By Leo Babauta
My friend Brian asked me yesterday what my biggest fear might be, and the first fear that came out of my mouth was: “The fear that people will discover I’m a fraud.”
The truth is, this fear isn’t something I think about a lot, but it’s often present in the background of my mind, unnoticed but working its dark magic on me. Lots of fears work this way, and until we say them aloud, they have a power over us. Once we say them out loud, really bring them out in the light of day, and give them some thought, we take away their power.
How might I be found a fraud? Lots of ways:
- Because I blog about habits, and mindfulness, and simplicity and minimalism, people have certain ideas about who I am. This picture in people’s heads isn’t true, of course, because the reality is never the same as the fantasy. What if you find out I’m not what you think I am?
- People might think I’m amazing at forming habits, and while it’s true I’ve found some pretty good success over the years, much of the time I still struggle, and still fail. Habits aren’t just a skill you learn and then all of a sudden, you can flip a switch for any habit you want to create. You have to constantly remotivate yourself, constantly check your urges to quit, constantly analyze what’s working and how to overcome the obstacles that come up. Each habit is different, and yet they’re all the same in this way.
- I put myself forward as a minimalist, but I’m not nearly as extreme a minimalist as others. I’m OK with that, because for me minimalism is a philosophy, not a competition. It’s a check against the urges and consumerist tendencies of our modern consumerist lives. So yes, I might have less than the average person, but I still buy stuff regularly, and I worry people will judge me for that.
- I’m a fairly successful blogger by most standards, and so people might think I have it all figured out. I don’t. I’m still figuring things out. I still have nervousness, with every post, that I’ll be judged and thought stupid. This has gotten less true as I’ve come to know my audience and trust that you’re a very positive, supportive group, but honestly it still happens. For example, someone attacked me on Twitter a couple days ago for my post on a Healthful Vegan Diet. Apparently, I don’t know anything! And I accept this as true.
- I’m a husband and father of six, and I do my best, but while others might see my family life and think I’m an amazing dad and husband, the truth is I don’t always know what I’m doing, I get mad at my kids, I fight with my wife on a regular basis, I fail often. I do my best, but I fall short all the time.
This comes down to one thing: my imagining of the expectations others might have of me, and my fear that I won’t meet those expectations.
And the honest truth is, I won’t meet those expectations.
So here’s what I do.
I realize that I can’t meet the fantasies of others.
I try to be honest, and not just present a façade. This post is an attempt to do that, as was my failure post. If others have a fantasy of me, perhaps I can make that fantasy more like reality.
I try to be myself, which is really the best I can do. If I’m authentic, I can’t be a fraud, because I’m just being who I am. Of course, I’m always trying to figure out who that self is, and the self is constantly changing, so it’s an interesting endeavor.
I realize I’m still learning, am never “perfect”, and will always be learning. That’s all I can hope for.
I ask myself, “What would happen if the fear came true?” And the truth is, even if I were found to be a fraud by everyone I know and many I don’t, I would be OK. My life would go on. I might need to find another job, but I think I’d be OK sweeping floors or chopping vegetables (both activities I enjoy, btw).
I smile, and give thanks that I’ve been given the chance to write, to share, to connect, to help in some small way. That’s an amazing gift, and I won’t let the scared little child in me ruin it with its complaints.
So thank you, my friends. I’m happy to be here.