Every word has a connotation attached. The word, “leadership” may seem to be a positive word to some. To me, “leadership” is a dirty word and rarely has a place in my vocabulary. When I think of being a leader, it’s impossible to conjure up the concept in my head without thinking about another dirty word called, “liability.” Leadership = Liability. In other words, when the shit hits the fan, it’s likely the leader will have to answer for it. Who in the world would want that? I’ll gladly take a pass on being a leader if there’s even a small chance I could fail and ruin my name forever.
My mind is very much set on avoiding leadership. This is especially true when it comes to work. See, at one point, I was in a managerial role. You might wonder how I managed the people in my department. It was actually easy. No one else was coded under my department, so I was technically the only one in my department. With this in mind, the necessity to delegate or “boss around” was limited. I’d have to “borrow” employees from other departments to help me.
On the outside, I complained that I had no help. But on the inside, I was mostly okay with that. Why? Because I didn’t have to delegate, instruct, admonish, educate, and correct anyone but myself most of the time. Now, sure, I’d give instructions out of necessity, but I didn’t carry myself like a leader. I didn’t want people to think I was some dictator for telling them where to place products. And in general, the people who worked under my instruction could sway me to do something differently without much resistance from me. This ties into several problems I have, such as people-pleasing, social anxiety, and a lack of self-esteem.
I posit, what kind of leader bends to the will of others solely to harmonize? Sometimes, leaders have to make choices that may not always be popular. I never learned to grow a spine. I’m still too afraid to let people down or become the enemy. With these facts, I know that I am not leader material. I’m not even saying this to beat myself up. I’m just saying, I can’t objectively be a good leader if I’m still struggling with people-pleasing and unhealthy harmonizing.
So when I had the chance, I stepped down from my position and chose not to pursue any other leadership roles. My goal was to refuse all promotions that would set me too high. I mean, it just made sense to me. I didn’t want to lead a team and then show everyone my inability to make solid decisions. Indecision has paralyzed me in the past. And that’s really not a good look for a leader.
Readers, let me just tell you, I have tried so freakin’ hard to just be a peon. I have tried so desperately hard to lower myself. I don’t want a special title. I don’t want recognition. I don’t want people to make me the problem-solver. Trust me when I say that I thought my decision to change departments would propel me to the state of mediocrity my heart desired. And yeah, people were surprised to see that I didn’t aim toward the stars. I think I’ve shocked a lot of people that way. Do they understand that continual stress is reason enough for me to turn down a more powerful position? Or is that not considered legit?
But it’s so weird. It’s like every time I try to just be a stagehand instead of an actor, there’s always a director who picks me from the staff to be on stage. And it happened again. It wasn’t my choice. No one discussed it with me prior to when I found out. No one even hinted at it. I just entered work one day and was told that I’d be “in charge” of certain functions and people within my department. Once again, no one discussed it with me. No one gave me a choice. There’s no doubt that I’m not exactly at the top rung, but I’m also not happy to have these added pressures that I never asked for.
I tried. I really tried to reduce my workplace stress. I was even proud of myself for having the courage to finally say, back before this new role, “No, I’m choosing this department and will no longer have the same managerial powers I once had.” Despite my efforts, I’m now taking on new responsibilities. A couple days ago, I was told by my superior to “take charge” of the situation. That means I have to delegate, instruct, correct, and be the one with the initiative.
As someone in the “low self-esteem” camp, I am swimming in confusion. I look at myself and intuit that I can’t do this and it will end in disaster. But at the same time, I was chosen. In addition, I’ve survived three days of having this added responsibility. It’s not like every moment is a pit of anxiety, but I still find it hard to say things to people. I find it hard to tell someone what I need them to do. This isn’t anything new and it’s the reason why I’m concerned about how long this arrangement can last. My lack of confidence in the workplace is a mirrored reflection of my lack of confidence in general.
If I can’t trust my own judgment, how can people trust me? I keep wanting to make sure I’m doing things right. I keep wanting to make sure I’m not making a mess. I keep wanting to seek “permission” because my confidence in my own decision-making is extremely fragile. If I make a mistake in judgment, I will automatically assume I was never fit for the role. I will fall apart. I’m way too sensitive for this stuff.
