Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be like all the kids older than you? Because they were so cool and had their life together. And then you became that kid, and it felt nothing like you expected it to. Your realized that being older did not mean you have your life together, and often the illusion of being an “adult” is not all it cracked up to be?
It happens to all of us.
I remember feeling this way when I was younger- I had a lot of older friends who I looked up to and then I remember becoming as old as they were or hitting the milestones they hit in their own lives, and thinking.. wait is this it? This isn’t what I thought it would feel like???
You wish you could look back at that younger version of you and say “if you only knew how much of an imposter I feel like“.
As you guys know, I teach nursing students and a lot of the time they say things like “how did you get where you are” or “I want to be just like you”. And I think to myself- wow, if they only knew that it is not all it cracked up to be. I don’t mean that in a cynical way, but more so that I look at them and sometimes feel re-invigorated by them and how naive and excited they are for the future. It becomes so easy to go through the motions of our day to day lives and we all struggle in our own ways. It can be really scary to feel like you are bound to come short of everyone’s expectations and think to yourself- will they realize that I actually have no clue what I’m doing?
When I started as a nurse, the imposter syndrome felt even more real- you sink or you swim. There is an aspect of “faking it until you make it”, and also some elements of having to prove that you somewhat know what you’re doing so you don’t get eaten alive (remember the whole nurses eat our young thing I talked about?). Here I am at 25 doing some pretty cool things, but even so I forget to congratulate myself sometimes for my own accomplishments because I fail to recognize what it has taken to get here. I know I don’t give myself enough credit- mostly because my imposter syndrome is very very real.
I never thought I would ever be the person to feel like I didn’t want to go to work some days or lose my motivation. But I have. I also struggle to balance the many things going on in my life and the things on my plate when it comes to my profession, personal life, relationships, friends, family, and other commitments. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed, which is okay. You come to learn that there isn’t some magic day that everything becomes perfect and you achieve all of your accomplishments- growth is constant throughout our lives. It’s okay not to be perfect all the time. It can be really tough to feel like you don’t have everything “together” like you are supposed to. For me it was even harder to come to terms with this because so many people have this perception of me that I have everything together and my ability to juggle all these things being my greatest quality.
I recently had a close friend say to me that none of us truly feel “qualified” for anything- I think that’s probably true to some extent. We all put on a pretty good act when we need to, but at the end of the day its for the people around us, not for ourselves. The people who truly matter in our lives- our friends and our family, and the other people we hold closest to us will accept us for not being perfect. We’re all just trying to get through one day at a time, the best we can.
Behind every selfie I eventually decide to post after a week of consideration is probably about 50+ photos I decided not to. Behind each poster presentation I do is at least 10 abstracts I submitted that weren’t accepted. When I got my dream job right out of nursing school what you don’t know is that I submitted endless job applications and wrote 250+ cover letters to jobs from London to Toronto in adults and paediatric units because I didn’t know how my life would pan out. I’ve interviewed for jobs and haven’t gotten them. I have been in relationships that have failed. I have lost friends (and made many new ones), I have failed at things, I have struggled with my health and my mental wellness. I’ve felt like a failure when many of my friends have finished their masters degrees and moved onto new exciting things while I’ve continued on my own path (even though I’ve had lots of exciting things going on in my own life!) We post the good things, but behind that are a million other moments of peoples’ lives that you don’t see.
And then somehow we end up in this position where people expect us to guide the younger, new people who follow in our footsteps and we’re supposed to be an “expert” on how we got here? Yeah right.
It’s no wonder we almost all have imposter syndrome.
Because at the end of the day, those people you used to look up to, or the people you admire to be like on social media- you see the good parts of their lives. You don’t always see the bad. Our society is wrapped up in projecting this image of perfection to each other that is both not healthy or realistic. So now the kids look up to you and this version of you that you personify that is so far from what you really feel. Do we do ourselves a disservice by doing this? What if this image we project is so far from the truth that when people in real life get to know us they discover this “secret” we are keeping? That we don’t have it all together. That we are human beings and we are not perfect.
We have to stop thinking and caring so much about what everyone else thinks of us or this picture we paint to the world around us of our perfect lives and just do things. Do them because they are right for us. Be kind to those who are around you because they are doing just the same as you.
Til next time- keep on keeping on.