Last week I was out dining with a friend. Actually, let me rephrase that…we were both out dining and we were at some singles’ evening trying not to make it too obvious that we were flatly ignoring this boring guy at our table…but alas, that’s a story for another day… So, we were out dining and discovered we have something in common. And no, it was not that we finished school in the same year, or did the same subjects at school or were both in Knysna on 9/11 (I really have a friend with whom I have those things in common!!). In fact, we discovered that we both have moments where we feel we are faking it.
But before your mind starts wandering to all sort of things you can fake….let me explain! I came from a humble background and worked hard in school (the maths geek, remember). And I worked hard at varsity and I somehow managed to get some great opportunities and be successful, but I certainly would never in my wildest dreams have imagined myself to Ms Executive by the age of 41. Please don’t ask me what I was thinking I would be, because despite all my well practised answers in interviews when I finished varsity (‘Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?’), I did not have a clue where I was going or what I imagined myself to be. All I knew was that I would make it if I was given a chance. I don’t do failing.
By the time I finished articles at the age of 26, I did not recognise myself…somewhere along the line I picked up confidence that I did not think I had. Most of it I gained by surprising myself. I would tackle some new project or task thinking ‘Oh my word, I REALLY don’t know if I can do this’, but pretending I could. ‘Yes, sure! Of course I can do that.’ And lo and behold, I managed to do it. Over and over again. They say repetition forms habits…by surprising myself time and again I formed a new habit…confidence.
Discovering the ‘power suit’ was another light bulb moment. There is nothing that beats making yourself feel important and high powered like wearing a ‘power suit’. Whenever I feel I need a little bit of confidence for an important meeting it is always good to turn to a tailored suit that was preferably bought somewhere in London or New York (or good ol’ Sandton City) :-). And of course shoes!! Nothing like wearing a pair of heels that cost the price of a one-way ticket to London for a confidence boost…
And I am competent… I consider myself a good (albeit non typical) accountant. I (think) I have the right balance between technical knowledge and a feel for what will work from a practical perspective. I have good interpersonal skills, so generally I have gotten along with most of my work colleagues, bosses, teams, subordinates. A partner at Deloitte, where I spent 8 long and happy years, once told me that my client (who hated the firm) thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I have been tempted to put that on my CV a few times…
But despite that, I have my moments when I feel like a fraudster. I have these visions of someone coming up to me and asking me ‘Aren’t you that girl who lived next to the railway in Eloff?’ And that they will see right through me and past the ‘power suit’ and the Jimmy Choos and see the little girl who is still surprised that she managed to pull this off. See the teenager who had no idea what to do one day and liked solving maths problems more than trying out some typical teenager stuff (like smoking and drinking and…).
But then I look back at my career, what I managed to achieve, my kids (who are much smarter than I was and definitely have a LOT more confidence than I ever had), my house that the bank owns but are letting me use because they believe I am ‘good for it’ and I realise that it wasn’t just by fluke that I got here. That it wasn’t like opening a lucky packet or rubbing a magical lamp with a genie inside, but that I got here all by myself (damn Bridget Jones again…).
And it wasn’t always moonlight and roses. If anything, the last 20 years have taught me that you really can learn from your experiences. And that when you set your mind to it, you can overcome most things. And I am the ultimate optimist. I always look for the silver lining even in the darkest thunderstorm. Sometimes I just see the thunder…but a girl can dream…:). I found this quote last year when life looked pretty bleak…
Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha. ~Robert Brault
And maybe one day when I am travelling the world as the youngest 60+ year old (I want my kids to beg me to come home for a while, mom, we miss you..), I will believe that this is my real life (and i will do the cha-cha). That I deserve to be here. Until then, I will fake it till I make it 🙂