Sam and I were talking the other day about life transitions, responsibility, careers and that sort of thing and at one point got around to discussing how people do or don't have a plan.
I said very clearly - I absolutely have always had a plan. It involved being on the very cusp of recognition and success without ever really having to "go there". It protected me from the inevitable pressure of societal expectations and allowed me to spend time inside my head and not give up my "freedom" of time, space, expression, anonymity. I took great pains to protect my plan and carry it out. And now my plan has gone up in smoke and I'm standing here thinking about how all this involvement and recognition and expectation is every damn thing I always knew it was cracked up to be. LOL.
(See prior entries on Fear and Imposter Syndrome for background).
I'm sure many people do not understand this sort of thinking at all. Hell, sometimes I don't either. But, it is apparently in my make-up and has served me well on many levels throughout my life, while, admittedly on others probably not so much so.
I feel like the "problem" is that I become a victim of my own capabilities. LOL. You know how you might experience a mentor or a coach or even a parent or partner telling you that you are capable of so much more than you are putting into something? Hell, maybe you even say that to your own kids or partner. Well, I just lived up to my capabilities one (or a few?) too many times and when I turned around to grab my magic invisibility cloak someone had stolen it and now I am standing there with people expecting things of me. ME????? And I think ugggghhhhhh I don't even like to go out my house most days except to muck a stall and take my dog to potty what could you possibly expect of ME? It is comical really.
I guess I take comfort in the fact that despite being dragged into some matters of this new phase of life reluctantly I am generally not a "half-asser" once the decision to pursue said matters is made. So, it is an experiment for me right now to forge ahead and see whether I can be successful at it while maintaining enough of myself so as to not feel that I have lost my freedom. It is a limited time frame, most of this, by the manner in which it has been set up so there is time to evaluate, reflect, decide.
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...