On onions, and faking it.

I first learned of Impostor Syndrome through my friend Grace. I think it might be contagious.

Today Nick went to the butcher and bought some spicy bratwurst, which he thought would be delicious on buns. “You’ll fry up some onions, right?” he said, and I agreed I would.


Every time I try to caramelize some onions, there is a point in the middle where I am sure it isn’t going to work. It is the part where some of the onions are dark and shrunken, but most of them are still thick with little to no browning. Every time, I am certain that I cannot do this, that every time that I have ever successfully caramelized an onion in the past has been an accident, a fortuitous mistake.

I am not good at anything, despite any evidence to the contrary.

This is a recurring theme, most notably at work, and at home with Toddler.

At work, I am faking it. Despite having been gainfully employed for 50% of my life to date, I still feel like an amateur; what do I know about anything? I am barely even an adult, even though I’m 30. I am making it all up as I go, bluffing my way through meetings and reports and projects. Who am I to call myself an authority? I don’t know anything. Half-way through my current contract, I am certain this is never going to work.

And with Toddler, this feeling of incompetence is amplified.


The kid doesn’t eat. He is growing, and he is not skinny, but I am never sure that he has gotten enough nutrients, and surely by not fighting him hard enough we are stunting his growth and knocking points off his future IQ. He prefers baked goods – sweet carbs like muffins, doughnuts, banana bread; today he went to a birthday party and was handed a hot dog. He discarded the wiener and ate the whole bun and then some cake. For dinner I gave him maple breakfast sausage in small pieces, crackers, red peppers, apples and raisins. He ate the apples and raisins, a few bites of the crackers, and threw the rest on the floor.

I write about food, but my own child won’t eat.


This can’t be just my problem. We are all faking it, aren’t we? At what point do we begin to feel like fully fledged grown-ups who know their own ish? Intellectually, I know if I keep turning the onions over medium heat, eventually they will brown. And still, I am sure every time that it isn’t going to work. I have done it wrong, chopped the onions too thick, and it is so easy to do right – how could I have failed? And still, they turn out. They brown, they soften, they are delicious on buns with bratwurst and I am silly.

With patience, they turn out every time.


Am I alone on this? Or are we all impostors? When do we start to feel like we know what we are doing?

9 thoughts on “On onions, and faking it.

  1. I am glad that my child is not the only one that does not eat! I found myself faking it a lot this year, I am comforted to know I was not the only one.


  2. Not a day goes by that I don’t half expect the principal to drag me out my classroom by my ear asking what the hell I think I’m doing in my attempt to “teach” kids. We all go through it. We all have self doubt. Your kid will eat. Or not. I have a cousin who as a kid, exclusively ate hot dogs, fries, grilled cheese, and pizza. And I mean that really is it. But yet today he is a perfectly normal married father of two and he eats more than those four foods.


  3. If you’re alone there, I’m alone with you. I cannot figure out how people just *live their lives* all the time when I can’t even remember to turn on the slow cooker before I walk out the door in the morning. And brown butter is my onions: the day I make brown butter, and not burnt butter, in one go, will be a celebrated day indeed.


  4. I do believe in the ‘fake it till you make it’ adage, but in hindsight, I find that we usually have made it long before we realize.


  5. I am 49, and still feel like I’m faking it in my job, which I’ve been doing in various forms for ~10 years now. And I just started keeping bees, which is a great thing to make you feel totally incompetent. 😉 I think the only people who feel like they know what they are doing are the ones who don’t ever do anything new.


  6. It’s the people who DON’T worry if they’re doing it right that are doing it wrong, especially when raising kids. One of my kids lived on banana and air when he was a tot, now he’s 14 and approaching 6′ tall.


  7. I love your honesty! I believe we all are faking it but only a few of us are honest and open and brave enough to admit it. Mine ate only soup for 3 years… he’s much better now, though he still has his oddness with food-so there is hope!


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