Josh stayed home sick this week.
He is not a kid who likes to miss school, so I knew he must really not be feeling well. After a good sleep in, I set him up on the couch and told him to just relax while I returned some phone calls for work.
I had cancelled several clients in order to stay home, so my first call was to a client who asked if we could do our session on the phone. He is a young guy, who suffered a spinal cord injury as well as a brain injury in an accident several years ago. He had been on a bad track in life, and the accident was a sad consequence of some poor choices. He had decided he wanted to go to college, and I was called in to help him finish his high school credits, despite his significant injuries. He had wanted to meet that day to tell me the good news: he had been accepted to the three college programs he had applied to! After I showered him with congratulations, we got down to business: which program would he choose. We went through the pros and cons, discussed his ambitions and dreams, and then the realities of his situation and he settled on one program. So excited for him.
The next call I had to make was for another client I have been working with for 2 years. Lovely man, who in addition to his brain injury, has some significant visual impairments. While his vision is not great, it is not bad enough for him to qualify for a vision service dog. A few years ago, I had introduced him to the idea of a “Helping Dog” – and knew of an organization who raised and trained these dogs. (I had another client who was a recipient of one of these dogs and it has been life changing for her). I helped him complete the lengthy application, submit the required letters and wrote a letter of reference. He had called to tell me he had been selected to receive a dog this summer! Thrilled for him, he thanked me for introducing him to the idea and helping him achieve this goal.
I finished these two phone calls and Josh sat up from the couch and said, “Mom, you just helped someone get into college AND you helped someone get a dog?” (Of course, given Josh’s love and adoration of Reggie, the “getting a dog” help was superhero status). He continued, “Wow, Mom. That’s cool that you did that.”
I immediately proceeded to tell him it wasn’t a big deal, they had done all the work, it’s part of my job etc. etc.
Then I remembered an excerpt of the book “Lean in” by Sheryl Sandberg that I had read this past summer.
Sandberg shares how she attended a talk years ago given by Peggy McIntosh entitled, “Feeling like a Fraud”. She summarizes McIntosh’s remarks, and explains, “many people, especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their field, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are – impostors with limited skills and abilities”.
Sandberg then goes on to talk about the “Imposter Syndrome” and the self doubt women have. The limiting confidence, the insistence that their success is a product of “luck” and help from others.
This part in Sandberg’s book really resonated with me. Not to say that I feel I am a high achiever as the “Imposter Syndrome”‘ criteria requires, (see, did I just even do it there? I’m an imposter to think that I could be an imposter syndrome candidate), but I often cringe at compliments to success, and I am very keen to point out how “I didn’t do much” (and in fairness to my clients, they really do all the work…maybe…or maybe I do actually help??)
Last night I got another piece of good news. Several months back, an article I had written a couple of years ago was selected to go in a book, and will be released in the next few months (more details to follow, for sure). They sent me an email announcing the release date and the plans for the launch. I have known that the book would be published for months, however never thought much about it, because in my mind, it was not a big deal, and likely would not come to fruition.
Immediately, in my mind popped the word “Imposter.”
According to Wikipedia, the most effective technique to overcome impostor syndrome is to simply recognize that it exists. By recognizing it, you can learn to control your thoughts, and start changing them.
Sandberg, in “Lean In” suggests the effective strategy of “fake it till you feel it” Feeling confident – or even pretending to feel confident is necessary to reach opportunities. She talks of women who sit in meetings, choosing to sit on the periphery, not wanting to take a space at the actual meeting table – seeming more like spectators than participants in the meeting.
Sandberg admits that timing, luck, hard work, and others have a role in our success. That is often what I have chosen to focus on. I am a good SLP because I have great clients. I am a good wife, because – have you seen who I am married to? I am a good mother because my kids are still young and so far so good (lucky me)! I am a good stepmother because I lucked out too on having some good step kids.
But, as Sandberg says, we also have to believe in our own abilities. Is it possible that I actually do help my clients? Is it possible that my kids are great because they are my greatest priority and my focus is on teaching them good values and loving them unconditionally? That my step kids are thriving in our home too because I have invested in our relationships and created traditions and a family culture to support this? That my relationship with my husband is great because I actually am a good, kind, loving, giving wife?
It feels weird writing this. It feels like I am boasting, bragging, or tooting my own horn.
But maybe, just maybe, I am not an imposter. I have always tried to have an attitude of gratitude and acknowledge the powerful role models and supports I have had in my life. I am very cognizant that I am blessed beyond measure, and my faith has been a foundation on which I build, as without it, I am nothing. However, that same faith has taught me that I am an individual, with divine worth, and with amazing talents and skills that I should not hide.
There is a place at the table for me. I just need to claim it.
So, yes, Josh, this week I helped a boy get into college. I also helped a man get a Helping dog. And yes, an article I wrote is going to be published in a book in the next couple of months. (By the way, I also took care of you when you were sick.)
Not a bad week for an imposter.