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’m allowed to tiptoe out of the gate.
They don’t mind that.
It’s within the rules, you see.
Oh, you know. The Rules.
Don’t dress too loud, or too flashy. It draws attention.
Don’t move too fast, or too well. It draws the eye.
Don’t be too loud. They might hear you.
Don’t feel too much. They would be uncomfortable.
Because it’s really all about them. And if they don’t have to see you, hear you, think about you… then they don’t really care.
It’s all about how you can steal moments that mean something, but within the cage.
It’s all about how you eventually make yourself so very small, that they forget you exist to the degree you once did. You’re simply what they’ve made you. What they need you to be – or not be. What use you have.
And eventually, they get distracted by some other shiny, loud, emotional thing.
And you can tiptoe quietly through the gate.
Into the light.
Into the air.
Into the sound of beautiful, terrible, wonderful things.
Where you can slowly unfurl and grow.
And they remember, that their mouse was once a giant dragon.
That is when you have to decide: do you let them coax and woo you, to win you back?
Or do you burn them?
So that they never try to shrink you down to nothing again.
So, you know those random quizzes that pop up on the internet? “What does your favorite color say about you?” “We can guess your favorite color!” There are more, but those are basically the themes. And of course, people will ask, often for perfectly mild reasons – they found a shirt they think you’d like, and it comes in a variety of colors, and they want to get one you’ll really like. Or they want to avoid one you hate!
I dislike those moments. The quizzes make me roll my eyes, if I’m in a particularly grumpy mood. Or I just pass them by if I’m in a good mood. I try very hard to answer close friends and family who ask. (Although, to be honest, most family have more or less learned not to bother or if they ask it’s more along the lines of “how do you feel about greens this week?”)
My dad worked in theater and television for a good bit of his life. He especially worked with lighting and stage design, but his card also allowed for costume work, and he did some design there, as well. Colors were tools that could shift your mood, tell you about the history of a place, or the rank of a person. I don’t remember if I ever asked him what his favorite color was. I knew he loved all colors for different reasons.
You could put a straw gold light gel in front of a lamp and get a certain mood out of how that light hits a set painted in terra cotta orange with red and yellow accents. It’s a hot, dry sort of feel. It’s the desert, or at least somewhere that might make you think of the desert. Or you can use a certain pale blue with a shimmery metallic gleam gel, cast down across a set painted in navy and indigo blues, with hints of turquoises, soft greens, gentle dove greys and the slightest hints of purple and aubergine – almost black – and you’re in an ocean, perhaps even at night. It’s so very cool and quiet.
A gentleman of a certain period – it isn’t just the fabrics he wears that declares him a gentle man to all who see him. If he is wearing vividly dyed fabrics with heavily saturated hue, he must have money! Those red and purples were hard to come by on trade routes, and only the most wealthy could afford them. Similarly, bright yellows could be dear, depending on where he lived at least.
So truly, I love all colors. I love autumn colors best, but there are days when a spring rainbow better suits my mood. And of course, a wintery rainy series of blues is surprisingly cozy and comforting, even while it might look chilly.
I look good, sometimes, in reds. But in reality, red is rarely a favorite. It’s so often a shade of pink that I find too pale, and too candy-like, rather than a good rich blood red, or brick red, or scarlet. I like salmon and coral, all right, but in some light, those shades turn to pink again, and it’s just too difficult to find one I can stomach. I’ve given up and bought some clothing, here and there, that is indeed pink. Mostly, because I wanted to fabric and the other colors were shades that were worse somehow.
I can also wear green, sometimes, depending. I think I look better in forest and olive and army greens, for example, as opposed to lime or pale mint. I’ve still bought those colors because, well, they’re still pretty. But sometimes I look very worn out wearing them, and people ask if I feel okay.
So no, I don’t like picking colors, particularly. I like all of them. And it’s more likely if I’m asked, I’ll ask you to explain why you want to know, so I can give you the best answer for the application you’re working in, for me. If you’re just asking, I might answer “all of them” or “rainbow” if I’m feeling particularly sassy.
One color people keep deciding I like, since I was a small child, is in fact red, pink, or any color along that general line. I’m often surprised at that. I understand that often, if I’m coloring my hair something non-natural, I lean toward red; but that’s because it looks good with my coloring more than anything. I’ve had it purple, and I’d secretly love to have it blue or mermaid or even rainbow. But until it turns more naturally white than it is now, I’m not going to have a lot of luck with that. My hair’s too dark, naturally, and the stripping process to get it that color is hard on it. I even have, as I’ve said, chosen to wear red before. Because it looks good on a brunette with a faint olive tint to her skin. But my favorite car color, so far, has been a deep, shimmery brown that made me think of silken chocolate and coffee. And yet, a salesmen recently encouraged me to try for a red number! (It wasn’t immediately available, so I went with grey – a titanium shade that luckily picks up other colors around it, so that’s bonus!)
