So we had a hurricane blow through and it took us off the grid for a hard five days. We got power back Saturday night but the cable went out today, and with no internet access in the neighborhood and a new job beginning tomorrow, I am nervous. Even though today is a holiday, I need to be online studying.
I’ll be working at my old company again, work I loved the first time around, work that saved me from living the rest of my life as a lawyer. But as always when I begin new work, I am panic-stricken; like many women, I suffer from imposter syndrome, deeply convinced that each new job, each new position, each new promotion was a fluke, that I if they knew how unqualified I really am they wouldn’t let me work anywhere. Convinced I’ll never learn the new material, the new technology, the new staff, the new protocol. Convinced that this is the time they’re going to find me out, find how incompetent, how untested, how untrained and untrainable I truly am, and if they don’t find out now they will when the inevitable situation arises that I cannot handle and they will do what they should have done the first time I ever had a real job: fire me and send me off to find work I can manage—like selling shoes somewhere.
Many years ago, when law school was over and I didn’t have a job—because I hadn’t looked for one, because on Day 1 of classes I realized being a lawyer was the last thing I wanted to do but I got the degree anyway thinking there’d be something else I could do with it, then discovering no, not really—a friend told me she had a friend who hated being a lawyer so much she quit and got a job selling shoes. The trick was she lived in Manhattan and worked at a high-end boutique, so she made almost $100k a year.
Eventually, of course, I did practice law, and my struggle with imposter syndrome began with my first job as an assistant district attorney and followed me every step of my legal career. It was often in remission, my confidence growing as my skills improved and my reputation expanded. But not too far in the back of my mind was the belief I was really just faking it, that soon a case or a pleading or a client or a judge or an opponent or some other situation would prove too much for my capabilities and expose me as a fraud. “I can always quit and go to New York and make a hundred-thousand-dollars selling shoes,” I’d say, only half-joking.
I never did, but I often wonder if my Imposter syndrome would have followed me even to the boutique. Because eventually I did do something different, becoming an investigative journalist—and feeling completely outmatched by each new assignment. Most of the time, once I got used to the work, my confidence returned, and after several successful reports which led to some nice recognition from the firm and its clients, I began to believe maybe I was qualified to do something besides practice law.
Then, after six years, the report I was leading got cut and I was laid off. See? I thought. They found me out. Even so, when this new job was announced, I applied, and out of a big applicant pool, I was hired. Not only hired, but promoted from my previous position. Clearly, a lot of people believe I’m capable.
And today, all I can think is, Wait till they find out the truth.