What If Nothing

It’s been a WHILE since my last blog post. Did you forget I had a blog? I certainly did! But while I’m here, I figured I’d dive right in with what I’ve been up to this year.

Let’s talk about impostor syndrome. 

A few months ago I was at a conference and there was a panel discussing how to cope with impostor syndrome. A bunch of my friends were attending this panel, but there was another panel at the same time that pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit more, so I decided to attend that instead. The thought crossed my mind, “I don’t think I really have impostor syndrome, so I’m good to miss it.” (I know now that this was naive, but stick with me.)

Fast forward three months later, when I find myself in a brand new role at work and so many of my responsibilities have shifted and I’m essentially doing my best to make it seem like I know what I’m doing. I actually feel pretty good about the work I’ve been doing, but in talking to one of my friends about it, I realize that rather than owning my successes, I’ve reasoned that anyone in my position would be able to do what I’m doing, and it’s not really something that deserves an extra pat on the back. To which my friend replied, “That’s called impostor syndrome.”

Yeah, so obviously nobody’s immune to impostor syndrome. Even during the moments we’re most confident, these feelings of doubt can creep in and throw things off balance. Of course doubts are natural, but a lot of narratives will try to convince you to squash those doubts and accept that you’re exactly where you need to be, doing what you need to do, and you deserve it. Which is true in some cases, but in discussing things with my therapist, she made me realize that although it’s framed as such, impostor syndrome doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Feeling proud of the work you’ve done is certainly important, and I truly believe there is an element of self-care in acknowledging your strengths and achievements. But there comes a time when uncertainty can be beneficial. By taking a step back and considering your accomplishments, there’s an inevitable “now what” attached. And by allowing yourself to explore that, you can harness those doubts to help decide if it’s time for a change. 

This isn’t to say that you need to drastically change course and find new goals once you’ve achieved something, but rather those pockets of second-guessing can be an opportunity to think about whether or not you’re being challenged enough. Sometimes the answer is yes, and that’s when you can continue on your path to owning your confidence. But if you find the answer is no, maybe it’s time to really think about that “now what” question.

So that’s where I’ve landed this year. Not necessarily in the definitive camp of knowing whether or not I’m being challenged enough, but right now, I’m letting myself spend some time forming an answer. For me, the most difficult part is not rushing to parse it all out.

To be completely honest, I love deadlines. With an end goal in sight, a physical end goal (read: date/time when I want to achieve something), I can usually round up enough motivation to get things done. So what if those rigid deadlines were to be taken out of the equation? What if there’s nothing major I’m working towards. Where will I get my motivation then? It’s been something I’ve thought about a lot recently – hence, this entire blog post. And I’ve really been trying my best to not necessarily do away with these beloved deadlines completely, but instead, find more creative ways to set goals and enjoy myself along the way.

It’s definitely easier said than done, but there is truly no need to set a time limit in which you want to achieve your goals. Perhaps in taking my time to work at it, I will enjoy it more. Because once I get to the destination, I’m just going to look for a new thing to work toward. And the truth is, there’s only so much we can actually control when it comes to new challenges. So I’m trying to stop clinging to arbitrary timelines when there’s nothing I can do to make things go quicker.  

That balance is tricky. It’s something I’ll probably be working on my entire life. But I think I’d rather work on the balance than rush through something for the sake of meeting the goal at the end. For what reason? Just to create a new finish line? I’ve got so much time to set new finish lines for myself, so I may as well do my best to take a slower approach when it comes to challenging myself. That impostor syndrome certainly won’t go away, and when it’s time for me to kick things up a notch, I’d like to think I’ll be grateful it’s there.

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Expectations

Hello! I’m happy to report that I have survived the busiest months ever! Somehow, the end of June into beginning of August was when All The Things™ happened, and big part of making sure I survived was prioritizing the small amount of free time I had to take care of myself. This meant not feeling bad about falling behind on an arbitrary blog schedule I created for myself. I definitely stand by the fact that even though I’ve had all these ideas of stuff to write, I decided to get some sleep instead.

So what have I been up to these last two months? Well, after wrapping up a successful pride month, there were birthdays to celebrate, concerts to dance at, a four day work conference to prepare for and attend, and I moved out for the very first time.

Like I said. ALL. THE. THINGS.

But for real, being busy is my favorite, so being busy with all these incredible events in my life made for such an exciting way to spend my summer. And the fact that my yearly family vacation on the beach fell exactly at the end of my busy months didn’t hurt, either. It made the reward that much sweeter.

It’s sort of been a little too perfect. Spending time and energy on projects I was excited about, practicing self care to handle my busy schedule, and then getting to relax and refresh on the beach for a week. It’s left me feeling completely recharged and motivated. Sort of like New Year’s. Plus, when I realized that I moved into a new apartment at the very middle of the year – the beginning of July – it was a perfect opportunity to hit a reset button. On my resolutions, intentions, and general plans for working toward my goals.

So what now?

As an overly enthusiastic and creative person, it’s tough to navigate all of the ideas and aspirations I have for myself. I get so amped about a project I want to start, and then I have 10 other projects I want to work on, and then I get so overwhelmed that I don’t choose anything and instead just watch Netflix.

I see so much stuff online discussing what to do when you’re lacking motivation and want to get started on something. Or how to keep the momentum going once you’ve found it. But what about when you have the drive but aren’t sure where to direct it?

As I will tell anyone who will listen, Leslie Knope and I are undeniably the same person. There’s a particular quote that comes to mind when I think about our similar levels of enthusiasm, motivation, and stamina:

“I’m going to work until I’m 100, then cut back to four days a week. I’m already bored thinking about that fifth day. Oh, well, maybe I’ll go to law school!”

Right, so that’s how I feel most of the time. When I have a day off, if I’m not crossing something off my to-do list, I feel unproductive. Sure, I’ll take some time at the end of a busy work day to hang out with friends or watch YouTube videos and eat some ice cream. But there’s always this lingering judgement in back of my mind that is trying to convince me to step it up. When was the last time I wrote something? Should I be focusing more on a side hustle? Why didn’t I go for a run before dinner? I always want to be working, improving, and feeling as fulfilled as possible. But there’s certainly a difference between being fulfilled and being completely stuffed.

There’s another quote from Parks and Rec that I’ve been considering lately that I think will serve me better than my usual Leslie Knope energy levels.

Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

Much like the goal I had set for myself to write a new blog post every month, my motivation often comes from my own personal expectations. While there is certainly a benefit of purpose that comes along with setting a goal, it’s important to remember to keep a balance. Once you start setting too many goals without the proper resources to complete them, you’ll likely end up more frustrated than satisfied. It’s absolutely important to work hard to achieve what you want, but not at the price of compromising your true and full potential.

So maybe right now, instead of using my newly renewed energy and motivation to figure out how many projects I can work on, I can pick the one I’m most excited about and see where that takes me. Maybe after a few weeks I’ll want to shift my focus onto a different project for a while. Or maybe I’ll find time to take smaller and more meaningful steps forward in the areas I can handle. While it may take more effort and discipline, I think I can stand to be a little more flexible. I can whole ass one project at a time and move on when it feels right. That way, I can feel productive and creative while still having time to watch Parks and Rec. Again.