Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome by Lisa Morgan M.Ed. CAS - Spectrum Women

Imposter Syndrome is a phrase that I’ve been hearing about a lot lately. Essentially, it is a term that means feeling like you are a fraud, that you aren’t as good, talented, smart, etc. as others think you are, that you are undeserving of the success you’ve achieved in life. I think we can all relate to feeling this way from time to time. It’s hard to decipher whether or not I have this particular syndrome though. Especially when the google definition specifies it disproportionately affects high achieving people. Part of me wants to believe that this is a reason it may apply to me, but at the same time, do I consider myself a high-achieving person? That’s debatable. Would anyone really suffering from imposter syndrome consider themselves high-achieving?

The definitions I read don’t quite fit what I’m experiencing. It’s not that I feel I haven’t earned the position I have at work or awards I’ve won, etc. (There aren’t many.) I feel more afraid to pursue different interests or projects because I don’t feel like I’m “good enough.” Writing for this blog is actually a perfect example. I often feel guilty writing about yoga, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-improvement, which are the topics I primarily want to write about. As I write, however, I am filled with hesitation and self-doubt.

Who am I to preach to anyone else about these things? Even though I fully believe in the mindset and habits that I offer for others to practice, I am still not able to fully embody those values myself. I worry that by even discussing these topics I am misrepresenting myself to the people that read my blog. It makes me feel dirty and dishonest.

Somehow I’ve managed to push through that self-doubt here. I continue to write despite feeling like I should make myself perfect before opening my mouth and giving advice to others. I know that no matter how much I work on myself, I am never going to feel good enough, so fuck it. I’m not claiming to be an expert or that anyone should pay attention to the things I write. I have to remind myself of that fact often.

This mindset of self-doubt has kept me from pursing a lot of different projects in the past though. Whenever I would contemplate making a YouTube channel, for example. Or when I’ve considered trying to write a book, make a website, or start a podcast. I shoot myself down before I even get a chance to begin. I feel unworthy of the attention and potential praise these goals might bring me before I’ve even gotten them. I also tend to minimize anything I am really good at. If something comes easily to me or if I excel at a particular task, I insist that is just because it IS easy. I don’t feel I should get credit for doing something so simple, even if it’s not simple for most people.

I wanted to go to yoga teacher training for at least a year before I actually worked up the courage to do it. Even then it was only because a friend from work was going to the training. I knew my practice was more advanced than hers, so for the first time I thought that maybe I was ready to become a teacher. When I got to the actual training, to my great surprise, I had a far more advanced practice than anyone else there! It really made me wonder, if these people thought they were good enough, why didn’t I? Even now, teaching a class every Saturday, I still feel out of place and uncomfortable leading when I have so much doubt about my own ability.

I guess what it comes down to is a fear of being thought of as arrogant or conceited by others. We have no control over the way others perceive us though. It’s a waste of energy to worry about things like that. What’s important is that we’re doing our best. I’m not claiming to be perfect, and it’s not my responsibility if someone else misinterprets my intentions. All I can do is be who I am and have fun doing it.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

We accept the love we think we deserve

After spending the last few days with my boyfriend, I’m more convinced than ever that he is perfect. Maybe too perfect… I’m used to being the one in the relationship that has it together. If you read my posts then you know what that actually means is I date complete assholes, not that I’m exceptional. This time it’s different though. Nate is more organized than me, more cleanly, even more vegan than me. Of course those are all wonderful traits. I am endlessly impressed and inspired by him. The only problem is how it makes me feel about myself.

I felt so ashamed yesterday when we were making dinner. I saw him diligently washing his hands while I had already started cutting up vegetables. I know not washing your hands before you eat seems like a silly thing to be embarrassed about, but I still am. There are lots of little things like that that make me wonder what he actually thinks of me. Am I gross to him? Does he find my habits disgusting? Does he notice at all? Does he have some idea of me in his head that is better than I actually am? It makes me feel like I have to hide myself away even more than I’m already used to doing with the rest of the world. It makes me feel like he could never love the person I truly am.

I’ve always said that I want a partner that will help me better myself. I just never realized how being with someone who’s already better than me would actually feel. I guess there is a part of me that craves damaged people. There was something about seeing someone else being beautifully flawed that allowed me to let my guard down and be vulnerable. I miss when my high school boyfriend and I would shoplift little gifts for one another. I miss having nights where we would do nothing besides binge junk food and smoke weed. Sure, those things aren’t great things to indulge in, but it felt nice knowing that even though I was a mess, someone would love me anyway.

Now I’m just afraid of my mess. I’ve pushed it into a closet and have to stand nervously in front of the door, hoping Nate won’t open it. For instance, I haven’t smoked cigarettes in around two weeks now. I’m extremely proud of myself. I really worried I wouldn’t be able to give up the habit this time. The problem is, I’ve replaced it with vaping again. For me that is fine, but I’ve hidden both from Nate this whole time. He certainly must suspect, so he probably wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. Still I’m too afraid to bring it up. I really wanted to while I was staying with him this week, but I never managed to work up the courage. God only knows how long this secret will continue now.

