Fat Portland raindrops slapped the top of my umbrella as I stood in line waiting for the doors to open at the very first Pioneer Nation. I had been waiting for this in-person version of Chris Guillebeau's, The $100 Startup ever since I read the book last year and applied its advice to my coaching business.
Now it was about to begin and I was nearly sick with trepidation. I shivered under my pink rainjacket and glanced furtively at the others in line.
These people are REAL entrepreneurs, I thought. I don't belong here.
The entire first day of the conference, my brain was overtaken with thoughts of inadequacy. I vacillated between overcompensating with too much confidence and shying away from conversation altogether.
When I said hello to Chris, I introduced myself and reminded him that we had met during his book tour stop in Santa Cruz. "I know," he smiled. "I remember you - Melanie Cobb. We've been writing back and forth since then," he shook his head as if to add, "silly."
Duh, I thought. Why did you think he wouldn't remember you?
Then, the next day, I heard a phrase that became one of the touchstones of the conference: IMPOSTOR COMPLEX. One of the speakers said, "I never think I belong at these things because I suffer from some serious impostor complex."
What?! That's a THING? And the SPEAKER suffers from it??
Something about finding out that there was a name for the ailment and that I wasn't the only one who suffered from it ameliorated the overwhelm. I relaxed into the remainder of the conference, realizing that we're all just people - learning how to help the world, run a business, create awesome products and services - essentially, doing the best we can. No one is looking around to point out who doesn't belong, because they're likely worrying that they're the impostor!
In fact, when I went to dinner with one of the main keynote speakers (whom Chris mentioned was the first person not on his team that he called for advice when planning this conference), rather than me gawking at her much-better-than-me feet, she was asking me for business advice! We were peers, and I had some valuable things to contribute to the conversation.
And on the final night, when I said goodbye and thank you to Chris, I began introducing myself to him one more time (just in case!), and he shook his head. He looked me in the eye and said, "Melanie, I know who you are. You don't have to keep telling me!"
I realized that I was putting him on a pedestal, and being on a pedestal doesn't feel good to anyone - neither the person on it or the one who put them there. So - sorry, Chris! I'm done with that now. I'm ready to be a regular person, like you, both doing the best we can to grow our businesses and help the world.
And that goes for all of us. No more trying to prove our worth. No more letting our impostor complexes run the show. It's time for us to show up and offer what we have to the greater good, because really, it's not about us anyway.
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!