Along with perfectionism comes a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.
Andrew is getting awfully good at routinely telling me that I can do "this thing," whatever "this thing" is at the time (a paper, a presentation, an entire degree) and know to talk me down when I talk about needing to figure out "my life" (like, the whole thing).
A friend today posted a little meme on facebook that said something about not expecting yourself to perform at your best all the time because then it's no longer your best; it's your norm. So it's fine to sometimes not do your Very Best Work.
I believe this could be a rather dangerous idea in the mind of someone who's already okay not doing their very best work, but I think it's excellent advice for a perfectionist and I've been trying to remind myself that this paper I'm working on, for example, doesn't have to be The Best Paper Ever Written. Like, it honestly just doesn't. And I know that. But if it isn't, then do I really deserve to be in school? (See, that's where the imposter syndrome kicks in).
So I'm going to vainly list a few kind things people have said or done for me this past semester that have helped me feel more real (ie. less of an imposter):
- A girl in one of my classes wanted to do a group project early because she was expecting a baby and wanted to get it finished before her baby came, so she reached out to a friend in the class who suggested she contact me because I'm on top of things and would probably be up for doing the project early (I was).
- A girl who is actually in both of my classes this semester (as well as in the class I took last semester) told me (during a synchronous zoom class) that she's always so happy to hear what I have to say and that she looks for my comments because they're always enlightening (which made me feel like I actually do have things to add to these conversations).
- Months ago I emailed my friend Grant's mom with some words of condolence as well as some poems that I'd written (that are due to come out in my book which—for real—will be published one day soon...I think). She never wrote back, so I thought that maybe it was just too awkward of an email. It was weirdly timed because...I don't know. I wrote to Grant's brothers right away? I just one day realized that I had never actually reached out to his mom. And then I thought, "Maybe she just thinks I'm weird." And I was pretty okay with that because I'm not for everybody; my writing/poetry isn't for everybody. It's cool. But then she reached out to my mom, asking her to ask me to send my poems to her again because she was getting a card ready to take to a funeral and wanted to include one of my poems in the card. It made me so happy to think that my poems had touched her after all.
- One of my professors reached out to me this semester to ask me if I will do a GAship for him. I'm not going to lie: I had to look up what a GAship even was because to me a GA is a "General Authority," but in the University System of Georgia a GA is a "Graduate Assistant." I'd heard of TAs and I'd heard of RAs but I hadn't ever heard of GAs. Anyway, it's kind of exciting and a little intimidating. It's a part-time job that comes with a full tuition scholarship. The only catch is that I have to take 12 credit hours (and do the job...and homeschool my kids), which feels like a lot. But Andrew keeps telling me "You can do this!" So I'm going to do it (the job, in case you're wondering, is helping to organize a children's book conference). And I think it will be a good thing. I spent a lot of time agonizing over the decision and feeling overwhelmed, but now that I've signed the paperwork for it I feel really good about it. So we're just jumping into this grad school thing with both feet.
I remember a few months ago when I was just...fussing...about life to Andrew. I felt like a lot of things were going wrong for us (this was probably around the time our house was literally falling apart all around us, not that it's entirely fixed...but it's better than it was now that we've fixed a few things) and I said something like, "When is an opportunity ever going to fall into our laps?! Why are we always clawing our way everywhere we go?!"
Now, I understand that we live a rather privileged life overall. We've had some bumps along our path but we've really done just fine and have had some amazing experiences (some of which really did just fall into our laps). It just felt, at the time, like we hadn't had a good opportunity drop in a long time. And then this opportunity fell into my lap and I was like, "Why can't I just accept it?! I was begging for an opportunity to fall into my lap and now one had and I can't even take it!" Instead I had to agonize over it, wondering whether I was really the right person for the job, wondering if I could even do it. But, as I said, now that I've accepted it, I feel fine.
Anyway, I just wanted to make a note of these things (even though it feels a little braggy (please excuse me)) so that I can remember them more clearly when I need to be reminded that I can do...stuff.