Feeling Alone In Lonely Places
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
In our first podcast, we discussed the topic of imposter syndrome, which is the conundrum of being unable to internalize your own success. We kicked off our first show with me sharing a story of my first day of orientation with a major retailing company. Allow me to paint the picture for you by re-sharing my intro:
It's 2011 and I just graduated from the University of Houston. I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed and I'm scared out of my mind. It's my first day and a large retail company an HR Manager and since I'm an "Executive Team Lead", there's a big orientation with all the other "Executive Team Leads in the region. At 20 years old, I'm easily one of the youngest managers in the company. I look around the room and I see people way older than me and seemingly much more comfortable in their own skin. I should be excited. I should be thankful. I should be happy. Instead, I only had one statement seared in my mind. First a whisper, then finally, a clear assertion:
I don't belong here.
Honestly, that was a challenging season in my career. Back then, I wish I knew the following two truths as they would have helped me better deal with the anxiety of being exposed as incompetent or incapable relative to my peers:
1. You are Here for a Reason
Partially because I didn’t have a strong network of corporate professionals to share insight and partially because I was often one of a few black men in any room, I constantly questioned if I was just there to fulfill some quota or if I had simply schemed my way in the door. The reality is, whatever space I inhabited, I was there for a reason.
Yes, I know it sounds cheesy. Yes I know you may have read it on your social media timeline along with some “rise and grind’ message, but it’s true. Wherever you are employed, you are employed there for at least one reason. Companies have many options to choose from when it comes to who they hire. You applied, went through the interviewing process, were offered a salaried position, were onboarded and are here because there is at least one thing you bring to the table that companies are willing to pay you for. Not only should that give you a certain piece of mind, but the fact that everyone around you is also here for a reason should help level the playing field mentally.
2. No One Really Knows What They’re Doing
Going back to my first real rush of imposter syndrome, what struck me was how comfortable and knowledgeable everyone seemed. What I realized is while some do it spectacularly well, others do not, but the reality is from speec, to dress, to humor, everyone is presenting their idea of what success looks like every day. Much more often than not, that is a thin veneer covering a host of insecurities, anxieties, doubts, personal frustrations and everything else. No one really knows what they’re doing. Everyone is figuring it out by some degree. This should help you twofold : (1) you don’t have to take everyone (including yourself) so seriously and (2) help you remember that again, you’re all in the same boat.
As we shared on our first pod, multiple studies show that a majority of people suffer from imposter syndrome at least once in their career, so you aren’t alone. As our first guest Fenorris Pearson shared during our interview and in his book, How to Play the Game at the Top, being true to who you are, remembering that you are where you are for a reason and that no one has it all together will keep you on the right path.