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?
“Yoga newsletter. Negative emotions.”
This is one of seven prompts I have set for myself of random things that I’ve thought of, in an attempt to push myself to write more. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out why I was having negative feelings about a yoga newsletter. I mean, I feel frustrated that the current schedules and locations available don’t work with the time I have available, and where I’m working and living. But then I remembered.
It was a note about how one of the instructors is often asked about positions and practices that can help cleanse the body of negative emotions. And how she has to gently correct those inquiring – while yoga as a practice can help the body and help bring wonderful emotions, it’s about being in the moment and experiencing all of life, in her view. That includes things we often call “negative” emotions, like fear, sadness, and anger.
I was really glad to read that, actually. Yes, those feelings are uncomfortable and no one enjoys having to experience the breath-stealing moments of fear, the electric hot fury of losing their temper or the bone-weary darkness of deep sorrow. But they’re part of life.
It reminded me, a little bit, of the movie Inside Out. Joy can’t figure out what Sadness’s job is. She feels like her fellow emotion doesn’t help. And then there’s a moment, where Bing Bong is very, very sad. Joy tries to be silly to cheer him up, and it isn’t working. She’s frustrated, and beginning to panic and turns away for just a moment. In that moment, Sadness sits down beside him and affirms what he’s feeling. She touches him, sits close, and listens to him just talk about it. She reassures him by being there with him in that moment and accepting that he feels sad. She allows him the space and time to feel. And it works. After a moment, the worst bits of the sorrow pass, and he takes a deep breath, says he’s better, and gets up to go on.
Joy is very confused, and doesn’t understand. She even asks Sadness what she did.
We need that. We need moments to be allowed to just BE whatever we are, even the so-called bad things. Should we wallow in those moments, and let them feed on themselves and grow beyond what is needful? No. Like everything, balance is needed. But sometimes, a good venting of anger, a good cry to release a sad feeling, or allowing our hearts to race with fear, and then take a deep breath and go on are exactly what is needed to help us stay mentally and emotionally healthy.
It’s stressful to be happy all the time. It feels forced, because it is.
I sometimes wonder if we get burned out on being happy, or upbeat, and that’s why people have to do progressively more extreme things to cheer themselves up or experience excitement.
I love giggling so hard I can’t breathe and cry tears of joy. But I just as much appreciate a movie that moves me to messy tears of grief, because in that moment, I can re-experience something in my past, or an important part of a story. I don’t enjoy being angry, but I can look back on how I’ve dealt with myself at various points of my life, when I was angry, and see how I’ve matured (or not – and thus have something else to learn and work toward as a goal). I don’t like scary movies, or being scared in general, particularly; but the moment of relief when I realize all is well or that I’ve at least made it through? That is wonderful! The feeling of being safe and sound is a wonderful thing to experience.
Sometimes, we experience all of these things at once. It’s what happens as we get older and grow. I loved that Inside Out showed that as well, with the core memories. I hope that slowly as we all age, we can all learn from people like the yogi who wrote the newsletter that turned up in my email as well. And learn to embrace, as best as they can, all of the emotions they have as well.
I know I can keep trying to do just that, on an almost daily basis.
While driving today, I passed a church with a billboard. It was the usual sort with removable/replaceable letters that gets turned into photo memes. This one said: “God created moms to be the heart of the family.”
It rather instantly rankled. For any number of reasons. My brain sputtered quite a bit. (I think the first sputter had to do with the grammar, which I have mentally corrected, and now I can’t remember what they left out or included that irritated me, because it’s been a few hours.) The ones that burbled to the surface after the grammar snarl coalesced from incoherent grouchiness into: “what the heck happened to free will? and when did God start objectifying people anyway? and women in particular?” Which was an a-ha moment for me.There’s another quote traveling around at the moment which I’ll try to embed to the right:
In case it doesn’t work, please click here for original link.
Between the two items, I had a more concrete “that’s it” reason why a number of Christian church examples just don’t work for me. Yes, on some readings of the bible, women are chattel, and pretty much worth less than livestock. I don’t believe we live in that world today. I suspect quite a few people don’t believe we live in that world today, at least in the West and honestly in quite a few other countries. (The United States is one of only a few countries that does not provide paid leave for new mothers, of extensive periods. Some countries give new mothers an entire year off paid, if they wish it. Some countries also extend this benefit to new fathers.)
But so many traditional mainstream Christian churches do treat women as objects to be controlled, with no agency (or intelligence to acquire agency) of their own. And beyond that, so many of those same churches treat humans in general as stupid.
Do These Good Things Because God Said. (Or, alternately, Because If You Don’t You Will Go to HELL!)
What happened to doing good things because they are right? I understand when things get grey, that some guidance is comforting and we seek it out. But some of the most basic things seem to be assumed to be uncommon sense. So often church and the liturgy and the leaders treat their parishioners as if they are stupid.
I have never had patience with people who treat me like an idiot. Once, yes. I might forgive that. They don’t know me, they don’t know what I can do. I don’t know yet what they’re trying to tell me and uninformed is not the same as stupid. But twice? Nope. You’re out of chances.
I keep hoping that slowly, the church I was raised in is going to come out of the Inquisition age. I keep thinking that maybe it is, and then it does something and I have to sigh and realize that nope. They just changed the set dressing. They are still quite definitely looking for witches to burn in an intellectual and empathic sense.
And until then, even though I try very hard to live in what I suspect is a Christian manner at heart by caring for others, and respecting others, and doing my very best to be good, I know that I just can’t be a part of the mainstream church. And it also means that quite often I won’t participate in discussions that I see old classmates get into. Because I do not believe in a Shaming Punitive God. I believe that whatever god there might be (or gods really, because why rule things out I know nothing of?), he or she is a loving and forgiving and teaching god. And shame and punishment are crappy useless methods of instruction.
They only teach the student to fear the instructor. Not to learn the lesson.