I don’t dream much, I leave all that to Fionnuala, who is a prolific nocturnal storyteller. But last night I dreamt I was a trainee pilot. I turned up at the airport for my first shift to be told I was flying a massive jet to Australia. No pressure, then, although I did have to run around the airport chemists in a crazy rush, purchasing toiletries for this unexpected jaunt to the other side of the world.
The captain and co-pilot were very friendly and welcoming but had been misinformed that I knew what I was doing when, in fact, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING!!! Passengers also were permitted to randomly wander in and out of the cockpit throughout the journey, which did little to abate my already frazzled nerves. It’s fair to say I was facing an uphill battle to make it down under.
Thankfully I took to this jumbo jet flying lark like a duck to water. Turns out I was a natural and, under the watchful eye of the captain, I traversed the globe without a hitch, landing in Perth or Sidney or wherever with the tiniest of bumps. I could even afford a snooze somewhere over the Philippines in a bunk bed outside the cockpit. I’m telling you, this plane had everything. A veritable piece of cake.
Before you could say ‘Stephen just flew to the other side of the world with zero experience or training,’ I was back in Belfast preparing for my next mission, and wracked with guilt and worry. I was a fraud, a fake, a complete and utter charlatan. My Antipodean antics had been a fluke, there was no way I was going to pull that off again without being found out for the shameless imposter I actually was.
Imposter. One who deceives and tricks, who is not who they say they are, and do not belong where they are. It even has a syndrome connected to it, these days. I’ve felt an imposter for most of my life, as if I didn’t belong, I was horribly out of my depth and any moment was going to be caught out and mercilessly mocked. Paraded through the streets in a cart until we reached the stocks where little kids would delight in throwing rotten vegetables at me.
I still feel that at times. As a husband, a father, a leader in the workplace. Scratch beneath the veneer of confidence and you will find nothing. I’m like that image of a swan, gliding serenely along the surface, while underneath I’m paddling furiously to stay afloat. The same applies to my writing, running, everything. It’s all a carefully constructed illusion and the wheels can come off in spectacular fashion at any moment.
Thankfully I have a very supportive family who encourage and support me every step of the way. They pick me up and dust me down whenever I hit a bump in the road. I just have to get up and keep trudging forward, always forward. Every step is a victory over the doubting voice in my head which revels in reminding me I’ll never amount to anything. Or the external voices who whisper and mutter as I pass them by.
I’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay, just as long as I’m palatable to those who matter. For every setback and negative comment there are countless others who are there when I need them. Those who are true to their word and who believe in who I am and my capabilities. These are the people I must, likewise, believe in as well as learning to believe in myself. I’m not an imposter. I’m just me.
Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?