One of the fun things about blogging is seeing how readers actually come across my blog in the first place. Today as I was looking through a listing of which Google searches directed people to my site, I found a hit from Jackson, Mississippi, from the search phrase "retired early feel like failure."
Wow, that one really hit close to home.
I have confided just such a sentiment to some of my friends, the idea that if I were truly successful in my career, I shouldn't have wanted to retire. That I was obviously not a success since I basically dropped out decades before my peers. I had clearly been an impostor--thank goodness I got out in time before everyone else figured it out!
I always got the same reaction from friends: rolling eyes, shaking heads, protests, and scolding. "Of course you are a success, how many people do you know that managed to plan their retirements and then make it happen by the time they turned 44?" "You were the CFO of a well-regarded venture capital firm; those are smart people. You clearly wouldn't have made it that far if you didn't deserve it."
Logical arguments, I suppose, but I wasn't buying it. No one said what I really wanted to hear, "Oh my gosh, everyone feels that way!" Which just confirmed what I thought all along, I was indeed a fraud.
Imagine my delight tonight when I ran across Sylvia's post, Disguises and Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome. There's an actual name for it. It's a Syndrome. I have an actual Syndrome. According to Wikipedia, it's not a recognized psychological disorder, but still, it's a Syndrome. I'll bet it's almost a disorder.
Sylvia wrote her doctoral dissertation on the subject of high achieving women. Many of them shared their thoughts with her about this feeling, "which leads many of us to continuously question ourselves about whether or not we really have earned what we've achieved and whether or not we've been misleading others into believing we're smart and/or more competent than we really are."
"All of these women recognized that they'd been 'at least partially successful' but they also talked about that fear of being judged and having not accomplished what they should have. What was comforting to me then -- and now -- is that they also said that within that perhaps inevitable discomfort you have to focus on peace of mind. Wendy Cecil-Cockwell said it concisely: 'If you don't have peace of mind, if you're not comfortable with your decisions you're not successful. If you have peace of mind, you have everything.' "
Sylvia, you have done much for my peace of mind. I guess that means retiring early really is success.