There Is Always Something

After being so busy last week, I had really been looking forward to the weekend, especially Sunday, my only full day off. Not that teaching my yoga class feels much like work. I just have to wake up early for it. I noticed, however, that my day off yesterday wasn’t really much better than the previous days I spent working. I still wake up reluctantly, feeling groggy and stiff, whether it’s at 6AM or at 9AM. I still feel overwhelmed by inexplicable stress for large periods of the day whether I am at home or at work. I may actually feel less stressed on the days I’m at work, because there is so much going on to occupy my mind. There is a weird inner pressure to enjoy myself when I have free time that inevitably ruins it.

Yet even after realizing these things for what seems like the umpteenth time, I still found myself dreading having to come into work today. I’m still longing to be at home, even though I’m basically doing the same things alone in my office that I would be doing in my house. And in a few hours when I’m back home, I’m going to find something new to be anxious about. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that no matter what is going on in my life, there is always something. I don’t know why I feel the need to explain my anxiety, to find a culprit to blame. Clearly it wouldn’t be a disorder if there was a legitimate reason for me to be feeling anxious. I’m trying to accept that no matter what I decide the cause is in that moment, ultimately there is no cause. I’m not anxious about anything. I’m just anxious. Always.

While this may seem disheartening, reminding myself of this is actually helpful. I don’t need to keep torturing myself more by wishing things were different. I don’t need to be upset because I have to come to work tomorrow. I would feel just as anxious if I didn’t. I’d just be blaming it on something else instead. Knowing this allows me to shift my focus away from whatever “reason” I’ve assigned to my anxiety. Brooding over that never helps anyway. There is almost always nothing I could do to change whatever it is anyway. All that assigning blame does is convince me that because the circumstances are what they are, I therefore have to be anxious. I tell myself that as soon as this happens or that happens or once I reach some perfect moment in the future, THEN I’ll finally be able to calm down and enjoy myself.

I’ve come to realize that time never comes. There is always something for me to feel anxious about. Because really there is nothing for me to feel anxious about. So if I have to go to work, I’ll blame that. But if I get to stay home, I’ll just claim it’s because of something more ridiculous. Sometimes I’ll worry about some distant event in the future. I’ll think: Should I start applying to teaching jobs? If I don’t my eligibility will run out and I’ll have to renew it. But maybe I don’t want to switch jobs. I really like where I am now. But schools have better benefits. What’s more important? Or I’ll start thinking about something totally insignificant: I need to call my friend later. I call her every Sunday. What’s the best time? What will I say? I don’t have anything to talk about. I don’t have time. She won’t want to talk to me. I’m boring.

No matter what, I’m going to find something to be anxious about. And you know what? It’s okay to feel anxious. I can feel anxious and still have a nice day. I can feel anxious and still be productive. I can feel anxious and keep going anyway. I don’t need to feel sorry for myself and wish that things were different somehow. That time I’ve been waiting for can be now. I can be happy right now. I can be anxious and still be happy. Everything is as it should be.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Since I was in high school or maybe even younger, I developed a somewhat strange way of thinking that was comforting. A duality seemed to exist in me at will, and I would imagine my physical body as a cute helpless animal that my mind had to care for. It allowed me to feel compassion for myself. I had the tendency to be quite critical and cruel to myself, but thinking in this way helped me to be kinder and more loving when I was feeling devastated or overwhelmed.

More recently, however, a third part of me has begun to emerge in this strange mental play as well. The seed of this idea was planted by something I read once. I have no idea where, but I’m certain I did not come up with it. As you may have already guessed by the title of this post, the idea was you are not your thoughts. Even while we are thinking, there is somehow also a separate awareness of those thoughts. We aren’t those thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts. I like to image this is what in yoga is often referred to as the higher self.

This realization has completely transformed the way I see myself. I see my consciousness as something almost apart from and deeper than both my mind and body. This view gives me space from my experiences. It’s as if my consciousness exists outside of my physical body. This physical body also affects the way my conscious is able to manifest mentally. The chemicals that control the way my brain is able to function are affected by so many different factors from my genetics to the things I do and experience each day. But I am not my anxiety. I am not my anger or my doubt or my shame. I am able to observe my body and mind’s experience of these things now from a distance with curiosity and compassion. This space keeps me from getting caught in a torrent of negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. I just observe in stillness and let it settle. And it will always settle if you don’t keep stirring it up.

Maybe this idea is new to some of you. If so, I hope that you play with it in your own lives. I am still learning to utilize this mindfulness every day, but it has helped me more than I could have imagined. My wish is that by sharing what I’ve learned in a new way, it may also help others.

Observe in stillness.