I should be happy, I thought, as I walked around my apartment, making deep crop circles in my beige rug.
But I felt sick. A nauseous feeling came in waves throughout my body as if I was riding an ocean liner in turbulent waters.
I mean this was on my vision board and it had been for years. Publishing an article. I should be screaming from the rooftops.
Instead, I felt like I was detoxing from a night of heavy drinking. Which, in my world, is equivalent to two glasses of Prosecco. I had visions of myself rocking back and forth in the corner, like a child trying to calm herself down after being scolded.
I tried to talk myself out of these emotions flooding out of me faster than I could name them. I’m okay. I’m okay. I kept repeating the words over and over again. It’s just an article, no one will see it. Beads of sweat formed on my face and I could feel armpit stains beginning to form.
I walked around mindlessly to my makeshift kitchen-office table and dabbled with work and answering emails to break the cycle of thoughts and feelings swirling in my body. This went on for hours and I was exhausted. I could not believe I felt this way.
I finally sat down and took a deep breath. Face your feelings and deal with what’s going on. Why are you feeling like this? The voice inside me said you know why—you don’t feel deserving.
The color drained from my face. I knew this was true. I had a habit of sabotaging my success at the last minute. Right when something incredible would burst open, I would find a way to cut it off short. At work or school, I would give credit for my work to someone else and let them shine. I would quickly dismiss compliments and change the conversation. At a speed dating event, I would set up the guy at my table with the girl behind me, as if teeing her up. It was safer this way. Lots of feelings I didn’t have to address and never wanted to admit.
In this moment I had a choice. I could hide again or break through and be seen. I started Googling articles like, “why don’t I feel deserving/worthy;” I read articles on “Impostor Syndrome” and reasons behind the lack of worthiness. A Forbes article mentioned that “Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Jennifer Lopez both dealt with Impostor Syndrome. In a “Good Morning Britain” interview, Lopez said “After being told for so many years that you’re not as good as this person or that person, it beats away on your insecurities…I always wanted to be a singer and a dancer but when they start dissecting you like that, it does work away at your insecurities. You know? I’m like, ‘Wow, I thought I was good at this.’ It does get to you. I’m only human.”
It seems as though a majority of successful and high-achieving women (and a smaller percentage of men) experience Impostor Syndrome. Well, at least I’m in good company.
Impostor Syndrome was not even a new concept to me. A few months earlier, I had seen a presentation on the reasons behind it. But at the time I dismissed it, proud that I didn’t have this fear and looked empathetically at everyone else in the room. Until, now.
My “imposteritis” was rearing its ugly head and I couldn’t run—now I was in the spotlight. Yes, I was one of those people now.
This was my time to shine. I was at a tipping point in life. If I didn’t conquer this fear now, I would continue this endless cycle of almost but not quite. There was too much on the line…my life. I was determined to live my purpose and nothing was going to get in my way.
I could feel my little ninja warrior gearing up and getting ready for battle. I visualized her donning a bandana across her forehead, sharpening the tip of her spear.
Oh, how I loved her and hated her at the same time. Once she was in fighting mode, she never backed down. Oh sh*t. Here we go. She started to warm up, cracking her knuckles, moving her head from side to side, and hopping up and down like a Mexican jumping bean. She was heading to the front lines of the battlefield and yelled a wild Banshee scream, frantically waving her hand for me to follow “Are you with me? Let’s do this!” Inside my head, I’m thinking,” no, you crazy hyped-up ninja. I’m not. P.S. I don’t like you right now.”
I called a trusted friend. She recently had a baby. I was secretly hoping she was busy changing diapers and would only half hear what I was saying. I made small talk, rubbed my big toe into my carpet and timidly said, “Oh hey, you know that writing thing I was kind of doing for fun. Um…well…um. It was published.”
I waited for her response. I called her for a reason, she was a C-Suite badass who wore fear like it was her favorite leather jacket. I secretly knew she wouldn’t let me back out. That’s why we call certain friends, right? For advice we want to hear but hope they won’t say. She all too calmly responded, “It’s no big deal. You’re overthinking it. Half the people won’t even see your post.”
“Oh, really?” I replied.
“Oh yeah, totally…just do it. If you truly want to live your life helping others, you need to be vulnerable too.”
Uh-huh, I mumbled….sh*t why did she say that? I’m dedicated to helping other people and that was really all I really needed to hear. Sneaky—she set me up. She knew my emotional button and gently pushed it. Now I was mad at my friend and my ninja warrior.
