The first time I heard the phrase "imposter syndrome" was in the health and fitness community. I thought....hmmmm interesting...and then went about my business. I mean, I knew it happened and I could relate to an extent but I just had never pushed myself to the point outside my comfort zone where I really felt it with regard to fitness or health.
Imposter Syndrome seems to me to be the classic thought process that the other shoe will surely drop when everyone finds out how inept you really are....
Now, despite what I said in the opening paragraph, I do have it in relation to just about every other thing in life to one degree or another. It is based in fear, like so many of the things that plague us all in the modern world of increasing demands and open examination of every aspect of our lives.
It seems logical that the underlying beliefs that make up imposter syndrome build on themselves and at various times have been proven to be accurate, or else we would not fear them. There may have been small instances that should not even matter. Take the one time you did not study for a test like your mom told you to and despite doing well on other tests you end up doing poorly. Suddenly you really are "the slower one" amongst your siblings. You should actually attribute the "failure" to not studying and be done with it but you don't. Instead, you attribute it to the belief that you really ARE slow, that the other tests were simply a fluke, that you were lucky for awhile and now your luck has run out.
There is a theory that our minds remember negative if this then that situations more vividly than positive situations. It is part of the survival mechanism. To me this is a very important part of imposter syndrome as it relates to the challenges of the professional environment and even our personal lives. Much of growing up is learning, through trial and a great deal of error. It is hard to not focus on the errors rather than the successes. Again, it is in our make-up and is how we have survived. It is also a little bit of the power of nurture and environment. I am reminded of another theory that talks about the hypothesis that those of us who say we "don't like people" may feel that way because our core, early experiences with people were negative. Perhaps there was family strife or it just was not a supportive environment, or maybe our interactions with our peers were not the best when young. For whatever reason, we learned that people were not to be trusted, that they were mean and you had to "watch out" or they would hurt you. Again, an example of negative experience shaping an underlying belief system.
Now, the good news is that when we become adults it is up to us what we believe. We can make the choice to work on our internal dialogue and our ideas that we are less than deserving of success. I find it is easier said than done, like most things worth doing, but we owe it to ourselves to try.
Imposter syndrome is why I have always been an adorably witty underachiever (not my label someone called me that once - a professor actually). I sat in the back of the class (always), only participated when my grade depended upon it (ie - you join the discussion or points come off), and preferred to take good notes, listen, observe and then get mostly straight A marks. In my mind, the grade was what it was about, right? If you are going to force me to be verbal by saying my grade depends on it fine, but otherwise you want me to answer the questions correctly on paper and be able to write well. OK, I can do those things now can we move on?
The things I deemed myself not good at (social interaction, getting along with others, caring about people AT ALL, being in the spotlight) I would figure out ways around and most of those ways involved observation and doing the work just as well as those around me who were busy sucking up and NOT doing the work. Being an underachiever protected me from imposter syndrome because, well, I was often not living up to my potential in other people's minds but I was doing just fine in my humble opinion.
Now, I must point out that there is something to be said for knowing yourself well and not getting so wrapped up in achievement that you become a stressed out, hopelessly type A individual. That very scenario is something I have always weighed carefully when the questions of added responsibility, career advancement, even personal changes came up. My lifestyle and my approach always put me squarely where I was comfortable being. In the back of the classroom observing quietly, yet working hard and making myself indispensable in the subconscious of others. How? Frankly, by doing "the work" so damn well and without fanfare.
Then the oddest thing happened. Well, two odd things actually. 1. I had to either buy a horse myself or live without horses in my life. 2. I had to decide whether to accept an interim position running my organization while a most complicated and possibly highly controversial merger of systems is undertaken in my community. My community? Uggggghhhh the very sound of it turns my stomach. LOL.
