First time I felt like an imposter? I remember it clearly.
Being dropped off with my older brother Mitch for swim practice. I was ten years old. My lower ‘Gold’ skill level coach wasn’t there that day. My practice moved last-minute to a different pool on the other side of town.
Against my choosing, I joined the practice with my older brother and his peers. I selected the slowest lane and tried to blend in. To act as if I was a chameleon. I felt as though I was miles outside of my depth. I was in the same pool I had been in every day but those around me made me feel like I was not worthy. A perception of not belonging.
Irrational fears flooded in. I was a small shrimp at the time who hadn’t gotten her growth spurt yet. What if everyone found out I didn’t belong? I didn’t want to be called out. I was afraid I wouldn’t be fast enough. The others would lap me. I thought to myself: what’s the worst that could happen? I get out of the pool and take an extra-long hot shower until the time is up.
By the end of the practice, I was leading the lane for my strongest stroke with sprinting backstroke. I couldn’t believe it. I started to show up to the more challenging Silver practices instead of the Gold practices. I left my old friends but I gained more credibility and faster times at meets. Each time I dove into the pool with the older kids, I felt more like I belonged. That my difference of age didn’t matter. It’s as though I harnessed the small success I had as a force field to keep on going. I didn’t want to go back to the old way. Every action I took was a vote for the swimmer I wanted to be. I wanted to be better.
Countless times since I have had this feeling of not being worthy to be in the same room as those around me. I don’t think I will ever feel like I am worthy enough. These feelings are not facts. To help our future selves reach our potential, the self-narrative must be rewritten
Imposter syndrome is like modern-day humility. If we are too humble, fraudulent feelings invade. Keep track of the facts of how far you have come and keep going.