But I remember even my parents, would hand me a red thing, another sister a purple thing, another a blue or yellow thing, and the other would get softer shades of browns, peaches, and earth tones. I always wished I could have those earth tones. Or at least the occasional green.
And these are, of course, all solid things! It’s not even getting into things like auras or chakras or other things that people say one might be, based on their moods or where their pain is locked up. The best one I ever read was an old DOS program, that decided my aura was silver, with flecks of lightning and yellow in. It just couldn’t decide. I haven’t really tried in a very long time to see what I’d be classified as, but for the longest time, roses and reds would come up, because I cared about relationships between friends and family and love.
These things are interesting to me, perhaps because I do think about how colors can describe a person – their nature or their characterization; and to me, red is a very angry or high intensity color.
I hope I’m not perceived as angry or constantly vibrating with emotions. I suspect I’m not. I suspect most people don’t even think about color that way. They just think, “This color looks awesome on her! She must love it.” And then they move along with their day, sparing not another thought to colors and how complicated they can be.
Haven’t blogged in a while.
Honestly not entirely sure what to write about now. But I thought I should check in for a few reasons.
NaNoWriMo – a bust this year. I did worse than last year, which is horribly disappointing. I have some ideas as to why: lack of discipline, an overabundance of depression (how ’bout that election, Fred?) and a bit of seasonal (but not seasonal affective disorder) depression. All are legitimate reasons for my failure, both at 50,000 words and my sub-goal of beating last year’s total (I wanted to manage at least 30,000 words). The very bitchy part of myself says I should have been able to push past those things. And maybe if it had been 2 of 3, I could have. But 3 of 3 was too much this year, and I’m trying to give myself a pass. I did succeed in updating my Scrivener app so I can write on my iPad which is easier to carry than the laptop, and even DID write out and about at least 3 separate times. I just need to make an effort to improve. So, I will.
Not listed in the argh above is the stress of planning a home purchase and move. We haven’t packed as much as I’d like, and it’s throwing off holidays and other things. It probably even contributed to NaNo#Fail. But it’s coming along and hopefully, things will be finalized next month and we’ll be in our first house. It’s the first one I’ve owned, and my hubby is treating it as the first one he has owned – even though technically it’s not – because it’s been so long since the last purchase, and it’s so different, being a stick frame built as opposed to a manufactured placed on a foundation.
Various awesome things have happened this year. Various ugh things have happened this year. Mostly, I’ve wanted to vent about the ugh things, but I don’t feel 100% safe doing that in this space, and haven’t. I’m not entirely sure how I want to deal with that, but I’ve found a tiny steam valve and am starting to use it a bit more. I think it’s safe, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s a short form location though, and sometimes, I want long form. So it could very well change in the future.
Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday. And the anniversary of his death. He’s been gone 12 years, as of roughly 8am (slightly earlier, if I recall correctly) tomorrow morning, and there are days when I miss him dreadfully. On Christmas night, it will be the anniversary of mom’s death. She’ll have been gone 6 years. I’ve missed her worse this year than in a very long time. Most of that is the election. Some of that is the house. Some of it is a couple of movies I really think she’d have enjoyed so much. Sometimes, I blog specifically about those days. But this year, work is… work. And I don’t think I’ll have that luxury, so I’m just going to leave this hear and remember them as best I can in the moment.
I wish the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays to all of you. Whether you’re a dear friend who happens to stumble on this space and we speak daily, or you’re a stranger who just sees it in passing, know that there is a person in the world who does, honestly, hope that everyone is able to enjoy a moment of pure joy this season. We all deserve it, no matter what anyone anywhere says or does.
I was thinking about it the other night, when doing the dishes, and I can’t really remember not knowing someone who is not straight. I can remember not having a word for it, or not completely understanding why we never got to meet the person they were dating, but for as long as there have been “not blood family” people that interacted with my family, there were always men who didn’t have girlfriends or wives, and occasionally women who didn’t have boyfriends or husbands in my life. I’m 43 years old. I’m not a kid.
So when people would say things about men being bad to little boys, I’d have extreme doubts they knew what they were talking about. Because J was one of my favorite babysitters. He was an awesome cook, he would listen to the reasons for building cushion and tinker-toy forts the way we built them (you have to use the tinker-toys so you can make a tent roof out of sheets), and realize that yes; I’m a girl, but I still don’t believe he’d do bad things to little boys. And when I finally got around to asking mom why he didn’t have a girlfriend or wife, because he’d be an awesome daddy, and she explained he didn’t date in town and why, my first reaction was: Oh, okay. And then I was sad. Because it was stupid. I was so excited many years later to know he DID get married and he and his husband had a daughter they adopted. And I was even more sad to know that he passed away later, and I’d never gotten to hug him again. I think I first met J when I was 5.
