I’ve got something that I need to admit to everyone reading this. I’m a fake.
I constantly fail at putting into practice what I preach on this blog. Ask my wife.
Not just that, but there are times when I feel as though I fake my way through just about everything in life.
At work, I’m constantly amazed that I’m considered the expert when it comes to finance, and that I’m asked to give opinions on “what the numbers mean for the business”. I majored in philosophy, for cryin’ out loud! What do I know about finance?
At home, I have a two and a half year old son that I’m expected to be a father to. A father! Me! I’m barely responsible enough to take care of a dog, let alone a kid.
This really boils down to an inferiority complex. I feel like I somehow woke up one day and was stuck in the movie Big. Deep down inside, it feels like I’m just a kid playing dress up. I’m scared that someone’s going to figure it out one day, you know?
It’s also symptomatic of a person who feels that who s/he is on the outside isn’t quite matching up with who s/he is on the inside. I feel that I’m somehow being inauthentic.
I can’t believe I’m alone in this. I’m sure there have to be others out there who feel the same way. I just wanted to speak up and let you know that there’s someone else who feels it, too.
To a certain extent, this feeling is good. It can keep us motivated to continue to improve. We can channel the fear into overcoming inertia and developing more skills. The problems come when we start listening to the little voice in our heads that’s telling us we’ll never live up to expectations.
I don’t know if we can ever truly escape this feeling, but there are ways to own it.
1. Admit it. You don’t need to go around telling people you feel like this (unless you’re me, apparently), but you do need to admit it to yourself. When you start feeling like you’ve got everything figured out, you’ll get complacent. You won’t continue to press forward and work on the areas in your life that need work.
2. Realize you can’t fake everyone out. What I mean by that is, you couldn’t possibly have fooled everyone you’ve come into contact with. Somewhere along the line, your actions and decisions demonstrated to others that you belong in the position you’re in. If I weren’t at least a moderately competent financial analyst, people wouldn’t ask my for my opinion on what the numbers mean. The same goes for you, too. Whether or not you believe in yourself, someone else does.
3. Stick up for yourself. I know that there have been a lot of times when people have challenged my assertions, and it turns out that they were wrong, not me. Just today, in fact, I had someone a few levels above me in the food chain challenge some of my work. Naturally, the little voice inside piped up and said, “Look, you goofed up! Someone finally caught you!”. Thing was, I knew I was right, and I was able to calm them down and talk through the project I had provided. I eventually showed them what was wrong with their assumptions. I’m not saying it’s always like that, because it’s not. But you need to have faith in yourself.
If you know you’re right, stick to your guns.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Conversely, there have been many more times when I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was doing, and I had to go ask someone for help. Either to my boss to clarify some requirements, or to co-workers who’ve been doing the job a lot longer than I have. Every time I have to do this, I absolutely hate it. I don’t want to admit that I don’t know what’s going on, because I’m worried people are going to lose trust in my abilities.
I think of it like this: the risk of looking stupid when asking to clarify something is a lot lower than the risk of completing a project without knowing what the requirements are. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who expects me to understand everything I’m ever told, without questions, on the first go. You probably haven’t met too many of them, either.
I’m not saying this feeling will ever go away. It might when you’re old(er), I don’t know (if you are old(er) and can confirm or deny, leave a comment, would you?). The thing is, this blog’s about personal development, not personal perfection. We’re all just striving to get better.
Edit: I’ve linked this before, but it’s still true.
Photo courtesy: WordRidden