I am in my early 50s. I have had a wonderful career. It feels good to be semi-retired, working only when I choose. I worked hard to get to this moment, and save for the occasional feeling of being unproductive, I am enjoying it. I remember my early days of work very well, and each point of advancement along my path. There were many times I felt inadequate and under-skilled, suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud (Psychology Today, 2020). This is common in all professions. Almost everyone suffers from it on some level, at some point in their Iives. I would usually be cured of the syndrome within a few months of working a new position or skill. Then would follow that period of, “Hey, I really know what I’m doing, this is fun”. And finally, that moment when you are recognized as a great resource or expert at what you’re doing, and the task truly becomes second nature to you. I felt all of those things as I moved within the opportunities my career provided me for over 30 years. So now, I am happily semi-retired, working very part-time in those cushy positions reserved for the older gals. My brain is definitely enjoying the extra space it has, not being stressed with critical daily issues.
A Door Opens
About six months ago, I received a call from a friend, asking me if I could come and work for her on a special assignment. It was something I hadn’t done but definitely within the scope of my skill set. I was pretty sure I could pull it off. It felt good to get the call as I respected her work very much. So off I went to learn something new at 51 years old and semi-retired. I told myself the brain food would be good for me, it will be nice to help out a friend, and extra cash is always welcome in my purse.
Fast forward six months. I was right about all I had thought the job would mean. Learning something new was electrifying for my mind. The challenge made me feel alive. But what I didn’t expect was that at this age and at this point in my career, I would experience Imposter Syndrome once again. Are you fricking kidding me? Nope. Am I seriously getting this stomach ache on my way to the job? Yup. Am I really judging everything about me from my hair to my outfit to my shoes, wondering if I look ok? If I make a mistake, will they realize I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing? Yup. But here’s the ass-kicker. This time around, I let the Imposter Syndrome creep in because of my age. What. The. Hell. ‘Am I too old to learn something new?’ had been added to my list of self-doubts. Bummer.
OK, I’ve Got This
The difference between this particular experience and those I had earlier in my career, was that I recognized what was happening. It had a name, and I was in control of whether I let my confidence suffer because of it. Breathe Karm, you know what you’re doing, you have decades of experience, you’ve got this. Stop listening to that self-doubt narrative in your head. And no, you are not too old. It’s actually kind of funny to now be aware of these thoughts, to be able to laugh at myself, and to share this with you. A decade ago, I would have believed all those negative things about myself, and just tried to push through them. I’m grateful to know now, they’re all bullshit.
Since the original draft of this post, I have learned something new about self-doubt and limiting beliefs. For women, they have very deep roots. We think negatively about ourselves as a result of centuries of conditioning. And we haven’t made much progress. If you’re a woman who wants to learn more about self-confidence, why you lost it, and how to get it back, you need to read “Pull Back Your Power”, by Anne Whitehouse, PhD. This amazing woman was kind enough to record a podcast with me after just a brief meeting. Her book was life-changing for me. I’m truly honored to be able to share her with you. xo Karm
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