There are others, obviously, that have been in and out of my life. Students and co-workers of my dad’s, my own teachers, students I went to school with (and occasionally had crushes on). But non-straight people have been people who were normal (and yet very quiet and careful) for more or less all of my life that I’ve been aware of other people. And to me, literally the only different things about them were: they loved someone who was the same gender as them (mostly, I don’t remember many people as a kid who said they were asexual, although I wonder about a few and if they just didn’t have a word for it then), and they were almost always scared to talk about it except with very trusted close friends and family. And I always accepted what they wanted, because it’s their life, but it still made me sad.
A lot of those friends and family are scared now, and I believe they have every reason to be. And I keep trying to figure out why there are still people in the world who judge people who are LGBTQ+ as evil, or sinning, or anything negative, and I wonder if it isn’t because they’ve never known that they know people who are. I grew up in a town of under 9,000 people, you see. Yes, I had the advantage of that town being home to a four-year university of about that size enrollment, but still. It was in Texas. There were more than 100 churches of various faiths (but mostly protestant type Christian – some evangelical) there. And I still was aware. On the other hand, I have also been aware that my habit of taking people at face-value can be rare. I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic by those who are more jaded. At the same time, I’ve been accused of being pessimistic when I’ve tried to be careful – because of being jaded myself by people’s reactions.
So I still get trapped in a circular headspace of how? How do you decide that just because that woman on TV loves another woman, she’s a sinner and horrible; when you know nothing else about her? Why assume that a man who loves men is broken in some way, when you know nothing else about him? If they have done something else – robbed a store, thrown a burning match into a school, stolen their neighbors identity to buy a car – then fine! They are obviously not nice. But just about who they love or want to have sex with?
Bi-sexual people are not immediately kinkier than anyone else just for being attracted to two genders. I myself, for a very long time, have noticed women more than other women seem to. Yes, quite a few women look at other women or will objectively note that one or another is pretty. But I really sometimes wonder – am I actually attracted to them? There have been feelings for individual women that have been really close to what I’d call a “crush”, based on crushes I’ve had on men. I still can’t decide if that makes me bi-sexual. And frankly, writing this paragraph scares me because I am putting it out in public, and my face is on my blog. But beyond being supportive in my votes and my charitable contributions, perhaps I ought to just also be more open about myself.
Because I would be very willing to bet that the straight cis people who keep othering those in the LGBTQ+ community know more people in that community, trust more people in that community, go to church with and shop with more people in that community, than they think they do.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.
When I did, I knew I probably wouldn’t make my 5o,000 words. Not because I’m a pessimist – I’d really like to finish that many, and I think some day I will, even if it’s not some November. No, it was because we’re trying to get into a house before the end of the year, and historically, I’m sort of worthless for the last week of the month because of Thanksgiving. Some of that is just the holiday and the responsibilities I place on myself for it – cooking, hosting, and so on. Some of that is that my favorite season (autumn through Christmas) has gotten complicated with grief over the last 12 years or so. So, while I’d like to get 50k, my actually goal is to beat last year’s total, which was around 27.5k. I got more than halfway there! I was very happy with that, as I decided to start late, and I definitely failed the last week of November. So that was about 2.5 weeks of writing, really.
I forgot to take the election into account.
So many of my friends (and many polls and political writers) have been so sure Clinton would win. I wasn’t. I kept seeing horrible reports across my social media about people who I would never believe would support Trump supporting him. Counseling Center staff. Religious women. Hell, women in general. Veterans who were furious that other presidents had dodged military service – or made fun of veterans were supporting him. I’ve been nervous for weeks, but I was allowing myself to hope a bit more than even I guess I realized, even though in private messages to my uncle, a Hillary supporter, I would express fear.
Because it didn’t occur to me how devastated I would feel if he won. Don’t get me wrong. I was and am terrified. I’m already seeing reports of violence related to sexism and racism. But I didn’t take into account how much I would grieve knowing a significant amount of the population CHOSE him, or CHOSE to not vote at all. Voter turnout in my county was considered extremely high, and still 30% of the eligible public did not participate. They decided that it didn’t matter. There were so many close states. And who knows, maybe they would have voted for him anyway. But they still would have participated.
I want to be able to focus to write in my story. It’s interesting. I like my characters. But I can’t.
Every single damn time I start to open the file I get worried about someone else in my life who is likely to lose health benefits. Or be attacked running errands, because their skin is the wrong color or their accent is different from the norm. Or someone ASSUMES something about them based on the way they dress or present themselves. Or they’re told their marriage isn’t real and they’re violently attacked. Or they’re told to just leave the damn country then.
I hope I can focus again, and get more words in that story and move on with life. But right this minute, I’m still grieving the fact that so many people are so selfish that they are putting their own desires above the true needs of their fellow countrymen. I know that I’ll continue to vote, write representatives about bills, and donate what I can afford. But more than ever, I’m also scared to voice my opinion and realities in my real life, because the person who appears to be sympathetic is just as likely not to be. This election has proven that beyond the usual level.