My good friend Ashley wrote a collection of essays cleverly titled If You Can Trust An Impostor. Ashley has an uncanny ability to make me questions everything I ever think I know. I recently took a trip to Phoenix to meet up with her and see one of our favorite podcasts perform live.
The first night we met up, we ended up chatting into the late hours of the night. Among the many topics we discussed, we talked about some things that had been troubling me about my professional life. Things had weighed on me for some time, and though I have gotten better in recent years at talking about things, I continue to have a tendency to hold close the things that both me most, afraid what it might mean if others were to see it.
After listening to my story, Ashley looked at me thoughtfully and said “Look at this way. It’s much harder to be this other person than it is to be you.” Her implication? Sure, I was being bullied, but the person with real fear was the one doing the bullying. Having such a perspective made the return to work more manageable, and I was able to find a peace and confidence in myself I had thought I’d lost.
I’ve spent a good portion of the year so far lost in thought. Every week or so, I make new resolutions in my head. I resolve to be more decisive, to be more action-oriented. To get out of my own head and give life to some of my dreams. I’ve lived more dreams in my head, which then fizzled out, than I would care to admit.
The silver lining has been the realization that actually doing things feels much better than thinking about doing things. Rather than thinking about how nice it might be to learn something, or to brush up on things I’ve long forgotten, I’ve found myself actually looking things up and writing about them. Writing about things has in turned helped me better retain what I’m trying to learn. I always knew putting things into my own words did that, but in my haze of telling myself I was too tired or didn’t have time, that fact had escaped me. I sure am glad it found me again, though, because it makes things seem an awful lot brighter.
Over the weekend, I saw down and read If You Can Trust An Impostor from start to finish (I had intended to savor it, and maybe read an essay a day for a week, but it was too good to put down). From the moment I started, I found myself marveling at Ashley’s gift with ideas. She articulated beautifully what I have found myself thinking for a long time: that I might actually be an imposter, and I didn’t even realize it. I often have this thought that people will someday wise up to me, and it’s never until somebody asks me a question I acutally know the answer to (and not just a rote answer, but rather an answer rooted in experience and considerable thought on the subject) that I realize that I’m less fake than I thought.
To read something and make the reader feel uncomfortable is one thing, but Ashley has the ability to go further. She makes you rethink your perspective, and makes you feel human. We all get lost sometimes, but the only way to find our way again is to just be ourselves and let ourselves be less than perfect. The happiest moments in my life have been rife with imperfection. Recognizing imperfection has recently helped me grown both intellectually and emotionally.
I keep thinking about being a recovering perfectionist. Much of my year this year has been spent thinking about this, and trying to devise the perfect way to get started with this recovery. While meanwhile, no recovery was happening. An hour spent reading essays (and rereading them, too) left me hungry for action. I didn’t make any grand proclamation, but instead found myself sitting quietly at my desk and starting checking items off my to-do list. Small actions, done a few at a time, have already begun to add up. I like where this is going.