Jean Croker Petke

Impostors and Rusty Water

Impostors and Rusty Water

I got a heap of inspiration this week from Cathy Heller. I found her by chasing a few rabbit trails. She’s a mother, songwriter, podcaster, and a whole lot more. At first, her manner seemed a little slow and deliberate and I wasn’t sure I had the patience to hear her out. But she kept dropping nuggets — so I kept listening. She said things I knew were true, except she said them way better than I ever have. I scrambled for paper and pen to scribble a few notes. Several times I paused the podcast, backed up, and replayed to make sure my notes were accurate.

I love being surprised by inspiration. This blog will be my ponderings on some of her ideas.

We all suffer from the impostor syndrome. We don’t believe that what we do is legitimate, that it’s good enough in its own right. We tend to dismiss what we do. We say things like, “I have no credentials. Others are more accomplished. Others actually make money doing this. I just do it as a hobby.” Even though I’ve taken more than 20 years of piano lessons, I’m too quick to say that because I still have so much to learn, I’m not really a musician. We sell ourselves short by thinking that we are never enough. Do your work anyway.

We compare our behind-the-scenes mess to other people’s highlight reels. On Facebook people only share their best photos, their happy families, their beautiful moments, and their exotic travel. In face-to-face conversations people do the same thing. They exude such perfection! In comparison my life is plain, dull, boring, frumpy, and ordinary. Such comparisons sow disappointment within us and prevent us from pursuing our own unique and authentic journey.

We are like a seldom-used faucet. When you turn it on, rusty water runs out. If we let it run for a while, the water rids itself of the rust and sludge, and eventually clears. Faucets are easy compared to other things in our lives. We see a mistake, or the work is too hard, or the process is too slow, so we quit. We are impatient with our inadequacies and struggles. We quit before the rust and crud clear out of our system or out of our beliefs in our inabilities. If we shut the faucet off at the first drop of rusty water, it will always give us rust. Only by letting it run, and then using it frequently, will clear water always be ready for us. The same is true of our unused gifts and talents and dreams and wishes. We have to keep going.

In a nutshell:

  • You are not an impostor. You are enough and your work matters.
  • Ditch the comparisons. Live your own life.
  • Don’t quit. Let the water run. Keep going.

Until next Tuesday . . .



4 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Carol Bennington -

    Great reminders. The impostor syndrome is far more previlent in women as the research indicates. This is an important reminder to know everyone experiences it at times.

    • jcpetke -

      You are right, Carol, that the impostor syndrome is more common in women. And it becomes such an excuse for not taking ourselves and our work seriously.

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