I suffer from horrible Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is an anxiety disorder that makes you believe you just aren’t qualified to do the work that you do, even if you have been trained and licensed.
“I’m just an imposter. I’m just faking all of this. I actually don’t know what I’m doing.”
Everyone has this from time to time. Lucky people are able to shake it off and continue their work. Unluckier people allow this syndrome to push them into a procrastination spiral. Bad cases of Imposter Syndrome can literally destroy your career.
When I tell people that I have anxiety, the usual response is “You got this! Go get ‘em!”
I always do feel a little better that a person is willing to spend some time reassuring me when I know that person has other obligations. I really am grateful when you take time out of your day to give me a pep talk. It’s a kindness.
Still, I really hate that phrase “You got this!”
No, I don’t “got this.” And I feel even worse that you think I got this because I know now that I’m going to disappoint you. I really, really, really don’t got this.
So what sort of phrase tends to help me most when I am going through a bad patch?
To quote a work colleague of mine one time when we were about to clock out only to have a sudden emergency transport come from dispatch, “Let’s just do this.”
I remember the radio crackling our truck number. I remember the dispatcher said that a nursing home had just called 911 reporting a possible stroke alert. I remember when the EMT looked at me, his eyes as tired as I felt after working 12 hours already, and sighed: “Let’s just do this.”
“Let’s just do this.”
I don’t know why I find this phrase to be more effective to snap myself out of an anxiety-triggered procrastination spiral than “You got this!” Maybe there’s less toxic positivity. Maybe there’s more of an acknowledgment of my own feelings of depression when using a passive phrase (“Let’s just do this”) instead of an active phrase (“You got this!” “Just do it!” (Nike trademarked)).
“Let’s just do this” seems to be the TL;DR version of “I know you’re tired and anxious hon. I really do and I respect that and I also know that this job has to get done. So let’s just do it. And yeah, you may fuck it up. And you may not. But it needs to get done so let’s just do it.”
And yeah, nine times out of ten I am surprised at how easy the job I was dreading was in retrospect. “Oh, wait, I get it now. Okay.” Happy endings all around.
But a happy ending is never guaranteed and of course you may very well NOT be able to get the job done. And when someone acknowledges that possibility rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, that makes me feel more in control.
So the next time you find yourself in an Imposter Syndrome- produced spiral, just tell yourself: “Let’s just do this.”
Because you may screw up this job but you’re going to do it anyway. So get on with it.