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Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome

This silly blog makes me nauseous from Friday morning to Thursday night, when I take a nice hot shower, and I start it all over again.  I naively, but fervently believe that if I'm talented enough someone will see this, beg me to put myself into the public spotlight (which I will shyly and demurely try to deny with the humility of a saint), and I would *have* to be on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday.  I'm really doing God's work.

I mean, it's been 15 months of this blog for crying out loud!  That's like 100 years in anxious time. 

As my Uncle Frank used to say, "Them fish ain't gonna catch and fry themselves." 

Actually, he never said that, but I like the thought.

So I submitted some writing recently to a couple online journals, et al, after it was suggested I should.  No use in waiting for someone to notice this, I'll give the masses what they crave: Me.

It went tits up.  

I dipped a toe in, and heard crickets. 

Actually, crickets would have been nice.  I heard such a silence, that, but for the pulse racing in my ears, I would have thought I had gone deaf. 

If you winced a little imagining my face in the mud at the bottom of a big ditch in front of my entire middle school after I tripped on a shoelace then ripped my pants, I don't think that would be a far cry from what this kind of rejection feels like.  

What feels worse, somehow, is showing up every week, writing this blog, and then consistently getting texts and emails and messages that say wonderful and glowing things about how my writing has hit home for someone.  It's worse because the second I hit publish in this silly thing, the single pervasive thought that screams like the Ricola man from a mountain top is, "YOU'RE A BIG PHONY MAN, YOU'RE NOT A REAL WRITER, AND THEY'RE ALL ABOUT TO FIND OUT THAT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING."

Oh hey, old friend.  Everyone, this is Impostor Syndrome.  Impostor Syndrome, this is everyone.

Long story short impostor syndrome is that absolute knowledge that you are unreliable in everything but failure.  It's just knowing that success is for everyone else but you because everyone on the planet is less anxious/sweaty/belligerent/fat/weird than you, and infinitely smarter/harder working/thinner/taller/tanner/less hairy/accomplished/well spoken/and can probably make a better quiche than you. 

This is where I didn't do well in math.  I'm pretty sure this is one of those if/than things, right?  If all of the other people are better designed and equipped to handle life, then I must be an impostor when I get dressed and pretend like I know the things they know.

Therefore, in conclusion, the feeling of being utterly incapable of doing any of the things I want to do makes it feel like it would be easier to not try.

So, for the nerds out there, the actual Impostor Syndrome is a thing that was studied way back when by two lady doctors.  I mean they were really smart, I guess, for women.

That was a joke. #yoke

Impostor Syndrome could be discussed for hours, and I won't because I'm tired and I just started a new show on Netflix.  

They showed that men feel like frauds too, but for the most part what the study found was that women will often assume they're going to fail at something, then if they do succeed, they attribute it to luck, or they think "They'll find out the next time that I don't actually belong." 

This was studied in the workplace, but I think it wouldn't be that far of a leap to throw this in any the areas of our lives where we feel vulnerable.  And I don't mean the fluffy kind vulnerable that we think of, I mean that deep nasty tender bruise that you've been trying to cover up for years.  That feeling of showing up to that parent playgroup and feeling like you're the worst parent on earth for not having your kid on a more strict schedule and everyone will find out and your kid will never have friends; or teaching that fitness class for the first time and just knowing they can all see through your skin and will be able to tell you have no idea what you're doing; or getting a work-study job in something you've never tried before and you'll be fired before the first Big Game; or writing a play and trying to get people to listen to the bigger message but you feel you don't belong because of your race and gender; or spending time with your significant other's friends and family for the first time, and trying to pretend you're not so nervous you could puke; orrrr writing this freaking blog into a vacuum and trying to pretend you're not super discouraged.

Impostor syndrome is crippling....and exhausting.

I can't speak for you, but for me the exhausting part, other than the effort of keeping my Instagram face on all day, is the hours of FBI caliber research I do all day, every day on the people in my life I am either trying to emulate or impress.  That is definitely an either/or scenario for me.  Thank Our Lord of Rhinestones, Elvis, that I have unlimited data on my ePhone, because I just can't even begin to know what my life would look like if I stopped going nine years deep into people's lives on social media three times a minute.  I simply MUST know if they ever took an awkward photo that one weekend in Barbados in 2011.

