We were leaving a neighbor’s barbecue. My husband was away on a business trip. My two kids, still toddlers, looked up at me expectantly, confident they were in good hands.
t This happened more than 20 years ago, when I was in my early 30s, and the memory is still vivid. I thought to myself, “I’m not really a grown-up, but I have these two little people depending on me. They think I know what I’m doing so I’ll just have to pretend.”
t Have you ever wondered when the rest of the world will realize that you don’t know what you’re doing? I think it happens to everyone on occasion. I’m amazed at the number of successful people who confess to being insecure. They don’t think they are good enough to do the things they are already doing quite well. When the problem is extreme, it’s called Impostor Syndrome, and it is found mostly in women.
t Most of us are afflicted by at least a bit of self-doubt, that little voice inside our heads that tells us that we can’t do something. I read a great story about this by Sara Matson in our book Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive. It was called “Battling My Inner Bully” and Sara described how, even in grade school, her inner bully was much worse than any bully she encountered in class. She says, “I grew up lacking self-confidence, even though outwardly I was a high achiever. I excelled in school, earned a full scholarship to college, graduated magna cum laude, and became a world-traveling teacher. But I couldn’t fully enjoy those accomplishments, because always, underneath, was the feeling that I wasn’t good enough.”
t It took an autoimmune disease to give Sara the confidence she needed to stifle that inner voice. After explaining to a counselor that her white blood cells were attacking her own body, Sara had an epiphany. “That’s funny,” she said. “I just realized that’s what I do. I attack my own self.”
t That insight changed Sara. On her 40th birthday, she wrote in her journal: “This year, I want to be kind to myself.”
t She says it has been hard work, but she has learned to talk back to that little voice in her head, saying things like “I didn’t do that perfectly, but it was good enough,” or “Everyone says things they wish they hadn’t,” or “Good people are human and make mistakes.”
t As the author Sally Kempton says, “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” We can all learn from Sara’s lesson and call off the attack by that enemy. We can take charge of our own inner voices.
t For a similar story read, “You can’t Afford to Doubt Yourself” from Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.