I Used To Steal My Own Money
My eyes swept around the grocery store. My co-workers were busy with customers, stocking the shelves, minding their own business. Good.
My left hand closed around the wallet that I had slipped into my work clothes. I slowly put my thumb to the side of the zipper and felt it glide open. With my right hand, I quickly entered the code that would open the till.
When I was absolutely sure no one was looking, I took a handful of coins from my wallet and quickly dropped them into the gaping mouth of the till. I would sort them into their respective containers later.
I had seen the list they kept in the canteen: who had worked which till and how much money was missing at the end of the day. I was afraid that my till would come up short at the end of the day because of errors I had undoubtedly made.
Whenever I had any coins on me, I would secretly feed them into the machine in hopes of coming out even.
I can only imagine the bemused looks of my supervisor when he made up the balance after each day.
When I got my first grown-up job (part time copywriter at a marketing agency) the same thing bugged me. I understood that I got paid to make money for the company, but many of my hours were spent on internal stuff — stuff that wasn’t earning them any cash.
My boss was a sweetheart who understood that the nature of my job prevented me from hitting the 70% benchmark of ‘billable time’. He encouraged me not to worry about it. He told me I did great work, that I was a valuable asset, that I was appreciated.
I couldn’t see it. With the results of my work being diffuse and obscure, I had no way of proving my usefulness to myself. On top of that, every task that I was given was completed sooner than expected, and so I never had enough work to do. I’d be given placeholder tasks until they could think of something useful for me to do, but that felt like cheating. After four years of inventing odd jobs for myself and feeling like I wasn’t earning my pay, I quit.
It wasn’t until years after that I heard the term imposter syndrome for the first time. I initially wondered at the phenomenon. How could qualified, well-meaning and hard-working people feel like they were not worthy of doing their jobs?
I must admit it took me a while to figure out I had a fair dose of imposter syndrome, myself. But once I did, I started seeing it everywhere, and in other people, as well.
Those people mostly appear to be women. My mother frets over her ability to write and direct operas — something she has done over seven times already, and with great success.
My sister, who holds a university degree in psychology and has great empathy for anyone she meets, used to work at a suicide hotline and regularly talked people down from absolute despair to quiet kind of hope. She doubts whether she could truly help people as a therapist.
I still suffer from it now and then, but it wars with this weird Pippi Longstocking idea of ‘I’ve never done that before so I think I can do it.’
The latter attitude has served me far better. While imposter syndrome told me to read up, study harder and not stick out my neck too far before I was ‘ready’ (whatever that meant), my inner Pippi Longstocking got shit done. She created websites for herself in a matter of days, started Instagram and YouTube accounts for her ideas, signed up for auditions and interviews and wrote more blogs than I ever thought I’d be capable of.
Imposter syndrome just stood by, clasping her hands, fretting about whether it was good enough and never actually contributing anything valuable.
Of course, some projects were more successful than others. Some made real money, others died a slow (or a fast) death. But that was okay, because there was always a new project to dive into, something new to try, some crazy idea to test. The people who don’t see the flaming piles of trash in the background, think my hands turn stuff to gold.
The one step to a Pippi Longstocking-attitude
There’s something to be said for determination and grit, and working hard on the same thing until it becomes what you wish it to be. But I have learned long ago to try many different things with the option of letting go of them as quickly as I took them up. Today, I study classical singing and make money with four separate side-hustles (subtitling/copywriting, mermaiding, being a virtual assistant and creative writing).
There’s one super-easy step to freeing your inner Pippi Longstocking: just get going. Don’t think about failing or succeeding. Make trying the goal.
Don’t let your imposter syndrome win out.
Channel your inner Pippi Longstocking and get started on that idea.
It doesn’t even have to be a good idea. My most successful money-making idea was uploading videos where I swim around in a handmade mermaid costume. That is not a good idea.
But you never know what’s gonna work, so start trying stuff today.
About the author
Here so you can learn from my mistakes: a singer/writer bringing you desperately personal stories and some occasional pedantic advice.
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