The Bliss Blog

In conversation with a college student, the topic of confidence arose. He admits that he is not confident about much, despite being adept at many things. I asked him to list what he is good at and he was reluctantly able to acknowledge a few accomplishments that got him to this point in his life. What stunned me was his statement that he didn’t think he had the right to pursue a vision of doing what he loved because he might not be good enough at it to glean approval or affirmation. I enthusiastically reminded him that not only did he have the right to do it, but the obligation to himself to go after any dream he damn well pleased. No one had the right to take it away from him. He shrugged and said although I might be right, it was easier said than done for him since he had lived as if his beliefs were true and was so strongly identified with that mindset. The paradigm of Imposter Syndrome is not new to me since I too am hornswoggled by it at times. It is the idea that despite appearances and measures of success, one feels inadequate and will be found to be less than they are presenting themselves.

He also felt it was a sign of arrogance if he acted as if he had skills that he didn’t and if found to be an imposter, it would be even more embarrassing.  We then spoke about the ways in which competence and comfort can lead to confidence and vice versa. Anytime we embark on a new adventure with our skills not quite as honed as we want them to be, we face the fear. Each time we practice those skills, we strengthen them. I admitted that there are times when I have felt as he does. When I send my writing out into the world, I wonder who it will touch. I sometimes write for myself and hope that others reap the benefit. When I email query letters, there are times when I am greeted with a thumbs up, thumbs down or radio silence. Neither of the last two is any reflection of my talent, but rather a mismatch between that venue and me. I have learned to shrug it off and move on.

I reminded him that acting as if he was as wanted to be perceived would be a step forward in reaching his ultimate destination. Could he see himself being successful in his field and at ease in his relationships?  Not at the moment, perhaps, but he was in seed planting mode. I suggested that he become more comfortable with his discomfort and stretching a bit beyond them. He expressed a willingness to do that.

I shared my parents’ good guidance. My father would tell me, “They put their pants on one leg at a time like you do,” and my mother would advise, “Walk in like you own the joint.”  I wasn’t always comfortable doing that, but over the years, I have become more at ease in that mode. Head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact and as I added, ‘knockers up.’ It has served me well. I do feel competent and confident in most areas of my life and on the occasions when I don’t, I practice what I preach.


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