There’s something to be said for humility. Humility makes us approachable, coachable, and adaptable. It tends to focus outward more than inward. Humility says, “I am one drop in a large ocean. I am a work in progress.”
But there’s something to be said for recognizing the positive impact you make on the world around you, too.
I battle impostor syndrome, but I’m also motivated to “leave the campsite better than I found it.” I thrive on helping others, spreading kindness, and being a beacon of light (however small). When I don’t feel like my light is very bright, I reflect the light of others. Especially to those who can’t seem to see or feel their own warmth.
Several years ago, I started keeping notes from others as a way to index my positive effect. I kept a physical file called “Folder of Awesome” in which I’d place thank you cards, emails, etc. That evolved to also include keeping a list of wins and milestones, even if they seemed insignificant at the time. I do this to combat the effects of impostor syndrome—a way to validate, with proof, everything I have accomplished in line with my personal goals (see the campsite quote).
But this catalog of awesome also helps me get through rough patches, dark days, and times when I allow someone else to dim my light. (We all have moments when others cause us to question our worth, despite our best efforts.) Another unexpected by-product of this is an easy way to look back on positive highlights for writing bios, presentation introductions, and job interviews. The most meaningful way to convey the impact we make is through sharing our stories.
It’s easy to forget just how much light we put out into the world—how life-changing it can be. That person you wrote a letter of recommendation for—and they got the job! That student you inspired because you spoke in a class once. The words of encouragement that took you seconds to deliver but made a lasting impact. The mentee you took under your wing at work who is now blazing his or her own path. The kindness you showed when someone needed it most even though you had no idea at the time how alone he or she felt. Volunteering. Investing time. Investing resources. Investing yourself. Leaving the campsite better than you found it.
Sometimes, we do these things because we genuinely care. Sometimes, we do them because we feel fortunate and want to extend grace and mirth. And sometimes, we do them because we know what it feels like to be down or lost—and we don’t want others to experience what we have.
Whatever your motivations, you are light. You are love. And while you’re out there, spreading kindness like confetti, make sure you show yourself a little of kindness, too. Take a moment to celebrate YOU and all that you’ve accomplished.
If this feels like bragging, stop right there. It isn’t bragging if you’re keeping a catalog of your own awesomeness for yourself. But you also deserve to toot your horn every once in a while. To look back on the love you’ve shared, the community you’ve fostered. Sometimes, looking back helps propel us forward.
You aren’t an impostor. You are magic. And don’t you forget it.