After winning her Oscar for Best Actress last month, Viola Davis did an interview where she admitted to suffering from impostor syndrome. She said she often fears that she’ll be found out and people will realize she’s just a fraud. This was shocking to many because we all know that Viola Davis is literally The Shit. But many people had never heard of impostor syndrome. Including me.  However, once I listened to her, I thought, “yeah that sounds familiar”.

Impostor Syndrome is a concept that  was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. This “syndrome” often affects high-achieving individuals, particularly women, who have an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite evidence to the contrary, sufferers feel unworthy of their successes and write them off as luck or having the ability to convince others they are smarter or more skilled than they really are. Studies have shown that up to 70% of people have felt like a fraud at one time or another. Even Maya Angelou reportedly suffered from this overwhelming sense of self-doubt. And maybe, so do I.

When I was little I was convinced that my life was all a dream. That in reality I was a princess who for some reason had fallen asleep and dreamed that I was normal kid in Los Angeles. I knew at some point I’d wake from this nightmare and go back to my life of privilege and excess. Although I now understand, much to my dismay, that I’m not going to wake up in a castle. I still have a sense that the life I’m living isn’t the life I was meant to live. I feel like I’m just getting through the day, performing tasks, interacting with people until I can figure out what my real life or my true calling is. I know deep in my heart that I wasn’t put on this earth to prepare tax returns and argue with clients over why they aren’t getting more from their tax credits. Or to explain why an unemployed woman with 4 kids gets a bigger refund than a couple who make over $100k/year. I know that I was put on this earth to help people. So for the time being, that help comes in the form of assisting the public in meeting their tax obligations. How exciting. But I also know there has to be something more.

One day I sat in my office watching the documentary on The Secret. The Secret is based on the law of attraction and how speaking things into existence makes them possible. Positive thinking leads to positive results. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m sitting in my office, working at a business that I created. I wanted to quit my job. I wanted to start my own business. I wanted a cool office with a view. I wanted it and I made it happen. So why am I complaining? Why am I still searching for something more? Why? Because I’m a fake, a fraud, a phony. A snake oil salesman convincing people that I know what I’m doing! Now of course none of this is true (I don’t want my clients to panic). Obviously I have 3 degrees, 25+ years of business experience and a hell of a lot of common sense to prove that I’m not a charlatan. So what is the problem?

The problem is I created something I didn’t really want. I created something because it was the prudent and “right” thing to do. I created a life based on safety and security instead of having the guts to do what I really wanted. I took the easy way out. I was too scared or too lazy to figure out a way to make a living doing what I actually wanted to do – travel. I convinced myself that I’d be okay doing something I really didn’t want to do because it would afford me the opportunity to do what I love, sometime. I convinced myself that it would be a waste to throw away my years of experience and knowledge to just roam from country to country, experiencing life, meeting new people, living. What a dummy. I’m not an impostor because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m an impostor because I go through each and every day pretending to be someone I’m not. Pretending that I’m content in this life. 

From the time I was in junior high I was obsessed with masks. I had masks of all kind. I would collect them from every trip. I even have a tattoo of the comedy and tragedy masks that I got in my 20’s. What’s that all about? Was I an impostor even at an early age? Have I always pretended to be someone I’m not? And why? To fool myself? To please my parents? What is the answer?

I realized while proofreading this post how many times I used the word “convinced”.  Therein lies the problem. As women in particular, we often “convince” ourselves that something is true or that it is okay. When you live in authenticity, there is no need for persuasion. Authenticity requires self-knowledge and self-awareness. Authenticity is about being genuine and real. Being transparent and honest – especially with ourselves. When you are authentic you just… are.

So who am I, really? I am a girl who should have been born a princess – that’s obvious. I am a woman who wants to travel most of the time and lay in the bed eating ice cream and watching Netflix the rest of the time. I am an educated, skilled, entrepreneur who despite all of my protests is actually good at my job. I’m a work in progress. I’m a hot mess.