On Identity


The idea of identity caught my attention and has held it now for several decades. A couple of years ago, I remember saying to a good friend of mine that I was “at the gate.” At that moment, I was just telling her where I was physically—waiting to board a plane. But as we talked, I heard myself saying to her, “This girl is on a journey to find out who she really is.” At the gate: a going out and a coming in; a change of seasons; a leaving behind and a discovering ahead.

I was “at the gate” when I entered a Ph.D. program in education leadership in 2007, thinking that it was another step in my educational adventure. What I didn’t know at the time and have come to know more deeply even to this day is that it set me on a deeper course of self-discovery. I thought I was getting this terminal degree so that I could teach at the university level. I thought that getting this degree would end that gnawing sensation of inadequacy. I thought I could finally fill in all those gaps and cover up all those lapses that had haunted me throughout my life. I thought I could step out of my insecurities and into self-confidence and leave all my fears behind me.

But it was not to be. Instead of getting past all of my baggage, I came face to face with it. I happened upon the impostor phenomenon. It was, for me, like looking into the mirror and seeing myself for the first time—seeing my inner self. If you have read my book The Impostor Affect: A Closer Look by a Classic Case, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to because the research shows that many, many people are just like me—living with a distorted understanding of who they are and wondering why they feel like frauds.

My youngest daughter made a wall hanging for me some years ago that reads “Every heart has a story to tell.” I am a person with identity issues, and I have a story. It’s my story. I am searching. I have questions and need answers. And I need healing. My heart is full to overflowing with this story, and I must write it. So I will. The next book is underway.