New Year’s is my favorite holiday – no religious connotations, no presents to buy, no decorations to put up. Just a big party, cocktails, friends, and a fresh start. I like making resolutions, too. I don’t usually make boring resolutions that are hard to enforce like “lose weight” or “spend less money,” but broader goals or themes, like “don’t let the bastards grind me down” (in grad school, 2003) or “Things can only get better” (2010, after a spectacularly horrible 2009). This year, my theme is one that will last for the next three years. This year, I will turn 37, which means 40 is approaching rather quickly – and, as for many people, it also means that I am starting to run out of time. No, I am not talking about having children. I am talking about Being Awesome.

You see, I have always envisioned my 40s as a truly awesome decade. In my 40s, I will be who it is I have been trying to become. I will have my shit together. I will be confident and competent and accomplished and will take shit from no one. Some, like my husband, might say that I am that way already. Perhaps that image is the one I project, but it is not the way I feel inside. In order to Be Awesome, I believe one has to feel awesome inside as well.

I don’t want to suffer from impostor syndrome when I am 40. I don’t want to be insecure and constantly seek approval. I don’t want to feel like a little kid playing at being a grownup when I am 40. I don’t want to be afraid of failure, or take criticism badly.

For the next three years, then, I will start Becoming the 40-Year-Old Woman I Want to Be. I am not sure exactly what this change will entail – probably a shift in perspective, a modification to my usual negative thoughts, better posture, maybe a few lifestyle changes, definitely some new shoes. When faced with a problem, I will say to myself, “How would the 40-year-old me handle this?” and I will do that. If all goes well, then when my 40th birthday does roll around, I won’t have the same thought I had when I turned 30: “I thought I’d be better than this by now.”


9 Comments on “2011”

  1. Katie says:

    As I’ve always thought you were awesome, I’ll simply toast to even more awesomeness in 2011. And I fully approve of the shoe component!

  2. Mandy says:

    This post is inspiring to me! “I don’t want to suffer from impostor syndrome when I am 40. I don’t want to be insecure and constantly seek approval. I don’t want to feel like a little kid playing at being a grownup when I am 40. I don’t want to be afraid of failure, or take criticism badly.” = Brilliant. I completely agree.

    I also like the idea that you’re viewing this as a gradual process. You’re not trying to get to this point overnight. I think major adjustments of viewing yourself differently take time. I want to work on this, too.

    Other people DO see you as already awesome, though! I do!

  3. Belle says:

    Good for you! Go for it. I don’t remember when I started feeling good about myself, but I can assure you it wasn’t by 40!

  4. Melalvai says:

    I just found your blog from the Postdoc Forum. I’m the same age and also chose not to go with tenure track. I’ll be reading more!

  5. Leslie M-B says:

    Mandy took the words right out of my mouth.

    This post, and the sentiments expressed in it, are all kinds of awesome. (As are you, already.)

  6. Rebecca says:

    I certainly understand about not wanting to suffer from impostor syndrome by the time you’re forty. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that might be a more a matter of a perspective change than anything else.

    I don’t think you’d be so good at presenting the image if you didn’t rock it for real. I’d be willing to bet that it comes very natural to you because it is real, and the only time you doubt it is when you dwell too closely on it, or for too long. So stop doing that! Anything seem weird when you do that. Like when you say a word over and over until it just doesn’t seem right.

    Look at what you’re doing now, the respect and acclaim you now have based on your work. Look at how far you’ve come!

    I think that, after a while, the root of the impostor syndrome is very much like that of eating disorders. Even after people lose a great deal of weight, their self-image is often still that of an overweight person. Even being able to point to accomplishments in black and white, and take pride in them, isn’t enough to eradicate the syndrome.

    I think it happens when you finally realize that you feel confident and competent at work. When you realize that not only do you know what you’re doing, but that you do it very well.

    It may be possible that you are being hampered a little bit by the fact that your background was slightly different than what the job description of your current job called for, but you managed to convince them that it contained all the necessary qualifications in spite of that. I don’t recall exactly how it went, but I remember thinking that the story of how you got this job was both fascinating and awesome. However, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing which would make you feel like you got your job under false pretenses, particularly if you were already fighting a case of impostor syndrome.

    It might help if you tried to define, in concrete terms, exactly what it would take to make you feel like you were no longer an impostor. Would it be a particular accomplishment? A particular set of circumstances? Is there some sort of metric you could set up to measure growth, or progress?

    I can tell you that setting age goals has never worked for me. When I was in college, I thought I would feel grown-up and accomplished at 28. Fuhgettaboutit. As many baby boomers will admit, most of us still don’t feel like grown-ups.

    Related to that, I feel like I missed out on so much in my life because I was always looking forward to some future time when one thing or another would turn my life into what I thought it should be. The lesson I learned, way later than I wished I would have, is that your life is never richer than when reveling in what you have in the present.

    Anyway fwiw, I think the forties decade is fabulous for women. You’re already awesome. During that decade, I bet you’ll be effervescent.

  7. Happy New Year, girlie!

    I’d say you’re well on your way to meeting that awesomeness goal… more Gossip Girl and shoes will definitely push you over the edge. 🙂

  8. nola says:

    ooooh, I like this. I, too, think you are super awesome already. I also have a romantic view that 40s will be teh awesomest and that life begins at 40 and that I don’t want to spend my 40s like I’ve spent the first part of my 30s. I like this. I may steal it with your permission. 🙂

  9. […] will I be successful?” I’ve read two articles recently which address success. “Research Centered” describes her endeavors to avoid impostor syndrome in her approaching 40′s. Douglas […]

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