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.

Self Care Summer

The other day, my best friend told me that she has declared summer 2021 as self care summer. This really made me happy to hear and inspired me to make my own summer about taking better care of myself too. After finally reaching the tentative ending of an extremely tough year fraught with isolation, neuroticism, sickness, and stress in 2020, I think we are all feeling a bit frazzled and out of touch with our higher selves. In order to balance that out, it will be nice to spend this year, especially the summer months, coming back home to ourselves.

It felt like the first half of 2016 was the last time I really had my shit together. I was really getting deeper into my yoga practice. I was eating super healthy plant based meals. I had my own apartment for the first time and was working my first full-time job. I started doing HIIT workouts. I was hanging out with my friends regularly. For the first time in my life I was really feeling good about myself. Then my ex came back into my life briefly and blew that all to hell in a matter of months. Since then I’ve been struggling just to get myself grounded again.

2020 was probably one of the worse years of my life. As I’m sure it was for a lot of people. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a more unhealthy place mentally. I still haven’t fully recovered from all the bad habits I cultivated during that year. My new relationship has really lit a fire inside me for self improvement though. Yet it’s somewhat different than the self improvement I’ve been passionate about in the past. I guess I shouldn’t really even call it self “improvement.” It’s more like self love and self acceptance.

In the past, my goals were always focused around improving myself so I would be more desirable to others. I wanted to live a healthy balanced life, not for myself, but so that I could attain some ideal, unrealistic body and self image. I still have a lot of the same goals all these years later, but this time there are different intentions behind them. This time around I want to focus on how my body feels rather than how it looks. I’m ready to start doing the work to get myself back to a better place mentally.

I’ve set up so many artificial barriers for myself. When I’m allowed to eat, what I have to do every day, and in what order. I’ve created a prison within my own mind. It sounds silly to say, but when I remember that I can actually do whatever I want it feels so liberating. I’d almost forgotten that my life doesn’t have to be this way. I’m working on keeping that truth close to my heart. I want to reconnect with this beautiful body of mine and treat it with compassion and respect. I don’t need to have each and every moment of my day planned out. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit in stillness and enjoy being alive.

I want to work on being more present in my day to day life and actually get excited about being alive again. There was a time when I thought the things I’m doing now would make me happy, and maybe they did for awhile. But nothing in life remains the same for long. These habits are no longer serving me, and even though I don’t know what will happen if I let them go, I know I can handle it. And so can you. So here is your official invitation to a summer of self care. Let’s raise our frequencies together.

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Why I Want to Stop Smoking

Hard to believe it’s already June 2021. This past January I had intended to stop smoking cigarettes. I hadn’t realized just what a difficult task that would be unfortunately. I didn’t really have much of a plan either. I did manage to cut back somewhat, and I am proud of that fact. But just like in the past when I took up smoking, the longer it goes on, the more repulsed I become by it. Each time I light a cigarette I am overcome with guilt and shame and anxiety. Strangely what pushes me to light up is also anxiety. There is a momentary relief as I inhale that foul smoke. I reminisce about the reckless abandon I once felt, the freedom, the sheer disregard for everyone and everything, even myself, in favor of the sickening pleasure of the moment. It made me feel tragic, dangerous, poetic. But these feelings are the foolish fantasy of youth, and like youth they cannot remain for long. What was once an act of rebellion has become the very chains that bind me. So today I want to write about the reasons that I want to stop smoking in the hopes it will shake me free from this secret shame.

Health

One of the reasons smoking causes me such intense shame is the hypocrisy of it. I am constantly railing against the hypocrisy of loving animals while simultaneously eating them, but in the end I am just as absurd. How can a vegan, yoga teacher smoke cigarettes? It’s laughable. I claim to care about my body and my health, but how can I while I continue to poison myself all day, every day? I want to treat my body with the love and respect that it deserves. I want to take good care of it so that it can take good care of me for a long time. If this pandemic has taught the world anything, it should be the incredible importance of our lungs and respiratory system. Even my yoga practice is all about the breath. Yet despite this sacred gift of breath I have been given, I choke myself with soot and black smoke. I pollute the very part of me that gives life.