My little ninja smirked and said, “Let’s do this—right now.”
Internally, I was self-aware, yet I was still not willing to jump off a cliff. Teeter-tottering on the cliff, holding the edge with a gorilla grip. Trying not to “fall up” in this case.
Ironically, I had a call with my life coach the same morning. I debated whether or not I would tell her. I mean, she was actually the one who gave the presentation on Impostor Syndrome that time I quickly dismissed myself as “not it.” I was scared to tell my coach for god’s sake!
Of course, I waited until the end of the call and slid it in at the final minute, just when she had to leave for another call. “By the way, let me know when you have time…I can give you an update on a few things. Not a big deal.” Her seasoned Spidey senses picked up on my high-pitched voice. “What? You can’t say that and leave me hanging lady.” I confessed and told her how I was feeling.
She immediately asked, “What thoughts are making you feel this way?” I mumbled that I didn’t know. It’s hard “being seen” even though I’m truly appreciative of the praise. She read the article. “Oh my god, I love this!” she said. “Really?” I answered. It meant something to me that my coach was affirming my words. “Yes! We are sending this out to everyone.” My brain screeched. “Um ex-squeeze me?” I felt myself shrinking in my chair. I tried to soothe myself. I knew there was no turning back now…that sneaky little ninja. Ugh!
I could sense my little ninja had enough. She crossed her arms, took a firm stance, and looked at me. “Enough.” Internally, I gave her my most disgusted look. I sat at the computer and picked the lowest common denominator—Instagram. I only had a handful of followers. Hardly any would notice. It seemed like a benign approach.
I wrote and rewrote the message. Carefully choosing each word and then hit “post.” I got up and started pacing. Bent over and checked my phone, Okay good. No one has seen it, she’s right okay no big deal. I can do this.
Then there was the big mamma jamma: Facebook. Oh lord, it was a mix of family, friends, and colleagues from the last 30 years all over the world. My little ninja was aching for a battle. I hated her right about now. Internally, I knew I had to listen to my coach and that screaming little ninja so I could reframe my thoughts and take action. I had to leap before I had a chance to back out and needed to act quickly.
I ferociously began to type, again, writing and rewriting, fretting over whether it was too long or too short. I finally wore myself out and hit “post.” Again nothing. She was right. Then another wave of feelings washed over me “Wait so no one cares? What the hell!!!”
I was vacillating from the fear of being seen and the fear of not being seen.
I was a hot mess.
I walked back and forth between my couch and table, incessantly picking up my phone and putting it down. As if I was waiting for a cute guy to text me. I hated that feeling. Then ding, ding, ding…my phone, Instagram, and Facebook all began to sound at once. “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson.” It was as if air raid sirens were blaring in my room and meteors were wailing from the sky. My body wanted to dive into the nearest bomb shelter and hide. “What did I just do?” I contemplated leaving little ninja to fend for herself while I duck and cover.
I hesitantly looked at my phone. It was a message from a sweet friend who was like a little sister to me. Our paths had diverged over the years and although we saw social media posts from one another, we had not seen or spoken in years. Her message knocked me off my feet. “I’m so proud of you. I’ve always looked up to you as a big sister. My heart is beaming for you.” I could feel her love and warmth oozing through her message, and my heart swelled.
It continued like this for the rest of the day. I heard from long-lost friends from elementary school, high school, friends of friends, and complete strangers who had seen the article. All were sharing pure love. How the story made them feel, similar shared experiences, it helped them heal, and gave them pause to reflect on their own life. Many asked that I continue writing. They wanted more.
I sat on my grey couch taking it all in. It was okay. I was okay. The world wanted and needed my stories. I had something to offer and my voice mattered.
In that moment, I realized we often hide in the shadows of our own true self. Allowing our fears to consume us, too afraid to face them. Whether it is the fear of being seen, failing, succeeding, or voicing our opinions, staying in the shadows feels safer. It’s much quieter, nicer, and more peaceful there—no drama.
Our fears are valid and real. But in the end, we not only lose our true self, but the world also loses the powerful gifts we’ve been given to shape the world and to make it better. What would the world be like if we all faced our fears? Embraced even one of our strengths and wielded it like a mighty sword to uplift, improve, help, support, and share it with the ones we know and the ones we have yet to meet.
We all have a little ninja inside of us just waiting to come out fighting. She may be hidden in the shadows but she is there, ready to do battle for you. Let her out and let her shine. You will not have any regrets walking in the world with your little ninja by your side.