The first odd thing was hard enough to work through and I still, almost daily, feel like someone who possibly should not even be allowed to dream of having a horse. I don't know enough, I'm not good enough at it, I'm gonna screw him up...the list of reasons constantly running through my brain is endless. The second odd thing I could have declined on the very basis that someone who still flies her inner punk Anarchy flag should not use the words "my" and "community" in the same sentence without the knowledge that she has sold out to THE.MAN. Further, both of these oddities (although in different ways) signify that (OMG) my responsibility meter has gone from a manageable I got this to some over the top feeling of holy sh8t there is no turning back now...
So the imposter syndrome is rampant in me right now is what I'm saying. I'm reeling with it. I wake up every day, look in the mirror and expect my face to slide off, revealing some awful, sniveling wretch who can't tie her shoes and talks to cats who aren't even there. What do I think I'm doing anyway? This can't turn out well. How dare I? I'm not supposed to get to this point. I don't deserve to have a horse or manage things, I'm just a girl from some Podunk little town hell it is a miracle I even made it to college... And on and on it goes.
So, I have been trying to engage in more logical inner dialog and am finding it very hard work. I guess that is the only way to work through illogical systems of belief. At work I can pull from actual objectives met, things accomplished, processes moved forward. With Takoda I am keeping a detailed journal that includes things we are working on, progress, set backs, possible related factors. In trying to take the emotion out of the entries I am hoping the inner voices will change.
I'm thinking this might not be the time to pick my guitar back up (you know, the one I haven't played in six months). Then again...
The uniforms of our existence. Everyday, we get up and go out into the world and we, hopefully, are making an effort to be as authentic as we can be.
But how successful are we? We ALL have masks. We all have a persona to some extent that we are forced into or even choose to don on a daily basis in order to somehow fit in, maintain order, get ahead, or even just cope with daily life amongst the mass of personalities and other drama that pulls us in one direction or the other.
I am thinking about this a lot lately due mostly to some inevitable changes and ensuing upheaval at work. But it is worth it to ask ourselves in most portions of our lives what our masks allow us to contemplate and achieve as well as what they hold us back from and whether they interfere to some unacceptable extent with who we are. Who we really are.
I contemplate this stuff because I am afraid. I'm afraid of losing myself within a role that I must play. I'm afraid that the miniscule amount of empathy I have left in me for the human race is going to fall away as I struggle through uncharted territory and dealings with said mammals on more numerous occasions. I only have so much room on my stupid meter and most days I already find it close to maxed out so what will it mean to add to it to the point of overflow? I don't know and I'm afraid.
I'm afraid of how it might overflow into my personal business and my mental health. Anger management is sometimes an almost impossible task in my line of work. Separating life into boxes is not something I'm good at. I'm a global kind of "feeler" and as such, my moods tend to lend themselves to a universal language.
The simple answer would be to be authentic and be done with it. And it is true that being authentic is not difficult for me. What is difficult is the world's reaction to my authentic nature. I am, for instance, not exactly hiding in a closet as far as spiritual matters go but by the same token I do not advertise my beliefs. I have found in life that most people are just as clueless about spirituality and religion as they are everything else so few even notice that I wear a small pentacle or that I mention a solstice in relation to the calendar, etc. But, those subtle parts of my day to day dealings with people are masks within themselves. I WANT to be open about who I am spiritually. I WANT it to not matter. But, reality is that it would be used against me at work. Don't kid yourselves my friends, there IS no separation of church and state in terms of employment in the public sector. The reality is that it matters.
And on the subject of being authentic, what would most people's reaction be to the true nature of Gillian on other philosophical matters? I can't even type them HERE for fear that someone, somehow, will stumble upon this world of mine, this haven that I have created with dear friends miles apart through blogging and podcasting... They'll stumble upon it and rat me out, manipulate my beliefs (not only spiritual) and opinions as something not becoming of the role I hold or may hold.
Am I being paranoid? Am I being a coward? Am I just still being a scared little girl laughed at and bullied because she believed that animals went to heaven?
When we sell our souls it is often times not a grand affair like it is in the movies. It isn't like Al Pacino offers us the sweet life in a high rise penthouse complete with every manner of every favorite sin. It usually happens in a much more subtle way, little by little, until in our times of quiet contemplation we are faced with the truth. And that truth is that we have somehow lost ours along the way. We compromise in the name of "cooperation" in relationships, parenting, friendships, working. We give here and there and little by little we sometimes find ourselves living the reality that someone else would have us live rather than our own by nature.