A leader speaks up. But this is where I really have trouble. I feel like a burden and I’m not here to make enemies. So, if I shut up and let people do things the way they always do them, I can’t possibly be hated. That’s how bad rejection feels for me. I don’t feel like a leader. I just feel like I’m floating and hoping things work out. I somehow hope that people will just read my mind without my communication. I just hope they will figure out what to do.
Another word with a negative connotation is “imposter.” No one likes an imposter. I’m sure many of you are familiar with “imposter syndrome.” This is a terrible way of thinking in which the sufferer cannot objectively see that they’re qualified for whatever it is they do. They can only see their own failures and only come to the conclusion that they are frauds. They’re often confused about how they achieved a promotion or workplace success. Their ultimate fear is that they will be found out.
I know this is something that affects me. A good indication that you may be suffering imposter syndrome is when, on a regular basis, people see your potential and recognize your skills before you do. And even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be satisfied with your performance. You could win a golden award and still wonder how you got there. And because you can’t see that your own skills and hard work rendered you successful, you automatically assume it was happenstance and that you’re just a fraud that somehow got lucky.
Due to imposter syndrome, the one suffering cannot establish an objective reality about their own status and performance. So, the cycle just repeats. I can know this intellectually, but it doesn’t take it away. Feelings are more powerful than left-brain thoughts.
So, this is my chance to be objective. I survived three days. I did do at least some things right. I felt, that at certain times, I had found my flow.
The struggle is now to speak up and act more like a leader. The issue is that I have always struggled with “soft skills” or people skills. It is not in my nature to tell people what to do. It feels like an infraction. It feels like I don’t have permission. The other issue is one of stability. My job does become high-pressure. Timing and accuracy are key, but both of those factors suffer multiple times per day. In the frenzy of just trying to put the pieces back together, my anxiety shoots up. I then have short-term memory problems. I get clumsy and careless. I can’t speak in a calm way. My eyes widen.
So, it’s a battle between my imposter self and objective reality.
There is one thing I can’t wrap my mind around. I cannot understand the mindset of people who actually want to be leaders. I bet that I could learn a lot from people who think this way. Then again, maybe I underestimate the number of people who fill out leadership roles out of necessity. Maybe there are plenty of leaders who don’t necessarily enjoy the power and responsibilities, but continue doing what they do because that’s how life directs them for the moment. I’m not sure.
My best advice for anyone experiencing imposter syndrome is to stick with the facts. Stick with the cold, emotionless, objective reality of your situation. Maybe you feel that you’re a constant failure, but what actions have you completed successfully throughout the day? Maybe you feel that you’re a fraud, but what have you already accomplished? Maybe you feel that your performance is always lacking, but do the numbers or data support that opinion?
And what if the raw data suggests that your performance is lacking? I think that’s what all “imposters” fear. Hey, even if it is that way, you have the right to ask for help. You have the right to quit and seek another position. You have the right to take care of yourself. This is coming from someone who had to leave a job in 2015 because I wasn’t doing so well. I realized I had hit a bottom, so quitting and moving on was the only way up. And you might feel shamed, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
You are doing the best you can do with what you have.
And even if no one else says it, I know you’re doing a good job.
Edit: Yesterday was a bad day. It was filled with a lot of anxiety and I got a little dose of admonishment. Apparently, I messed up. I wasn’t fast enough. My superior asked why we fell behind and I gave some bullshit answer because how the hell would I know? I’m trying to make this work, but I feel like there are so many elements working against me. But hey, Mr. Superior Dude, I’ll give you a few reasons why I may not have been the best candidate for these new responsibilities. For starters, anxiety, depressive thoughts, existential dread . . . Oh, you need more? I’ve been reading and finding out that I might have CPTSD. Do you have time to discuss all this? You don’t? Didn’t think so.
I felt the need to add on to this post because I hide my struggles from everyone I know in real life, but these issues have to come out somewhere. The Internet is the only place where I’ve been able to be this frank about my life. For those reading, thank you for allowing me to reveal the ugly truth without hostility and judgment. Trust me, I have a lot more to write about.