I’m embracing Impostor Syndrome in 2020 and I invite you all to do the same.
2020 is the first year I didn’t write a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions that weren’t just thinly veiled criticisms of the person that I am. I think sometimes resolutions we throw out at the beginning of New Year’s can seem so impossible to us in the long-term because they are entire personality rewrites. We write resolutions that ask ourselves to be people we simply aren’t, because we’ve bought into this idea that there’s just one way to perform adulthood and we’re somehow falling short when our performance doesn’t look the same.
I think somewhere around 18 years old, we just start treating ourselves like we’re projects or under construction for the rest of our lives and we just flail around, judging ourselves and falling into sadness because we aren’t able to be better impostors. We get disappointed with ourselves when we aren’t able to convince ourselves that we’re successfully pretending to be some version of an adult we once saw and thought we should be.
I’m a lawyer. I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child, but when I was a child and I envisioned myself being a lawyer, I didn’t actually envision me. I envisioned a version of myself that has never come into existence. I envisioned what I thought a lawyer was, or all that I thought a lawyer could be — a much more reserved, serious, and less colorful person than I am. I saw the serious academic version of myself and nothing else. I envisioned something like Olivia Pope, I guess — a Black woman without a hair out of place who wears nude nail polish and whose idea of cutting loose doesn’t go beyond drinking wine in her apartment while listening to Stevie Wonder. Instead I listen to trap music on my way to court, there’s not much reserved about me, and my nail polish is currently purple glitter. I had expected to magically morph into that Olivia Pope-like person because I thought that’s what a lawyer was, but instead, a lawyer is exactly the person that I am and have been, just with a license to practice law.
In my first year of practicing law, I struggled. Not so much because I felt like an impostor, but because some other women who looked like me and came before me felt angered or threatened that I didn’t feel like an impostor because I hadn’t chosen to pretend to be the version of a lawyer I’d once envisioned and that they had felt compelled to perform. That was something that used to irritate me deeply until it dawned on me that all of it is just a performance.
All these professions, jobs, titles, what have you, they’re just performances. They’re just performances by regular-ass people acting their asses off because they feel like impostors too. We’re all doing a little bit (or a lot) of acting, and you can choose the role you want, the role that makes you most comfortable, or is the easiest for you to juggle with the person you are at home, and you should tune out the people who want to make you feel like an impostor because you’re not doing the song and dance that they’re used to. Tune them out, because we’re all impostors. A lot of people who make themselves our adversaries or criticize us don’t even realize that they’re just trying to haze us — they went through it, and instead of remembering how much it sucked and being happy to see other people change the system or resist the same pressures they had to deal with, they become angry, resentful, and jealous because they think you should have to go through what they went through and you should have to do the exact same performance.
It’s those people that will try to convince you that you don’t belong, but believe me, they aren’t the gatekeeper to your success, no matter how much they think that they are or how much they want to be. You will be alright. You’re an impostor, like everyone else who’s just trying to adult and make it through the day, and there’s way more than just one kind of whatever you want to be.