It's quite possible that I wouldn't be able to take the silence between mine own ears if I had to actually sit with myself for any length of time.  Meditation helps with this, btw.  But I'm pretty sure I'm an impostor there too.  

So, how does one become an impostor?  I'm glad you asked.    

In order to be an impostor (a role in which I excel tremendously, I must say), one would need to have a picture of what the other so-called capable people look like.  Sometimes this is a literal picture.  There are some people I essentially have CIA dossiers on.  What is their perfect life like?  How can I get mine to look like that?  I bet they never break out the week before their period.  I bet they never cried during that Charmin commercial when the kid sings, "I'm So Sorry" to his mom.  I bet their presentations at work are always done the day before.  I bet they have more patience with their kids than I do.  I bet they're not as insecure with their boyfriend as I am with mine.  I bet they never screwed up an order as a waiter.  I bet they don't sweat as much as I do.

This picture is both inaccurate and completely unhelpful for the single reason that my imagination is running in the wrong direction.  Instead of using this incredibly creative brain to imagine how someone's perfection is actually the mask on which I have placed upon their normal flaws, I have taken everyone in my world and made them better than I ever could be at everything, including but not limited to, breathing.

This is a good time for the greatest quote that has ever been written by anyone ever: "Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies." ~Michel de Montaigne

I think I'm in love with him.

He really nailed it.  See, it's a whole thing about how we can only know ourselves from the inside, and we can only know others from the outside.  So where as we believe we are a molten lava cake crumbling mess behind our retinas, others must be more capable, confident, competent, and have dryer armpits (I couldn't think of another C word that was appropriate here).  They simply must not shit.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down?  All we can see are our own seemingly intollerable idiosyncrasies, and all we know of someone else is what they tell us.  It's not necessarily who they are, blah blah blah.

Calling yourself an impostor for putting your war paint on and heading into the world not really knowing what you're doing makes us feel isolated and alone, not better prepared for failure.  You're absolutely going to fail.  That's an Aunt Air guarentee.  It's just that by staying prisoner to the impostor syndrome, you're not bracing for impact, you're just really rigid and probably a jerk to everyone around you.  

No offense.

Here's the thing. You are not alone in the things that haunt your mind.  I'm sorry, I don't know how to tell you this, but your weird kinks and obsessions and daydreams and random songs that plague your thoughts are not unique.  Every single person is weird...you're probably painfully average when it comes to the stuff in your brain.

This is one of those faith things.  We have to just sort of take a leap of faith that the people we have decided to idolize have the same nonsense in their head as you have in yours.  You know how it helps to imagine people in their underwear when you're giving a speech?  This is the same thing.  Imagine that your boss is really into toes.  Or maybe has a tiny tea cup collection.  Or that they only order DeFazio's on Wednesdays and they eat it in the bathtub listening to India Arie.  I don't know.  Something different.  

The only way to keep yourself from being housebound by the vulnerabilities in your mind is to remember that this is a universal phenomenon.  

Which also means that no one ever talks about it.  Strange how that works.

Once you've pictured your boss with their tiny teacups, take a nice deep breath from your belly.  

Let it out slowly.  

Then give yourself a freaking break already.  

First of all, no one cares as much as you do about the stuff that you're worried about.  Like, not even a little.  We all love to watch people crash and burn in those embarrassing videos on YouTube because we don't really have a name to go with the face, but you know what we can't stomach?  Seeing someone we know humiliated.  

Everyone is on your side, I promise.  And if they're not, you need to have a really juicy conversation about what you need to thrive.  Call me any time.  I love those conversations.  

I bet if you really thought about it, you would be able to name a quick handful of people who really put themselves out there, even if they didn't quite nail it, but you respected them more for getting their face muddy by trying.  We love people who try.

I think I've mentioned this before, but the best advice I've ever gotten in my life was, "Just smile and throw a muchacho on the end of a sentence, and people think you're funny and they know you're trying."

I mean, that was about ordering gelato in Spain, but still.  There really are points in life for trying.

So look, I'm still here.  I keep submitting writing shit that I want to part with...because I do shit.  And I'm going to keep writing this even if only my mom and that one lady in England who forgot to unsubscribe are the only two people to read it.  I'm not an impostor, I am a writer.  A good one when I try, and more importantly, I really like it.  

Pretending I do not shit does not actually make me a king, philosopher, or (#lol) a lady, but it does make me feel like an impostor by assuming everyone else does not shit.

How are you shitting today?

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