Three score and five years ago, my 8th grade music teacher handed me sheet music to “The Dream of Olwen” (Charles Williams, Composer) and suggested I should perform this on the piano with the school orchestra at the annual school music festival. One look at the music sent pangs of self-doubt through me and I felt this was not only a difficult task, but a near impossible one as well. I had been taking piano lessons since the age of eight and was considered a pretty good musician for someone my age, although I didn’t believe it. Nevertheless, I practiced the piece for weeks alone, and with the orchestra, and successfully performed it at the festival. That should have been a lesson that I am capable of more than I thought.
I was not raised in the most supportive household and self-doubt was so rampant in my life that it led me to give up the piano at the age of eighteen…self-sabotage at its finest.
Years later, the idea of becoming an actor intrigued me, however, I took no action for the same reason…I simply didn’t feel I was good enough.
My self-esteem received a much needed boost during my time in the military since I accomplished much more than I thought capable and, as a result, years later I decided to leave my comfort zone and audition for a play being produced in our community. I booked a lead role and immediately had to memorize many pages of dialogue. Another impossible task I thought, yet despite my self-doubt, I accomplished it.
I learned that my self-doubt had been standing in the way of success and that I was engaging in self-sabotage. At that point, I made the decision to continue leaving my comfort zone and try to accomplish those things I used to dream about. This led to years doing live radio and hosting a regional television program…two things I once thought would never happen. I was accomplishing things I never thought I could do! Nevertheless, I was hit with another malady…a malady commonly known as the Imposter Syndrome.
During my time in radio and television, I received compliments from others and was even nominated for a press club award two years in a row. I received a proclamation from our city council honoring me for my support in the community. I was honored by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army for my efforts in supporting their missions. These awards take up space on the wall of a room in my house and should be a reminder that I have done well.
Should, but not always.
There were times I felt I would soon be discovered as a phony…a fake...and that all my accomplishments were the result of dumb luck…being in the right place at the right time. In short, I was a poster boy for the Imposter Syndrome.
It has taken time, but I have managed to overcome my self-doubt by accepting that I will never rise above being human and that I am OK just the way I am…warts and all. I can stop trying to be a perfectionist in order to live up to what I feel others expect of me. I have had to separate the facts of my accomplishments from my feelings of self-doubt. Most of all, it has been a relief to learn that most people on occasion have experienced the same self-doubt.
It has taken time…way too much time ‘cause I am at the end of my 8th decade of life. But, damn…I’m having fun!
Accept who you are and have fun!