The Animals

Time to state the obvious. Buying and smoking cigarettes isn’t exactly “vegan.” While it may not be a food or an animal product, like certain cosmetics, the cigarette industry is no friend to animals. While I’m not sure if they still do (I’m too afraid to google it) I know that cigarette companies are notorious for their horrific animal testing. Whether or not these practices persist, I cannot continue to support such a heinous industry. Not only that, more personally, I am directly harming my own animals by smoking. This is the main reason that finally got me to stop last time. I may not care enough about myself to stop, but I love my sweet babies even more. I genuinely believe that the world as we know it will come to an end before I have to worry about lung cancer, but my fur children have much shorter life spans. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I caused them to suffer and die from the effects of second hand smoke. I’m so ashamed of this aspect of my smoking that my boyfriend doesn’t even know. I’m afraid it would make him lose all respect for me, and I wouldn’t blame him.

Money

I don’t even want to calculate the amount of money I have wasted on cigarettes. They are expensive enough as it is, but I also buy Marlboro so it’s even worse. I definitely spend at least $30 a week on cigarettes. I am such a cheap person though! I don’t even want to spend $10 a year on multivitamins. Or $60 every other week on therapy! I’m basically teaching my yoga class to pay for cigarettes. The irony is palpable. I should be saving that money or at least spending it on something worthwhile. Maybe when I finally stop, I’ll set that money aside and get myself something nice with it as a reward.

Shame

Even though all of my other reasons are probably more important, the biggest thing pushing me to stop is shame. I’m pretty much a secret smoker. My close friends and family know, but even so, I try not to smoke around them. I always feel so shitty and stupid whenever I do. They must think I’m such a fool. Besides that, I don’t want to make them worry. I used to sneak out at work and smoke once or twice a day. Eventually I got caught and even though they didn’t seem to care, I was utterly humiliated that they knew. Shame is a toxic emotion. It rots away your insides. It erodes any positive image you have of yourself. It isolates and separates. I want to live a life I can be proud of. I can’t bear to live in shame any more.

I’m sure there are probably many more reasons I could think of that make me want to quit, but those are the biggest ones. To be honest, it was hard for me to even write about this. Denial is part of the way I’ve been able to continue for so long. It’s painful to face your own hypocrisy. I have a plan now though and I’m praying it works this time. I’ve ordered some nicotine salt vape juice. I know it’s not ideal, but I figure it’s still a step in the right direction. I’m not going to buy any more cigarettes. Once I finish the packs I have, I’m going to switch back to vaping. I’m hoping this will be the end of my dalliance with tobacco. Wish me luck.

Health Risks and Diseases of Smoking

Body Appreciation

It’s awfully odd how much we as a society fixate on our bodies’ outward appearance. We even go so far as to prioritize this over our overall health and well being. It’s almost as if we see our bodies as something purely aesthetic. As if it serves no other purpose besides looking nice. When we consider whether we like or dislike our own body it is primarily physical appearance that we are judging. Are we thin enough? Curvy enough? Tall enough? Short enough? Do we like our eye color? Our hair? Are we displeased with the way we are aging? The way our nose looks? Are our teeth white enough? Straight enough? I could go on and on.

There are so many different little details to nit pick at. Only yesterday did it dawn on me that there are far more important aspects of these vessels we are blessed to inhabit than how they look. Why do we not take anything else about our bodies into consideration when contemplating our opinion of ourselves? From an outsiders perspective, say a being from another planet, this must seem utterly absurd. I mean just take a moment to think about all of the amazing things our bodies do that we take for granted.

These incredible bodies of ours are doing dozens of miraculous things for us each and every moment. Without even having to think about it, these bodies breathe in the air around us, converting it into the very things we need to survive, distributing it throughout our cells. If we’re lucky enough, we also have five different senses constantly interpreting everything in the world around us, helping us to navigate through this life, allowing us to see and hear and hold our loved ones. Our hearts are working tirelessly at this very moment and every single moment we are here to pump life giving blood throughout our veins. Our digestive system is dissolving, absorbing, and distributing essential nutrients. Our immune system is endlessly battling against potential diseases, viruses, and infections to make sure that we stay healthy. There is never a true moment of rest for these bodies of ours. They are constantly growing, healing, changing, working to allow us to experience and enjoy the beautiful lives we lead.

