There are a few things I think I do very well. Clean a kitchen counter. Make a green smoothie. Parallel park. And provide a supportive, compassionate oncology massage.
Recently, I applied for a part time job working exclusively with people during and after their cancer treatment. I had no doubt that I was qualified for the job. I had met the hiring manager before and she had encouraged me to apply for any openings they had. The interviews went very well, I thought. All in all, I looked forward to good news and a little financial sigh of relief.
About a week later, I received the news that I had not been hired for the position. I immediately began my retroactive storymaking. Of course I could sense that the hiring manager and I didn’t quite gel, I just didn’t want to dwell on it before. Come to think of it — it did seem like she had made a decision well before she talked to me.
In short, I was trying to come up with a story that felt somehow better than what I really felt. Because what I really felt was that I was (am) a complete imposter, deceiving no one but myself with my ridiculous confidence.
And, really, if I was wrong about this one thing, wasn’t I wrong about everything else too? Had I ever really bacteria tested my kitchen counter? Maybe all those people who tried one of my green smoothies were just being polite. And when was the last time I had managed to parallel park in a truly tight spot?
I suspect that far too many of you recognize this syndrome. Maybe you’re in the middle of it right now. Maybe, like me, you feel it like a movable wall that magically appears five steps into every single one of your new ideas. Maybe, like me, you are letting the disappointment obscure the lesson.
Although the imposter syndrome is strong with me (and is fed by the far more difficult practice-building tasks ahead of me,) I am still in touch with my rational brain. She knows things. Like — I am supremely qualified for that job, and I am not the only person who is. Or — my interview follow-up game is pretty weak, so perhaps I hurt myself in that way. Even — the more difficult, self-employed path is much harder, but it also brings me more overall happiness.
Rejection sucks. Any kind of rejection. And rejection for something that I know (I just know!) I would be great at — this feels particularly unfair. Somewhere in there, I know that this is one person’s decision about one job. I have all these stories — all these true stories — of people who felt better after seeing me. I have a conviction that I am doing the work I am meant to do, or I will be when I get my practice built up a bit more.
The movable wall still appears, and I am learning that it is made of styrofoam. Or biodegradable corn-based materials, if you prefer. The point is, I can kick that sucker down any time I please. And I’m ready. Almost. Just another thin layer of confidence, and it’s going down.
I’m keeping the lessons, though. You can bet that if I ever interview for another job, my follow up game will be on point.