I don’t talk much in detail here about the people in my life, but I need to open this post by saying I know I’m blessed. I have some of the best people possible surrounding me, cheering for me, supporting me. I have a good job with the very best co-workers, many of whom are dear friends. I have the most devoted (read: clingy, neurotic, riddled with separation anxiety) dog, and life is good.
One night last month, I had one of those sweet, simple and yet so impactful nights that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life. A friend coordinated a get-together, and four of us whose lives intersected through the Junior League but have stayed entwined through cross-country moves (and thankfully, back again!), seven children, my divorce, and more, sat down and picked up as though there had been no pandemic, no years since we all laughed together. (I’m pretty sure the last time we were together was the baby shower we hosted for the first of the group to have a baby, probably about five years ago?)
I hope each of you has a tribe like that, or at least one friend with whom time and distance don’t exist, where conversations flow as though you’d just clinked glasses together the day before, NO MATTER WHAT.
… which brings me to the meat of this soul-barring confession…
My name is Chan and I am an imposter.
… and those brilliant, strong, beautiful ladies knew it all along and loved me anyway. Each of them tried to love me towards being authentic in her own way, but ironically, it took a pandemic and the isolation that came with it, our busy lives and all of the other circumstances that led me to being able to look them in the eyes and admit that I’ve spent my ENTIRE LIFE trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be in that moment, for this person or that one, for this role/job or another…
I was proud of being a chameleon, and I actually said so out loud many times. I NEVER stopped to question my logic, or to wonder if I could just be me and see what happened.
Honestly, it began before I have any recollection of being aware of my behaviors. I had to be on my best manners for this person, so she’d give me presents. (Literally… one of my few memories of her was of a post-toddler-nap moment when she rather succinctly explained that if I couldn’t be a happy, grateful little girl, I could give the toy she’d just given me back and go home.) Then, I was told I couldn’t pursue tennis as a passion because it required someone else to play with me. Then, yet another nurturer told me I couldn’t major in music in college because it would lead to frustration (as so few make it as professional oboists) and I didn’t want to be stuck being a music teacher.
I can go on and on, but my point isn’t to blame any of these people; I just want to know why it took me 52 years to realize I’m perfectly good the way I am and I don’t have to try to be what ANYONE else thinks I should be, or most specifically, I SHOULD NOT try to be what I THINK someone else wants me to be!
Impostor syndrome and the idea of being authentic are getting a lot of press right now, but this is hardly a 21st century issue. We’re watching Reign on Netflix, and certainly the characters depicted within were not afforded the privilege of pursuing what made them happy, fulfilled, etc. Nor is it uniquely an issue for females; people pleasers come in all shapes, sizes and costumes. I don’t think anyone in my life intended for me to make a life out of trying to guess what someone else thought I should be and doing my best to become it, but that’s just what I’ve done.
What’s most difficult for me to talk about, what I’m still very much working on, is how this all relates to my self-confidence. Up until very recently, I and most people who know me, would say I’m a very confident person. But the truth is, confidence is just one of the many costumes I’ve learned to wear well. I appear confident and self assured when I am feel I’m doing a good job in the role/image I’m projecting, when the people I am trying to please are pleased.
So tell me… what is one thing that is authentically you?