When my boss first asked me to write about something “close to the heart”, I couldn’t help but cringe.

I don’t like to talk about my feelings – much less write about them for people to read (aka judge) at their discretion. At night before bed, I’ll sometimes send my heart rate through the roof by picturing my readers’ faces contorted and sneering –  snickering at my metaphors or disagreeing with facts.

I mean, I’ve spent enough time on the internet to know how cruel people can be when presented with vulnerability.

That got me thinking: how can I be so afraid of being vulnerable and authentic with my own words, but then turn around and preach that brands and friends do the same?

I’m always the first to encourage a friend to ask for the raise, go back to school, and advocate for yourself but even I lose my voice sometimes.

So, today I want to talk about how to avoid stifling yourself…

Comparison is the killer of joy

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When was the last time you heard about someone doing a social media cleanse?

There’s a reason this trend has picked up steam lately and a lot of it has to do with scientific evidence that, shockingly, comparing your life to someone else’s perfectly curated Instagram is just not healthy.

Filters can’t be trusted.

The same goes for comparing yourself to the success, wealth, looks, and talents of strangers and colleagues.

Getting caught in “The Comparison Trap” can suffocate your ability to grow outside of your comfort zone and can cause major damage to your self-esteem.

How to Overcome It:

Think about your accomplishments thus far and focus on setting small, achievable goals.

Avoid fixating on where you stack up compared to your peers or where you might have fallen short.

Your experiences are completely unique to you and deserve to be appreciated as a motivating factor as opposed to an immovable anchor that’s weighing you down.

Think of your experiences as a collection of rare, delicate gems that should be protected instead of dismissed. Success comes in different forms, especially if you maintain an agile and flexible personality.

No ragrets – not even one letter…

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I studied journalism and religious studies in college (when future of the news was in jeopardy and “Is Journalism Dead?” was the title to more than a few of my professors’ lectures) with big dreams of becoming an on-the-ground, award-winning Colombian/Puerto Rican/American-raised Christiane Amanpour.  

Obviously, that didn’t happen. So instead of covering global affairs and war-crimes, I took a few interesting turns that both set me back and propelled me forward all at once.

Those turns changed the trajectory of my career and my life. I worked meaningless jobs and constantly compared myself to others until I landed my first job in marketing.

After that, things started clicking into place.  

Eventually, I leveraged my experiences into a new job and now I’m immensely happy to work somewhere that trusts me and allows me to work creatively and think strategically.

At the time, I didn’t realize that my choices over the years had instilled integrity in my work, taught me the importance of grit during hard times, and made me as resilient as people who don’t flinch when they ask for an undeserved raise.

Sometimes I feel ambivalent about my decisions and think about how different my life would be if I had pursued a career in law or if numbers didn’t make me cross-eyed, but it’s never been worth it to obsess over what could have been.

How to Overcome It:

Unless you’re using regret as an unfriendly reminder of what not to do –  just drop it. 

I’ve seen people close to me tear themselves apart over their choices and it’s never pretty.

Regret breeds contempt, anger, and a sadness that’s almost impossible to temper once released.

Take it easy on yourself and remember to trust the process.

You worked hard, you earned it, you deserve it… or do you?

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‘The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome…” – Neil Gaiman

I stopped writing for almost 10 years and I can say with 100% certainty, that the only reason I ever stopped was because I was terrified of being outed as a swindler.

Afraid that I’d be found out as a fraud and dragged through the streets and forced to rip pages out of my journals as punishment.

Afraid that someone would argue with my logic and that I would respond by placing a dunce cap on my head.

Afraid that I’d be called out for “pretending” to be a writer and so I did what any reasonable person would do: I quit.

In retrospect, the discomfort I was feeling should have been a sign that I was heading in the right direction but here I am – writing again and coming full circle.

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How to Overcome It:

This is a tough one because thoughts of being an imposter never truly go away for anyone that suffers from them.

The best career advice I can offer is to remind yourself that you’re not running some huge con like an old-timey saloon owner with a back poker room.

Regardless of your profession, there are imposters out there but you’re not one of them.

You do know what you’re doing, you worked hard and you earned those accolades – give yourself that, at least.  

Besides, even Einstein felt his accomplishments were overhyped in his later years and he was an actual genius.

Set aside fear first…

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Now, I know I’m not alone when I say that putting yourself out there is scary – whether it be as a blogger, a brand, an employee in a high-level meeting, or even in a relationship, but ultimately, I wish someone had told me to dig deep to find the determination to set aside fear first.

Certain things like being on time and taking criticism with an open mind never go out of style and if you can push yourself to succeed in those little things you’ll find yourself trusting your decisions more and more over time.

The next time you feel yourself starting to succumb to any of these feelings just remember: we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got and you’re not alone in that.