I have, in my life, tried very, very hard to ensure this does not happen. I've walked a tightrope and mostly saved myself from waking up in a panic one morning and not even knowing who the fuck I am and how I got to a place I did not want to be. Mostly. There have been slip-ups along the way. Deviations from my true nature that cost me dearly in terms of time (which none of us have enough of) and the opportunity for true, genuine experience (which none of us have enough of either). I am now at the point in my life where I am too old for any further deviations. Even small ones. My time is limited and I must live it accordingly.
So, I have not answered any of my own fears or questions with this Sunday morning rambling. I'm just still thinking...
And legs, and well, all those other parts we complain about.
I have to give credit to my beautiful friend Saturn Darkhope because it was her Facebook status I copied this from. And to Wild Woman Sisterhood, which is where she shared it from originally.
Because it got me thinking once again about the same old subject so many of us get our minds and souls wrapped up in. That conversation with ourselves ~ you know the one. The one in which we are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough - oh shit wait it isn't just thin anymore it is STRONG enough (meaning it isn't enough to just be thin, as one blogger said not long ago, now we have to be ripped too), tall enough, sexy enough, smooth enough, perky enough (I speak of breasts not personality), hot enough, blah blah blah blah blah....
As a side note does anyone ever notice that the list of what is not "enough" about us usually doesn't include smart enough? Well, why would it? As a whole if we were smart enough we wouldn't be worried about any of the other "enough" that we worry about.
But alas, I digress....
I think that people mistake quotes like the one above as saying that we should all rebel against weight loss or exercise, being aware of how our bodies look, or the desire to make life changes for weight loss or exercise purposes. It is like some odd backlash - you know, like slut shaming only it is shaming women into the belief that if they are interested in their physical appearance they are just superficial nitwits.
I don't take it like that at all. I think it refers to the excesses we go to in pursuit of perfection, whatever perfection is at the moment. It also refers to the idea in our minds that we are not "enough" right now at our very core. That the essence of us is not worthy so we need to pursue this momentary preference for being ripped yet boob enhanced with lips like Angelina and able to run in four inch heels without breaking a sweat or an ankle.
I feel like there isn't anything wrong with wanting to lose weight or build muscle or, hell, even wanting to look great in a bikini. But you DO have to be able to separate your reality from what your are being sold as universal reality and whatever things you want to make happen once you have separated those "realities" cannot interfere with your choice to like your body NOW. To love your soul NOW. To celebrate your spirit NOW.
I'm not saying that getting exercise and eating good, wholesome food is not necessary. I tend to believe both are an important part of the puzzle of what makes us whole. But you don't need "industries" to do either of those things. Now, you might join a gym because it is easier to utilize than any other option - but, the gym itself doesn't have to make you question whether your like your body in the present. Unless you let your experience there and all the other static that chicks face on a daily basis related to our physical selves find a way in.
So, I think, related to the quote, which I LOVE btw, that we need to pay particular attention to the word "decided" when we read it. Because stuff like this doesn't just happen. Ironically enough, mind shifts are like exercise and diet themselves. They take practice. They take commitment. They take deciding each and every day and sometimes each and every minute to make a choice. So, that would mean that when it occurs to us to dislike any part of ourselves we must not only redirect those thoughts we must work consistently to make sure that it doesn't even occur to us.
Huge mind shift isn't it? A revolution inside our own heads. A quiet revolt against deep rooted negative talk and beliefs. Where can we even begin?
I think that first we have to be aware of the whole reality vs "sold" reality. We have to call it when we see it. We have to tell ourselves what it is whenever it finds a way into our own mind. We have to remind ourselves of our own personal reality often. However you decide to do these things is up to you but it is part of retraining your mind.
