Imposter syndrome is when you’re successful at a thing, but you secretly believe that someone is going to come and explain that they’ve figured you out, you’re a fraud, and they take away your ability to do that thing. Basically. In a very over-simplified nutshell.
Writers feel it, quite often (I say this based on the number of authors I follow who admit to having had some sense of the problem), but women are also large sufferers – especially professional women, apparently. I know young mothers who have worried about if they’re really a good enough mom, but I’m not sure if that quite falls under the same category or not.
My thing is, people somehow see me as confident in who I am, in a generalized sense. Now, usually, I attribute this to them not knowing me particularly well. They know a facet of me – Work Me, for example. Work Me often appears to either know what she’s doing, or at least know when she doesn’t know, and then she appears confident because she generally has an idea of who to go to ask for help.
But a couple of weeks ago, a fairly long term friend spoke the thought that I was not like other people, because I was confident. I knew who I was and I didn’t seem to care what People thought, and I was just as happy being me as pretending to be someone else.
I’d had a drink, which was stronger than I normally drink, and very little food, and I laughed at her, or at least, the assertion. She doubled-down. She was positive I was quire comfortable in my own skin, and I didn’t seem to have the desire to express bravada and drama in being more or less than who I was. It was reassuring to be around someone who was that centered in herself, she said. It made me feel safe and like someone that she and others could be themselves around.
I blinked and let the conversation move on. Because what else could I say at that point?How can people see me as confident in who I am when I don’t know who I am, half the time? I have doubts like anyone. There are moments where I’m confident, sure. And yes, I know how I feel about some topics. But I don’t profess to know myself particularly well on all things. I’m pretty sure I evolve and change on a fairly regular basis.
I try to be kind. I try to be the sort of human that a stray animal would trust, for example. Or that a small child who grabs a familiar color denim leg, upon discovering it doesn’t belong to their actual parent, won’t panic. They’ll simply look around for the correct leg. I guess that works for the centered and safe feelings she described? But I have serious doubts about other basic aspects of myself almost daily.
I worry that I’m honest enough or perhaps too honest. I worry that I’m too optimistic, but then perhaps I’m too negative, and I don’t achieve the middle ground realism that I want. On the other hand, a little bit of rainbows and sparkles can’t be so bad … can they? I wonder if I always recognize my inherent privilege in being a white cis woman, but then again, when in certain states, people will speak Spanish at me and assume I understand it. (I do, if they’re slow enough and enunciating very carefully, but no more than a 5 year old might. And it’s not because I was raised speaking the language. It’s barely a second language.) I worry that I come off as cold, or too warm. I worry that my sense of humor is so twisted as to be outré. I worry on a semi-constant state about something in the way I interact with the world at large, or don’t and perhaps I should.
I suspect in some ways, that this is part of being human, and maybe a feminine human, and maybe a feminine human who reads and thinks quite a lot. I also suspect it is an aspect of living in my head more than perhaps others do. I know though, that not all humans behave this way. I’ve got enough friends who I’ve asked tentatively that don’t have this in common with me. They aren’t all men. (Although quite a few are.) And quite a few read quite a lot.
So I just don’t know. I wish, sometimes, I could experience myself as they do. I don’t know if it would help, exactly. But it would be interesting to see. As it is, I get startled almost every time someone says something nice about myself. It’s not that I think I’m a horrible monster or internet troll! I just don’t necessarily think I’m worth acknowledging in thanks, either. I feel very much like someone who can fade into a wall and disappear unnoticed.
Which could easily lead into another blog post about other things. For now, I think I’ll just wrap up by opening this to you readers: do you ever have that dissonant moment, where you’re told something about yourself, and you don’t recognize the person being discussed AS yourself?
I mention over on my About Page (ummmm… click the About link in the bar above, depending on how you are browsing this, or go to: this link), I have blogs in a variety of places on the internet.
A couple of them are adult material. Those aren’t widely publicized. On the one hand, I’m not ashamed of them and I’d kind of like helpful critique on the writing. On the other hand, I don’t particularly want co-workers/employers reading them. (Who might see this blog, actually, but it’s wordy, so they might not actually read it.)
If I ever get what I consider to be good at writing, and decide to write a short story/novel, I’m pretty sure that sex scenes will come up. (I like to read alt history/paranormal fiction (sometimes with or without the romance label attached). I like character development and relationships. If I like reading it, I figure that’s what I’d write.) I’d like practice AND criticism regarding that. So as a sort of compromise, there are a handful of people I trust who know where those blogs reside. But I don’t ask for criticism often. So I’m considering either hooking them up to a twitter, or focusing them down to one blog and hooking THAT up to a twitter to get feedback from the anonymous ether.
But… then it’s anonymous. And anonymous tends to be … well, lacking in conscience. It cat calls, hits on, threatens, harasses, and is otherwise a jerk because it CAN be.
And so I’m stuck in an endless loop of not trying and being chicken about something that, while I’m not rabid about, I’d really like to do. And I think I’m decent at. I think if I practiced more, I’d actually be good at it, in fact. (Unlike dancing like Mitzi Gaynor, which I will never achieve, although watching a film last night, I remembered how as a kid I desperately wanted to move as gracefully as she and Ginger Rogers and so many other ladies who danced with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire could move.)