I remember when my children were young, and we had gatherings of friends at our house. We worked hard to teach our children to respect our space and time when adults were gathered together. Often our children were encouraged to go to a different room, especially when we were playing certain games or having specific discussions. My little girls were brilliant and mature for their ages, but we never deemed them mature enough to be in a room with adults. As they grew up, they honored this more and more without resistance, and I thought this was powerful parenting. I demonstrated that I could teach my kids and that my kids were disciplined.
I actually taught them that they were not adequate — that they were not enough to be in the same room as the adults. I taught my children, whom I love dearly, that they needed to be somebody else to be adequate enough to be in the same room as people who had already reached a plateau. I helped create a feeling of inadequacy in them.
Handing Down Self-Doubt
As I watched my daughters grow up, I witnessed them experience self-doubt, self-worth, and inadequacy in school with their friends, and as they got older, with the search for their first jobs. Teaching them to honor adult time taught them that they needed to be more to be worthy. That’s not exactly what I was intending to teach them — but that’s what they learned. My wife Angie and I are in the process of unraveling years of training that taught them that they were not enough.
I was taught similarly, so I was simply handing down the painful lessons that I learned from my own parents. I’ve witnessed so many of my friends, clients, employees, and strangers who feel inadequate — regardless of their knowledge or talents.
Barely Keeping My Head Above Water
During my rapid and rather effortless ascension up the corporate ladder, I consistently felt extreme self-doubt and inadequacy. Whether I was repairing electronic equipment or leading a $350 million plant, I felt like a fraud. In the executive boardroom, I felt like I didn’t belong at the table, even though my team’s and plant’s performance proved otherwise. I felt like I was one question, idea, or error away from being asked to leave the room. I kept quiet even though I had powerful ideas, and I held on for dear life to stay in the room.
I felt like I was a fake in every position I held, and in every cell of my body, I felt that I needed to fake it until I made it. The problem was that I never “made it.” I felt like a fraud, a fake, an imposter my entire career until it all collapsed. Even though there was overwhelming evidence to prove that I was adequate, valuable, and talented, I lost two executive positions in 20 months because of my deep fear and insecurity. I lost all control. I allowed the deep inadequacy to blind me so much that my career, and almost my family, collapsed. I was an unemployed, unemployable, overweight, abusive, suicidal, alcoholic who figured out that I had nothing figured out. That’s when I began to realize that “faking it until you make it” is garbage advice — and creates unnecessary struggle and pain.
We Are All Imperfect
There’s not one person on this planet of 7.7 billion who is perfect, knows everything, and is fully prepared for everything that might or might not happen. We all have talents and gifts that we get to use, and we also each have areas of weakness. We are each in a powerful state of learning, development, and growth. There’s genetic pressure in your DNA for personal and professional evolution, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. You can resist it, but you’ll just end up feeling more pain and resistance over time. The only thing permanent is impermanence, and as we grow and evolve, there’s always more to learn. No one can possibly have it all figured out. No one makes it, arrives, or “gets there.” As soon as you achieve something, more shows up to be achieved. As human beings, we possess the desire to expand.
Don’t Ever Fake It
You “fake it” is because you feel that if you reveal your true self and your weaknesses, you’ll be cast aside. The need to fake it is based on the assumption that there are already people who have “arrived,” and that because we have not, we must hide reality from those around us. We are all imperfect, yet we feel we must know everything all the time to be valuable.
When I began my coaching business, I was scared to let people know that I was a new coach, I had no clients, and that my calendar was empty. After many failed attempts to sign prospects, I tried a new approach. I began telling prospects that I was a new coach and that I was searching for clients who would allow me to gain experience, get my practice off the ground, and wanted more of my time because my calendar was empty. I began to tell the full and honest truth. Then the craziest thing happened — I started being hired as a coach, and my calendar filled up.
At a time when I had no clients, I remember meeting another coach at a networking event. From afar, I admired his success, his tenure as a coach, and his three coaching certifications. I was jealous and envious. After I had hit six figures in my first full year in coaching with my newfound transparency and honesty, we reconnected and had an honest discussion. He had been a coach for years, but only had a handful of clients. I had only perceived that he was successful and that I was inadequate compared to him, just like I had done in all of my corporate years. That interaction solidified that transparency, honesty, and being perfectly imperfect really anchored in my life and belief system.
The Freedom of Imperfection
My kids are healing. They are both working hard to overcome the inadequacy that Angie and I helped gift them. As a team, we constantly affirm who they are, and we cease focusing on who they are not. We make sure that they are perfectly imperfect just as they are. In fact, they are perfectly imperfect — just like everyone else. Maybe they’ll break the cycle. And maybe they’ll help future generations realize that we’re all trying to figure it out. Maybe they’ll finally help the world arrive at the conclusion that no one else has realized.
Maybe they’ll lead many children back into rooms with adults where they can embrace that they are equals, just like everyone else.