Procrastination and I were best friends.
Or so I thought.
With deadlines looming far ahead, I sat back putting off those things that I could have easily completed without pressure.
But that pressing presence of time became so necessary for me to eke out my greatest creative work that I knew no other way to get things done.
If a high school project was due Monday afternoon, I would set my alarm clock for early Monday morning and get to work without distractions. If a college paper was due at 11AM, I would sit in the computer lab at 10AM, pounding away at the keys and my brain, filling the paper with masterful nonsense. If grades needed to be turned in by Friday at noon, I would actually arrive to work early for once and sit with unbroken concentration at the computer, entering strokes of ego to a student’s GPA. I lived for pressure and crowned myself the Queen of Procrastination.
But the older I got, the more evident it became that I hadn’t done myself any favors.
I don’t know how to long-term plan.
Don’t know how to not rush and stress over every minute.
Don’t know how to enjoy the journey when my GPS is only focused on the destination.
Over the last few years, procrastination cost me opportunities, money, and time.
Most recently, I was invited not once but twice to participate in an anthology. One was for a romantic fiction and another was for a women empowerment entrepreneurial piece. I grew so accustomed to relying on tomorrows that my todays collided with life and I found myself with no time or drive to complete my portion of the projects.
Life unexpectedly took my grandmother, dealt a huge financial blow with my mother, and left me scrambling to find a place to call home. The deadlines for both projects flew forward and by me and all I could do was apologize and walk away.
Then in 2017, Viola Davis, a phenomenal American actress who is finally getting her credit and just rewards, said something quite powerful the same night she won a coveted Oscar for her supporting actress role in Fences. She said, "It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time I still have the impostor, you know, syndrome. I still feel like I'm going to wake up and everybody's going to see me for the hack I am."
That quote resonated and stayed with me over this last week as I tried to figure out how I would live stream on the topic of the Impostor Syndrome (IS). I heard about IS before, even wrote about it before.
Impostor Syndrome has been bandied about in the entrepreneurial world for the last couple of years. Psychologists use the phrase when talking about the feeling of inadequacy felt by people who actually deserve the accolades they receive. These folks feel a fraud, unworthy of praise or even getting paid for their knowledge, talent, or experience. Oftentimes, it is because what they are gifted at comes very easily to them. Other times, it’s because society has stepped on their toes or dreams by telling them that they’re lucky because women, blacks, immigrants, etc are not as talented or deserving as…fill in the blanks.
What made the message resonate for me this time was not just hearing Viola Davis say she struggles with Impostor Syndrome, it was what she said later during her interview with ABC News backstage after her win at the Academy Awards. She realized, “self-deprecation is not the answer to humility.” Hearing that made the truth slide onto home plate. That small part of her response threw light upon the shadowed place my truth resided.
I was not the Queen of Procrastination; I was in an abusive relationship with Impostor Syndrome.
I have allowed so much of me to be buried under the feelings of not being good enough.
The bright light of truth shown on the real reason I had not completed my portion of the two anthologies—I didn’t feel worthy. With the romantic fiction, it was that the other writers were better than me, had greater romantic experience than I did, a stronger voice. With the business anthology, it was that I was not successful in business, that I was still finding my way so how could I give other women advice on how to keep pushing towards their own success.
Not only did I mentally thrash myself out of the opportunities, I then proceeded to inflict more harm by saying to myself, “See? You’re not cut out to be successful. You couldn’t even meet the deadlines of something you wanted to do.”
Once I owned up to the truth of IS’s influence over me, the light spread to other areas of my life: why I settled on education as a major in college; why I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue acting even after being told by a celebrity acting coach (among scores of other people) that I was a real natural; why I haven’t finished the books or screenplays that sit on my desktop, laptop, and cloud-based storage; why I haven’t taken the steps to become a motivational speaker; why my friend told me I was “afraid of success” not failure.
It all made so much sense.
It wasn’t that I was afraid to fail but that I expected to because I was not deserving of success.
I allowed the “doubt, depression, despair, and anxiety” Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist, said were symptoms of Impostor Syndrome to rule my life. I spent years in silence, rejecting or not even asking for help, as she also notes to be patterns of those suffering from IS.
But no more.
By even writing this piece, I’m taking Dr. Taylor’s advice to “Be courageous; claim [my] space.”
Time to switch out my crown and find a new name—my own.