Earlier this week, Hope Jahren posted about how she got past imposter syndrome. As she clarified later in a tweet, it is a story, not a recipe. Still, it got me thinking. I think her fourth item is particularly powerful:
" I know that what I am is separate from what I know and how I perform."
If only I could really, truly believe that myself. I have been thinking a lot about giving myself permission to fail, and how, if I could successfully do that- really do that, not just say I'm going to do that- I'd be so much more likely to take the risks I'll have to take to pursue some of my bigger ambitions.
There is a career-related thing I'm considering doing right now, and if I'm going to do it, I really need to be OK with the idea that I might try it and fail. It is a big, audacious goal, and there is absolutely no way I can guarantee I can succeed. I've thought about how to de-risk it, and everything I come up with eviscerates the goal.
That is, by the way, my usual mode of action. I'll think of something big and possibly cool I could try, and then talk myself into doing something much smaller, telling myself that the small thing might grow into the original idea. But in most cases that is a convenient lie.
In this case, at least, I think I need to either go all in or not go in at all. I can think of ways to decrease the financial risk of failure, but I cannot decrease the embarrassment risk of failure, not if I want to have a chance to succeed.
So this is interesting, particularly coupled with my raging self-doubt. I honestly cannot predict what I'll do.
The other aspect is that if I decide to do this thing I'll probably need to step far outside my comfort zone in terms of marketing/self-promotion. Previously, that alone would probably have provided my nervous subconscious with enough ammunition to kill the idea, because "I'm no good at and don't like marketing."
Recently, though, I've discovered that I can do it if forced, and maybe not even mind it (too much). This is really not surprising, given the fact that I in general learn skills best only when I actually need them, i.e., when the lack of that skill is standing in my way of accomplishing something I want to do. This is why I never really took to programming as a kid or young adult, despite having a few chances to do so. I never needed it to get something done. In graduate school, I had a project I wanted to do and the only way I was going to do it was to learn to code, and so I learned what I needed to know.
Now, I find that I need to do some marketing to make Tungsten Hippo into what I want it to be. And so I'm learning marketing. It helps that in the intervening years, marketing has gotten a lot more about experimentation and data analysis and a lot less about glad-handing (or maybe I've just grown and discovered a different aspect of marketing). Regardless, I am currently working more on marketing Tungsten Hippo than on trying out tech-related things on the site.
Don't get me wrong: I completely suck at marketing right now. But I'm reading and learning and hopefully getting better.
This leads to the next interesting question: why am I OK with sucking at marketing Tungsten Hippo, but not at possibly sucking if I try my big career-related idea?
The answer is as simple as it is unflattering: ego. I have more of my self-worth invested in my career than in Tungsten Hippo. Tungsten Hippo is a fun little side project that I specifically created as a learning environment. My career? Well, it is a lot more than that to me. It is part of my identity.
Which brings me back to Hope Jahren's point #4. I need to really embrace the idea that I am not my career, and that I will be OK if I reach high and come up short.
I talk a lot about these things with Pumpkin, who has a wide perfectionist streak and a dislike of being seen to not know things. Perhaps it is time for me to start showing her what I mean.