Have you ever felt as if you were an imposter?
Maybe you’ve put on your dress-for-success clothes and best smile, entered a room filled with accomplished people and thought, “I’m just pretending to be like them; I really don’t measure up.”
If you’re no stranger to feelings of unworthiness, you are not alone, counselor Deb Pavlico writes, especially if you are female.
In an effort to encourage women and girls to take risks and see themselves as people of value, Pavlico, 48, a licensed professional counselor with a practice in Kingston, has written a book called “Conversations With Women, The Journey Toward Self-Esteem.”
You’d think every person would want self-esteem, especially if they equate it with self-respect and confidence. That’s the first definition the Merriam-Webster website gives the term.
But the second definition, Pavlico points out, is “self-conceit.”
“The first definition made sense to me. But self-conceit? Really? I decided that couldn’t be right, so started to look at other resources,” Pavlico wrote.
When she consulted the Collins English dictionary, she found “an unduly high opinion of oneself; vanity.” The American English version mentioned “undue pride in oneself; conceit.”
No wonder some women shy away from self-esteem, Pavlico said, when society has told them for generations that modesty is becoming, humility is a virtue, and pride goeth before a fall.
In her conversations with women whom she identifies in the book by their first names, Pavlico asked them to talk about their journeys through life, their careers, how they grew up and the ways they’re raising their children.
One woman described feeling embarrassed when she was young and smart and winning academic awards at school. Another felt she didn’t fit in with colleagues as an adult because she had grown up without much money. A third recalls the pressure she felt to be “the good sibling” because other children in the family were causing trouble or needed extra help.
Through her practice Pavlico has encountered clients who are “hurting themselves by cutting, eating disorders or choosing poor relationships. They come in when a relationship ends or they’re struggling academically. In working with both adults and college students, I’ve found an underlying theme of low self-esteem.”
In her self-published book, which is available through amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, Pavlico describes the way she used to doubt herself and the way she finally decided to leave a career path “that didn’t give me a sense of purpose” and begin studies for a master’s degree in counseling.
Is her life perfect? Of course not. But, she said, “One of the greatest gifts we can give future generations and ourselves is the permission to make mistakes. You fall down; you stand up again. If you fall off your bike when you’re learning to ride it, you get up. When babies are trying to walk, they fall down and get up. Can you imagine if they stayed down and never tried to get up again?”