A little over a year ago, a former colleague approached me with an offer to join his healthcare IT start-up as its first employee. My first thought was, “Why me?” (The Impostor Syndrome showed up again…the *itch.) I ignored that thought–at first–and he and I continued talking about the amazing opportunity at hand. I became increasingly confident as the conversation continued and I recalled everything I had achieved until then. (Yay!) But, as our discussion grew closer to the point when I would have to accept the job offer or not, my thoughts cascaded into the depths of self-doubt and fear (not yay):
What if it doesn’t work?
What if I fail?
What would people think if I failed?
If I fail, where would I go? Who would hire me?
Do I really want to risk the great life and job I have now?
Whoa. What voices were these? I realized I needed to check in with someone in my support system to pull me out of the swirling waters that were making me indecisive and fearful. I called up one of my mentors to talk about what I was facing. I explained that I was interested in the new opportunity, but scared that it wouldn’t work and then I would be out of a job, and then where would I go? What would I do? etc., etc., etc.
The first thing my mentor did was to remind me to breathe. That helped me slow down the speed of all those negative and fearful thoughts and voices in my head. Then, he reminded me that the big world is filled with many opportunities, even ones outside of what, at the time, was my current bubble. He listed out facts about my life that my fear had prevented me from seeing clearly: I had risen through the ranks at a start-up already. I had been the first employee of a company that achieved tremendous success, and I had succeeded in a variety of roles there. In short, my mentor encouraged me and quelled my fears. But more importantly, his words affirmed his confidence in me. “You can find work,” he said. “Easily!”
Deep down, I knew that what my mentor told me was true, but my tendency toward self-doubt prevented me from admitting that out loud. The Impostor Syndrome was having its way with me, filling my head with questions and fear, and it was paralyzing me. So I just continued to ruminate on what my mentor had said, but didn’t make a final decision about accepting the new role.
Several weeks later, I heard a comment that made me decide unequivocally and fearlessly about my opportunity. One of my older colleagues, who had a great and successful career, said, “The one thing I regret the most about my career is not taking chances.” I was taken aback by the statement at first, but then it inspired me to take advantage of the chance I had right in front of me. I made the decision to accept the offer for the new job there and then. I knew deep down that accepting the job offer was the right decision for me, and I can say today that I have no regrets at all for doing so.
Looking back, I can identify three events that helped guide me to my decision, and each one concerns the voices I listened to during the process. You will notice that the Impostor Syndrome’s voice does not make the list. 😉
- I listened to my mentor. By reminding me of all I had achieved in order to be considered for the new opportunity, my mentor provided the counterarguments to the Impostor Syndrome’s voice in my head.
- I listened to trustworthy advice. My colleague provided what I considered sage advice about taking chances. His comment made me wonder, “If he has been this successful not taking chances, then where could taking a chance take me?”
- I listened to my soul. This was a crucial part of my decision-making: What my mentor and colleague told me rang true in my heart, and I knew in my gut that they were right. I realized that it was just the voices of fear and the Impostor Syndrome that had been creating the turbulence of indecision and holding me back.
So, when you are faced with having to make a big decision, talk to the people in your support system. Let them help push you through your fears and the voice of the Impostor Syndrome. And, pay attention to what your gut tells you about what is really holding you back and what you really want to do. Look for the truths that show you the way to your destiny!
Be sure to check in here next week, when one of our friends shares his story (yes, “his”) about combatting the Impostor Syndrome with some inspiration he got from GGTW!