Then we have to celebrate ourselves daily. Just as we are. And know that we are part of something bigger and acknowledge that. For instance, I have come up with a morning ritual involving the use of my body and connecting it with the earth and the sky. I learned it in a recent workshop and have put my own spiritual twist on it. It involves thanking the spirit of each direction for their daily gifts and acknowledging the universe within my body (we ARE stardust ya know) and the earth on which we stand. It can be done in a short span of time or a longer one depending on what the morning holds. The point is to ground oneself through gratitude and to use the body to do so. So, basically you are shifting the focus from outside influences to one of thankfulness and the acknowledgment of the truth we are all part of.
And we have to keep doing these things. And keep ignoring "sold" reality. We need to hide it on our Facebook feed and not purchase it in the check-out lane. We need to change the channel. Literally and in our minds because this particular revolution HAS to start from within each of us.
Well, I don’t want to sound like a complete whiner
but I guess if I do so what? It is March 23rdand after being
all happy and proud that I had made it through the entire winter without so much as a sniffle, two days prior to Ostara I got some kind of plague that has run the entire expanse of my head, nose, throat and now chest. Starting out with a severe sore throat and extremely out of the blue exhaustion, moving through congestion, all manner of sinus upset, continued exhaustion, fever, coughing, sneezing, more exhaustion,
wondering whether I am just made of snot and will eventually become the Blob itself, to losing my voice (I am now known simply as “Squeaky” in these here parts) and hacking up stuff resembling, well, again, the Blob.
Hmmppphhhh. I fucking HATE winter.
Really, I try to embrace the seasons. I do. I look toward the inner season with the expectation of growing and getting things worked out in my head, heart and soul. I vow to do the hard stuff and learn from it every year. But this year. Ugggghhh this year SUCKED. For the first time in several winters it seemed like a struggled within myself. It was the spiritual and mundane equivalent of walking in deep snow. You step, you fall through, you drag your other leg forward, you step, you fall through… So, as we got closer to spring and as I started to work toward shedding whatever bad ju-ju has plagued me all winter through spiritual bathing and continued deep inner work I have been really, really excited to meet the light.
And then my body said – uh, scuze me please I think we just need to wait on that celebration for….oh, hell I dunno, maybe a week maybe more…
What? WHAT? Are you kidding me? I have been plodding through the entire season feeling like spiritual and physical crap. I have not been at my best since October for certain, an odd mixture of various body woes some truly physical some just the never ending struggle of maintenance and aging, being unsettled at work, uncertain of spiritual matters, overwhelmed with “I should” thoughts and never getting around to any of them. Life has been lackluster and dull for the most part and I know it isn’t due to anything other than my own outlook. I feel old. I feel bored. I feel like I don’t have a purpose and worse than that I don’t care.
I’ve tried shaking things up. I’ve tried giving things up. I’ve done a self-cleanse, a mini retreat, I’ve searched and contemplated and journaled and meditated and am at the point where I think maybe I should just chalk it up to a bad season and move on…. And NOW you are gonna GET SICK? Really?
OK, well, nothing I can do about that. LOL LOL LOL.
Isn’t that the truth though? Beyond being angry about getting ill or being frustrated that life isn’t as hunky dory as you would like, there is nothing you can do. Except what you CAN do.
So, I have been resting since that seems mainly what my body wants. I was able to take a sick day somewhere in the middle of the week and slept for 21 hours in a 24 hour period. The other days I went to bed at 5 and got up at 6 or 7 so a good 13 or 14 hours otherwise. I took some over the counter meds for a few days to help with symptoms and mostly to be able to breath and swallow but am off those as well, drinking herbal teas, trying to eat whole, drinking water and still just saying fuck it and sleeping whenever I get tired. Today (Saturday) is the first day since last Sunday that I have actually be awake for more than 6 hours at a time so I would say there is progress being made.
I am not sure how soon I will be back to "normal" since normal lately isn't really something I have come to enjoy. Hopefully by April I will at least be looking forward to the season that has begun and get some perspective on the one that has just ended.
Be well and healthy all. It doesn't seem so important until it isn't so....