(My apologies for their not being a post last week. I wrote one. I scheduled it. It just didn’t post and I didn’t notice because I’m knee deep in NaNoWriMo. To make up for it, I’m writing you a shiny new post instead of giving you the one I originally scheduled.)
Last Friday, I went to see a local high school’s performance of my play. That is never not weird. The director had asked me to keep a low profile and not let any of the cast or crew know that I was there because she wanted me to be a surprise for after the show (so they wouldn’t be nervous during).
I didn’t know how to keep a low profile exactly since I generally look like myself and my picture is on all my social media. The director instantly recognized me and we’d never met before so I was kind of slinking around trying not to look like myself, whatever that means. At one point I was waiting in the bathroom and every single person in there with me was wearing a T-shirt with my name on it which was a unique experience, to say the least.
When I revealed myself after the show, the cast went nuts. I’ve meet with many groups over the years and I sometimes get anywhere from mild excitement to “meh.” Teenagers: They aren’t impressed by much, I realize this. But this group was totally star struck to see me and I ended up taking photos with them and signing autographs.
I should have felt like a total superstar, right? At the top of my game, loving the attention. (And lest you think I’m the shirking violet type, trust me, as a former actress I LOVE me some positive attention.)
But instead I felt foolish. It felt like at any moment the prank would be revealed, the veil would be lifted and everyone would realize the truth: that I’m not a very good writer, never have been and all my successes were just dumb luck. Why didn’t they see that I couldn’t possibly be more of a no-talent nobody. I’m a fraud.
I’m not alone in this. Most successful people greatly undervalue their work and you’ll see examples from actors to writers, entrepreneurs to valedictorians who think that they’re just lucky and don’t really deserve to be where they are. This isn’t some fake attempt to be humble, when you read the private musings of some of the greatest leaders and thinkers of the past you’ll see that this has always been the case for the successful. Every minor success, instead of building your confidence, gives it another dent.
Now, of course, there are always exceptions. Kanye West and Justin Beiber are two easy examples that spring readily to mind. (I listen to neither’s music so I can’t tell you whether they deserve their successes or not.) But I do think this famous quote applies no matter what your passion or industry:
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
I have a healthy and, some would say, robust ego. I wouldn’t be putting myself out there all the time and working so darn hard if I didn’t. But even when the rational part of you has confidence, it doesn’t stop you from simultaneously feeling like a failure at every small triumph. The difference between those that are ultimately successes at what they do and those that aren’t is whether you start to believe that voice that tells you that you’re a failure or whether you recognize it for what it is: a common side effect of success that almost everyone battles.
The mind is a curious place. We simultaneously yearn for and fear success. How else have insecurities tried to sabotage you on the way to achieving your goals?