I don’t really know how to say this tactfully- so I am just going to come right out with it. No beating around the bush: What if they find me out? No, really, what if I am not what they think I am? What if they made a mistake? What if I can’t live up to THEIR expectations?
I stress. I toss and turn. I worry and my mind is uncontrollable. Why did they pick me? I am just a regular person- nothing remarkable or outstanding. Except, the thing is that I was chosen for the promotion, new job, award, speaking position… insert notable accolade here.
Insecurity takes over; I am a banana without a peel, all squishy and vulnerable. We all have it. It’s the part of me that never grew up to realize that I am, in fact, an adult- pretty far into adult years (but not too far)- with actual adult experience. So I reason with myself- how I choose to learn from and use this experience may truly set me apart from others. Perhaps that’s when I find my own personal cheerleader. I realize that “their expectations” are actually my expectations. I have fulfilled “their” expectations already. That’s why I was chosen. They saw something in me that I struggle to see in myself.
Often peers tell me that they have had the same feelings. Evidently, individuals handle it in different ways. For example, a manager may choose to point fingers at his subordinates when faced with an executive’s difficult questions. If he points fingers at them, maybe his boss won’t see his own inadequacies. The one thing I have noticed is that those who are successful still have insecurities, but they learn to develop a strong self-confidence which prevents the perpetuation of that insecurity into their everyday lives. Remember StuartSmalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me!” There is something to be said for his now infamous rant (his voice, however, still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.) Seeing in yourself what other people see in you is probably one of the most difficult obstacles one may have to overcome. Nevertheless, embracing the successes, recognition and accolades, rather than refuting or denying them, is a great first step. You will always be your own worst critic. I argue that this is especially true of women.
So, next time I get an email from a peer recognizing me for my work, what will I think? Most likely “What if they find me out?” and then “those old SNL episodes can really offer life lessons.” Because I am good enough, I am smart enough and I am earning each of my successes through hard work and by maintaining my integrity. In so doing, I am living up to my own expectations.