It seems like an absolute crime that we only seem to care about the way they look. We take these bodies for granted. Failing to realize that we were not guaranteed any of this. So many millions of people in the world would kill to have the perfectly functioning, healthy body that I have. Yet all I do is demean and berate it at every chance I get. I starve myself to look thinner with no regard for the unnecessary strain that puts on every system inside of me fighting to keep me alive. I am so sorry, body. I am sorry for not treating you with the love and respect that you so clearly deserve.

Even my brain, that I constantly despise for the anxiety I experience, is doing so so much for me that I never take the time to appreciate. I focus on the one flaw without being grateful for everything else. So what if my brain has a small issue with serotonin and dopamine? So what if it sends me warning signals without cause from time to time? Despite that it is still interpreting, analyzing, and observing everything. It allows me to learn new things. It stores valuable information for me, precious memories. It directs the intricate machinery of the rest of my body without even using my conscious awareness. It allows me to experience a rainbow of emotions and feelings. It even produces wonderous inner movies for me to enjoy as I sleep.

How could I ever claim to not like this body of mine? I love it. It is literally everything to me. It is the one thing that is truly mine in this world. The way that it looks couldn’t be of less importance. And besides, it looks perfectly lovely. I have been rather lucky overall in that regard as well. I’m ashamed to think of how many moments I’ve wasted being so ungrateful. I am going to work hard to build a better relationship with my body. It does so much for me, the least I can do is be grateful, respectful, and treat it as well as I’m able.

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Self Distortion

I was reminded again yesterday, that I really have a warped perception of myself. I genuinely have no idea how other people see me. One of the detectives I work with was excited to show me a YouTube channel he found. He said that the girl on this channel looked exactly like me. I am always extremely nervous when someone tells me they found someone that looks like me. Usually it is very flattering, but being someone that has an eating disorder, this is a great way to trigger me. Not that anyone has ever compared me to anyone heavy, but once I was compared to someone on Instagram that wasn’t exactly how I wanted to see myself. I was upset about that one for days.

Luckily this time the YouTuber in question was drop-dead gorgeous. She had an alternative look and long, beautiful, black hair. I still never know how to respond when someone approaches me with something like this, but overall I was very happy. Even though I do not see the resemblance at all. It’s interesting to contemplate the disconnect between the way others see me and the way I see myself. I used to glance at strangers and try to find someone I thought had a similar body type and build so that I could see how I must look to others. Eventually I gave up on this because it only upset me. I would be interested to see if the people I thought were built similar to me would be the people those around me would pick as well. I once even found a website where you could enter your height and weight and it would produce pictures of other people with the same dimensions. That one fucked me up for weeks. Even though the images produced could vary wildly, I always assumed I was closer to the less pleasing photos, rather than the women that looked like models at my height and weight.

My sister always used to tell me that I had body dysmorphia. Basically, that’s a mental disorder where you have an extremely altered perception of your physical appearance, usually focusing in on one aspect of yourself like your nose or your ears or your weight to hyper-fixate on. Part of me has always really wanted to believe she was right, but then a larger part of me always says, “well if that’s true you’re acknowledging that you aren’t as fat as you think you are, which is obviously ridiculous.” However in recent years, I’ve come to mostly accept that label even though I’ve never been formally diagnosed. (As you can tell I’m one of those four year psych degree people that loves to self-diagnose: autism, eating disorder, body dysmorphia, generalized anxiety, feel free to roll your eyes.) Anyway, I now view body dysmorphia as just a label that explains that I don’t know what a really look like. It’s as if I am always looking at myself in a funhouse mirror. My self-perception has a tendency to vary immensely from one day to the next, one moment to the next. And of course I always identify with the least flattering reflections most of all.

