Who do you think you are…?
Photography By: Michelle Morgan – http://www.michellemorgan.co.ke/
Location: Kitengela Glass, Kenya – http://www.kitengela.com/
Makeup By: Kayte Macharia – email@example.com
Clothes Provided By: Kache By Angie, Junction Mall, Nairobi.
‘Please cover up this part, I always seem to look tired, so pile on the concealer’, I said to the make-up artist, pointing under my eyes, emphasizing on the dark circles that were impressed on my face, giving me a permanently exhausted look. It had been an insecurity of mine, among the many, for years. The make-up artist, a stout Afrikaner lady, smiled and began applying concealer a bit too generously, then powdered my face shortly afterwards so that it ended up having a cakey effect. Where there were dark circles, now there were bronze wrinkles. I sighed, looked at the clock above us and saw that I had ten minutes before I went on air for the first time, on the South African news network that had head-hunted me and relocated me a month earlier.
The year was 2009, September. I’d arrived in Johannesburg three months later than I was supposed to because of complications trying to acquire my work permit. (Oh by the way, did I mention that this is where I ran into ‘him’ after so many years. He actually helped me carry my bags… but that’s a story for another day!) It had been such a grueling three months, packed with tension, blame games and bureaucracy that had left me drained and almost defeated. I say almost because after what seems to be the longest wait of my life, I finally got the permit and headed out for my new venture in a new country. The excitement, however, was all but gone by the time I boarded the flight from Nairobi. The wait, as I began to term it, had taken me back to a place inside me that I’d battled for so long…self doubt. Maybe I wasn’t good enough for this job? Could this be a sign?
That took me back yet again to my days in primary school; the scrawny, peculiar girl with a weird voice and bullish personality. I was often picked on; it was difficult for me to fit in. From very early on I became a recluse and acted boisterous to disguise my insecurities. The plus side was having a supportive family and a group of family friends that embraced me for the most part. That got me through, but often made me socially awkward. A group of girls in primary school called me ‘frog voice’ because of my unusual tenor. All this built up and by the time I was sixteen, the advances I’d get from boys threw me off and it took me a while to begin to embrace my femininity.
But the hardest part was always somehow feeling that I was going to fail. In my adult life, as I interviewed for jobs and got them, instead of being elated, my first feeling was fear; have they picked the wrong person? Did I really fool them into thinking I can do this? Though I’m haunted less by these voices, it doesn’t mean I still don’t, once in a while, suffer from a case of ‘impostor syndrome’.
Wikipedia defines it as ‘a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.’ They go on to say ‘notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.’
Sound familiar? Yup! There I was in 2009, about to go on air in front of the continent and all the while, there was still a part of me that was pinching myself; how did a scrawny girl like me, awkward voice an all, land here? What was I DOING here? Because after years of being too much or too little of something; too thin, too awkward, too serious, too young, too old, too short…I was convinced that to get to the next level in life I had to don the ‘impostor’ cap and work my way through it until someone ‘busted me’ and figured out that I was a fluke.
It’s taken me some time to work past the impostor syndrome and embrace my abilities; truth is, we all have something that makes us good…no, great! We sometimes can’t see past the cloud of doubt or the misty fog that hangs around us, hindering the path we’re walking. Here’s how I beat impostor syndrome now; I shut out the noise and focus ahead. I take stock of the things I’ve achieved and allow myself to set goals within my reach. I walk with friends and family who genuinely believe in me. I pray, I search, I learn, I seek, not because I’m this ‘holier than thou’ person, (believe me I’ a work in progress in that department!), but because I gain a certain perspective by taking time out to be with God.
I read my first bulletin on South African television and managed to get through it with lots of nerves but a feeling of great accomplishment all the same. I still do, whenever I’ve read a bulletin. Whenever I find myself doubting my abilities, I’m now quick to remind myself of all my accomplishments…that after all that’s said and done, I’m not doing too badly!
If you feel like you’re struggling with a self-esteem issue that’s really holding you back from moving forward and want to talk to a professional about it, please visit www.kpsya.or.ke. They have a database of psychologists who could help you.