When thinking about the past few months, a lot of different words spring to mind: “turbulent,” “difficult,” “enlightening,” “educational.”
While all of those fit the bill, I’ve settled on the word “change” to best describe how my recent experiences have affected me.
“Growth” may have worked just as well. But I prefer the neutrality of “change.”
To me, “growth” is too focused on progression and evolution — constantly pushing oneself to the next level instead of just trying to be.
With all of the upheaval in my life recently, I just want to take a moment to simply exist.
The Side Effects of Letting Go
I can credit this new outlook to the insights I gained during a recent Ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica.
The experience showed me I need to accept the things I can’t change. (There’s that word again!)
Something I didn’t anticipate, however, were the side effects of this new outlook.
I’ve suddenly found myself confronting several long-held beliefs that have held me back, like my lifelong battle with imposter syndrome, my need to fix everything, and the way I approach my personal and professional relationships.
Being an Imposter
If you’re new to the term, “imposter syndrome” is that nagging voice in the back of your mind that says no matter how much you achieve or how successful you are, all of it is an act.
It makes you feel, quite literally, like an imposter. You worry that someone will call you out at any moment.
I have been plagued with thoughts like these my whole life.
I would agonize over every decision, worried that the wrong choice would expose me as a fraud. To keep myself “safe,” I would try to blend into the wallpaper, keep my voice low and not look people in the eye.
But, as I’ve said, the past few months have changed me. My Ayahuasca experience has made me more accepting — and more confident.
No More Mrs. Fix-It
I have always had a “fix it” mindset. It’s why I got into law in the first place.
The way I see it, the legal system is the foundation of our country. If I want to achieve justice — if I want to fix things — then I have to be a part of that system.
This has been an integral part of my personality. I fix things and I’m good at it. (Imposter syndrome can’t stop me from admitting that!)
But the desire to fix was often accompanied by an unhealthy pressure to please. I not only wanted to fix my clients’ problems, I also felt the need to fix the problems people had with me.
While I’m still the first to admit that not every decision I make is flawless, my newfound confidence has shown me that I am not the imposter I thought I was.
Not everyone in my life has welcomed this change of heart.
Adjusting Relationships … for Better or Worse
My imposter syndrome and people-pleasing tendencies have shaped many of my personal and professional relationships.
For people who have relied on me for years to act a certain way, this new perspective has changed the very foundation of our relationship.
Some friends are surprised that my newfound confidence means I no longer need them to make decisions for me or, I hate to say it, tell me what to do.
It’s hard for them to accept that I’m no longer a friend in need. I’m simply a friend.
While it was disappointing to discover that some of these relationships weren’t as healthy as I had thought, it was also freeing: Now, I could unburden myself from the weight of their expectations.
Professionally, I’ve also changed my attitude to staffing changes at the firm. Before, when someone left to pursue a new opportunity, I would take it as a personal failure.
The Mrs. Fix-It in me would spend hours trying to figure out what I could do differently in the future to stop people from leaving. I would analyze every email from the person who left or see if I could squeeze more out of our benefits package.
But the recent monumental shifts in my life have allowed me to realize and accept that Carlos and I run our business the best we can. While we always want to make sure our employees feel happy and satisfied, if they find an opportunity that suits them better, good for them!
I’m genuinely happy and wish them the best.
Then there are the relationships that are personal and professional.
Carlos and I have always made every decision about every aspect of the firm together. We didn’t implement any changes until we had discussed and analyzed them in detail.
But with my imposter syndrome and people-pleasing tendencies in the rearview mirror, I’ve felt more empowered to make certain decisions on my own. To me, it feels like we can get more accomplished if we stop getting bogged down by the details — and start taking action.
At first, Carlos was pretty surprised and a bit taken aback. But he trusts that my instincts will steer us in the right direction and give us more time and energy to think about the bigger picture.
I’m grateful that one of the most important relationships in my life has been changed for the better by my newfound confidence.
Looking Forward to a Fresh Start
So, where does this leave everything?
I’ve realized that you can’t change yourself without affecting the people around you. Some of it will be positive and some of it will be negative. But if your goal is to be the most “you” that you can be, self-acceptance is the first step.
I accept that I’ve burdened myself with others’ expectations in the past. But now that I’m living for myself, I can leave those expectations and the people who held onto them behind me.
I also accept that my need to fix things was something that gave me a feeling of control. But now I realize I can’t control everything. Instead, I must focus on doing the best I can for myself.
Finally, I accept that my imposter syndrome was a safety mechanism that tried to protect me from making leaps that were too big before I was ready. But I also accept that I am now a confident and successful person who is ready to move forward.
I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the past few months. Some were rocky, some were smooth. But now that I’m on the other side, I’m looking forward to seeing where this new road (uneven paving and all) will take me.