It can be really nice to be reminded that other people view me differently than the way I view myself. It’s honestly hard to believe. I can’t help but wonder if they are just lying to me or attempting to flatter me for some unknown reason. Oh, the inner ramblings of a mentally ill mind. It makes it quite difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. At the end of the day, I try to let all of this nonsensical pondering go completely. After all, it doesn’t really matter what I look like. One day whatever looks I have now will fade away. I will become shriveled, wrinkled, and grey. And I don’t want to have placed all of my value and self-worth in a youthful appearance. There is so much more to life than what you look like.

It does raise the question of how others perceive the rest of me. I don’t think my self-perception is much better when it comes to my character or personality. I really couldn’t say what words other people might use to describe me. Perhaps I should make a point to start asking them, letting them know before hand that I want their honest opinion no matter what. I can’t even image what kinds of words they might use to describe me to be honest. But I am so curious, because those are the perceptions that really matter in the end. However, even with these descriptions I am so much quicker to believe anything negative about myself than anything positive. When someone says nice things about me, it can make me feel uncomfortable, even guilty. I think, “Oh no, I have somehow tricked them into thinking better of me than they should. They are going to be so upset if they ever find out who I truly am.” I know these thoughts may seem ridiculous, but they come up more than I’d like to admit.

The sad thing is, that none of these opinions or perceptions of other people are what’s important. Because ultimately it’s my own self-perception that matters most. Sadly it is also the least flattering perception I’ve encountered. I’m hopeful that maybe learning to trust the perceptions other people have of me will give me the confidence to start to see myself differently.

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Confronting Internalized Sexism

I’m not shy about publicly proclaiming to be a feminist. Most of my social media accounts even have it mentioned in my bio. I am probably even one of those crazy feminists that turn most people off of the movement if I’m being honest. Occasionally I’ll even admit to pushing the pendulum to far the other way and being overtly critical of all men while placing all women on a pedestal. And while I recognize this, it’s hard for me to talk myself down sometimes.

Yet on the other hand, in my personal life and view of myself there are major inconsistencies. You see, I’ve always idolized the idea of being skinny. I love looking at beautiful, extremely thin women. I have always wanted to be one of them. Today I really sat down with myself to ask myself why that is.

I have nothing against women of any shape or size. I genuinely believe all women are worthy, valuable, and have the right to exist anyway they choose, the right to respect and equality. But I don’t treat myself as if I believe that. When it comes right down to it I’ve been lying to myself. I say I want to be thin for me, or maybe to be physically irresistible to a future partner, or for some abstract aesthetic. But when it comes right down to it, I think the real reason I want to be thin is because I feel I’ll have more value that way.

I am embarrassed and ashamed at the idea of what society will think of me if I’m not pretty, young, and thin. I imagine my life will be better if I am those things. I want those things for the power and perks I imagine them providing me. And while I don’t believe it to be right or fair, I live my entire life in accordance with the conviction that society functions on this principle regardless of what I think.

It is hard for me to accept that I have internalized the very sexism I speak out against. I am afraid to live by the courage of my convictions. Because of that I am endlessly torturing myself, trying to force myself into a mold I wasn’t made for. Not for myself, but to prove my value to others. A value I ultimately feel I lack naturally.

How sad. How twisted. How wrong.

It is time I face this damaging delusion I’ve held onto for so long. Because no matter what I’ll have to in the end. Beauty and youth cannot stand the test of time. These things are not what give me value. I am inherently valuable. Just as every other living creature on this earth is. No more proclaiming all bodies are beautiful, all women are worthy, while simultaneously hating my own body for not being good enough, thin enough.

My worth is not contingent on my size. My value is not linked to my age, my bone structure, or my body. If I truly believe this about all other women, it is time I start living this truth for myself. It is time for me to believe in my own inherent worth as a human being. It is time for me to love myself, respect myself, allow myself to simply exist as I am. In whatever form that may be. Now and in the future. It is time for me to lead by example, live by my beliefs. Society be damned.