At this week’s staff meeting, our CEO talked about a survey in which more than 80 percent of people said they feel like imposters at work, always wondering when someone would figure out they didn’t know what they were doing. I immediately looked at my friend and coworker sitting next to me, and we stifled our laughter since we’ve had that conversation many a time.
Most of my professional life, I’ve felt like a fraud with the motto of “fake it till you make it.” I’ve been waiting a long time for a mild breeze to blow down my house of cards. What I realized after the meeting, though, is that I feel like a fraud in almost every role in my life!
When I first got married, the words husband and wife seemed so foreign. It took me close to a decade to be fully comfortable calling my husband “my husband” rather than by his first name, and use of the word “wife” is still beyond me. We’ve moved across country together, owned a home and created a human being, and yet, after nearly 13 years of marriage, I still can’t quite grasp the idea that I’m somebody’s “wife.”
I react the same way to the word “mother.” When my daughter was five days old, she had surgery. I remember checking in at the waiting area and the woman at the desk asked if I was the mother. My response was “no, my mother’s over there,” and I pointed to my mom who had flown in for moral support. I felt like an idiot, but the word was new to me and I was an emotional wreck at the time so I laughed it off.
But it’s been five years of living with a little person in my house who calls me “mommy,” usually at 2 a.m., and some days I still look in the mirror and wonder how I could possibly be someone’s mother. Surely I’m not old enough to be in charge of another human being’s life when I’m still trying to figure out my own.
I suspect this feeling of being an imposter is completely a grown-up thing because kids can immerse themselves in any role. I distinctly remember going to the grocery store with my mother when I was about eight. I would take a baby doll wrapped in a blanket and I was completely convinced that people would believe she was a real baby and that I was her mother. Obviously I was still oblivious to the birds and the bees.
Somewhere along the way, I suspect upon college graduation, I began to feel like a fraud. When the Talking Heads sing “you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” in “Once in a Lifetime,” I get it. Day in and day out, I play the role of a functioning adult, but some mornings I wake up bewildered and convinced that the world is going to strip away that baby doll blanket and discover I’m nothing more than a little kid playing house.