When I was young, my sisters cruelly convinced me that I was adopted. They tormented me saying that, if I didn’t behave, mom and dad would return me. Under the threat of being sent away, I was made to do their bidding. It was as if I didn’t belong to my own family or feel at home in my own house.
Thinking back on it now, it seems ridiculous that I overlooked the fact that I am the spitting image of both my mother AND father. Myself, my mother and father have pale skin and straight hair while my sisters have dark brown skin and curly hair. Actually, my half-sisters are my mom’s kids from her first husband who was dark skinned. I was the only child between my mother and father.
They concocted a story that I swallowed hook, line and sinker: they begged mom and dad for a dog. Amongst the puppies at the at the pound they found me. My parents agreed to bring me home under the condition that they could return me, in exchange me for a dog, if I didn’t behave myself.
One of my sisters’ favorite methods of torture was to trap me in the yard waste can. They knew I was highly allergic to grass clippings, so they would shove me in the can and sit on the lid. They reminded me that they could return me for a puppy if I didn’t do whatever they said.
My sisters preyed on my ignorance and fear. Somehow, I let myself be convinced (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that I didn’t have the same right or privilege to be there.
I have fallen into this trap in life again and again – letting people make me feel as though I don’t belong, when I have as much right to be there as they do. In some cases, this feeling has postponed or altogether stopped me from doing something I really wanted to do. Even still, as I work on some of the most meaningful projects of my life, I cannot escape this feeling. The feeling that someday people are going to discover that I am not qualified to do this work. This is commonly referred to as the “impostor syndrome” and can be the death knell to creativity and a roadblock to producing great work.
Ideas come to me that I begin working on with great passion and intensity, only to fizzle out as I start questioning myself:
Why would anyone care about this?
What makes me think I am an expert?
With so many other talented people in my field, how can I compete?
Allowing these self-defeating thoughts to creep in is like voluntarily putting myself in the yard waste can. People that criticize or discourage me from following my dreams are likely suffering those same self-defeating thoughts themselves.
When I find myself in my metaphorical yard waste can, I remind myself that it is me that is holding down the lid. I am free to get out of it any time. I thank my sisters for the valuable lesson that remains fresh with me to this day: If you showed up, you belong there.