true.
The thing is, it doesn't just happen to me at work.
Three years ago I joined R.E.A.C.T. Defense Systems, a Krav Maga gym here in the Phoenix area. There are, for all intents and purposes, two levels of classes and students. There's "All Levels Krav Maga", which is open to all students. Then there's "Tactical Black", which is a bit more advanced. When I first started at REACT, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to survive the Krav classes. Every time I'd attend a Krav class, I'd walk past the Tactical Black class and look at the people in that room. I'd look at them in awe, thinking that they were the best of the best. They were the elite. They were good enough. I certainly didn't think I'd ever be fighting in that room (and why would I think that from the start?).
After two years of believing that, I finally gave in and signed up for Tactical Black. I've been in "that" room for a year now. And what is my thought process like? I think that everybody else in that room are the best of the best. The elite. The good enough.
Yes, even after a year of standing toe-to-toe with most every other Tactical Black student, I still don't feel like I belong in that room. And I wonder if the instructors and other students know that I'm a fraud?
I think one of my instructors in particular recognized this. No, not that I'm a fraud, but that I think I am. He's told me in the past that there's a mental door that I need to break through. And he's right. What will it take for me to feel like I'm good enough to be in that room? How many classes do I need to take? How many certifications do I need to rack up? It doesn't matter. What it will take, is me believing it. It will take me breaking through that mental door.
I still have no idea what's going on
I don't know why that mental door is there. I do know that there is no area of my life in which I've yet to feel truly in control. I think that, to a point, many of us suffer from this same concern. We think that everybody else has it together, and wonder why we don't.
Perhaps that's it. Perhaps I should be looking at those around me less and looking inside myself more. I'm 45 years old. I have a beautiful family and a beautiful home. I have a job that I absolutely love. I train harder than most people half my age. Physically, I can do things that I wouldn't have been able to do 20 years ago. But still, there's that door. In spite of family and friends telling me that I'm good enough, there's that door.
But I've connected a few dots, at least. I now recognize the impostor syndrome that's presenting itself in far too many areas of my life. I know that it's impacting my progress at work. I know that it's impacting my progress at the gym. I know that I've got to break through that mental door. I'm not quite sure how. Not yet. But now I'm aware that it's there, and I know that I have to get through it.
And knowing, as they say, is half the battle.