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Wiki describes Imposter Syndrome like this:
“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”
“Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
Impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers, but it is said that 70% of us will experience it at some point in our lives, so it is more common than first thought. It is true though that those who are more brilliant tend to suffer from it more extremely.
I can only speak for myself, but imposter syndrome is something I have encountered at every step of my life. In every job I have ever had I have never been able to shake the feeling that they are going to rumble me, and that I will be fired for not being good enough. That one day someone will request a meeting with me and say “You shouldn’t be here.” Every time that I receive praise on how well I am doing I smile awkwardly and try to give them an excuse as to why I “appear” to be doing so well.
When I first started my therapy practice it plagued me more than ever. I was convinced that one day a client would look across at me and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, trying to help me with my problems? You are a liar and you are going to jail for being a fraud!”
That was my honest thought on the subject. I seriously believed that I was going to get into trouble for setting up my business, despite being fully qualified, and achieving high results on all my studies, because I felt like a total fraud. It is a feeling that I still haven’t quite shifted to this day, but one that I manage a lot better.
If we take my therapy practice for an example (I even have trouble typing the words and calling it that because a little voice in the back of my head says “it’s not really though is it? It’s not a real one is it so you can’t call it that.”) I actually found that my attitude was starting to sabotage sessions. It was minute, almost imperceptible little things, but I noticed. My lack of confidence in myself was communicating to certain clients, who I could see starting to shift in sessions, no doubt unconsciously picking up on this and implanting that doubt in their own minds. I realised that if I wasn’t careful and didn’t deal with this issue, I could turn my irrational thought into a truth. I wouldn’t be good enough to do my job, and it wouldn’t be through lack of knowledge or training, or not being able to do the job well, but it would be through letting my own mental processes interfere with the work that I was supposed to be doing. I had to do something about it, but what is there to do?
I began trying to talk to myself and motivate myself before sessions. I began “rehearsing” sessions with a non-existent client. I re-read study materials (that I knew like the back of my hand) and did old exercises from modules. I even sometimes would ask a client to close their eyes to do an exercise because their inability to watch me doing what I was doing helped me relax. I began going to any little course, seminar etc to make myself feel as though I was doing something, reigniting and maintaining my frame of mind. It helped, and little by little I didn’t need to do quite so much to feel more at ease. I still go on courses and to seminars etc as I feel that really helps to keep my mind keyed in to what I am doing and boosts my confidence.
I am really good at what I do, and always have been. It was only my own mind I had to prove that to.
I know that it won’t be the last time I encounter this problem, and I know that I am not the only one who does. I think thoughts like these can rot away at the base of your brain, undermining everything you do and ruining your chance to be happier and perhaps to excel. I know I have been afraid in the past of trying something, of pushing myself, because I thought I would fail because I wasn’t good enough. But through trying different things I have found ways that help me, and if more of us spoke about these things, maybe they wouldn’t knaw away at us, and maybe more people could feel happier.
On Monday I started a new job.
It was a relief after spending 7 1/2 weeks unemployed. I still can’t afford to pay the bills that have piled up angrily through my letterbox, but I will soon.
I hadn’t planned on being unemployed, it was sprung upon me last minute, and unfortunately unemployment isn’t something I handle very well.
I spent my first few days in my new house waking early, getting coffee and sitting at the laptop full of productivity and enthusiasm for job hunting and getting things done that I hadn’t had time for whilst working. 7 days later I was heading out to Berlin and spent six days chilling out, and simply enjoying existing. It was wonderful and I didn’t want to go home. A few days after getting back home I suffered 9 days of excruciating toothache, and I mean bad. It was pain the likes of which I have never felt which reduced me to a whimpering crying wreck. Needless to say that during this time I got absolutely nothing done other than laying on the couch trying to distract myself with Netflix and feeling incredibly sorry for myself. Then I was off to Lollapolooza in Berlin, and despite experiencing some pain the first night and day, I was relatively pain free for the rest of my time there and able to enjoy myself.
Once back home again the crushing reality of the nothingness ahead started to creep in. I applied for jobs, watched Netflix, wandered around aimlessly, all the while refusing to acknowledge the bills that I was powerless to deal with.
Having said all that, and considering my situation, I wasn’t depressed, sad, unmotivated, or hopeless. I was confident, strong, unaffected and relaxed. I realised that there was a lot of fat that needed cutting from my life, and began to see clearly all the things I hadn’t had time to contemplate when working. I began listing (I do love a list) and created a Bullet Journal, inspired by many Pinterest boards, and a plan started to form. Once I knew I had got the job, I continued with the planning, examining, listing. I stopped taking the pill as it numbs me completely, despite the fact that I know “un-numbed” I can be unpredictable and wild.
It seems as though I will really enjoy this job, it is different and already I am feeling excited about possibilities.
Combined with my planning for the future, I am feeling very positive and motivated, slightly more whole than usual, and content. The time away from work has given me the space I needed to sort out some much needed mental spring cleaning, so as much as I hate unemployment, it would seem to have its unexpected benefits!
As I stare at the screen, trying to process what I am seeing in front of me, I feel a prickle at the base of my neck. My whole body suddenly stands to attention and i feel the rush of adrenaline in my stomach. My body starts to shake and I feel the energy coursing through it. I feel sick, my breathing ragged.
That feeling doesn’t go away and hours later as I try to sleep I still shake.
The next morning the shaking is reduced but the adrenaline is making my stomach churn. I can’t get rid of the sick feeling, and every time I think about it my stomach flips again. The constant feeling of the prickle on the back of your neck means you can’t relax, you can’t breathe through it.
You can’t un-see it.
I have discussed said void before in posts, it is the ever present, ever sucking hole inside of me that I cannot determine. It is the restlessness, the procrastination, the goal that is always planned but not quite begun, the decision that teeters on the edge of my mind, the identity dancing just out of my reach, the achievement mocking me from the corner of the room. It is emptiness, dissatisfaction, waiting, sadness, anxiety and hedonism.
There are a few things that hit it right in the centre. They don’t cause it to disappear, it is still there, but they fill it and numb it. I still feel it, but I feel the fullness of it and there is a release. Those things are:
Having a cigarette
Getting a tattoo
It is a physical feeling of fullness and the release is sweet, but fleeting.
There are however, two things I have encountered in life that have made the void disappear:
Doing a truly spontaneous exciting thing
The excitement of the build up to a first kiss, if it takes weeks or months, even better.
These things make the void disappear completely, and for those moments I am whole. I am alive, truly living in the present. I get a similar, if not quite as satisfactory, feeling when looking at something new and being independent on my own on a sunny day.
But how feasible is it to bounce between these things in order to try and feel alive? I have spent my twenties (and latter part of my teenage years) partying, doing these very things in a constant stream, in order to try and feel alive and plug up the inevitable consuming void inside. I cannot carry on like this. My body is starting to show signs of wear and tear form the years of partying, my mind haunted by some of the things I have done.
I read about people who discover meditation and yoga and green juice and fill that hole, but I don’t think that is going to work for me. I have tried it.
I need to find a way of plugging the hole, otherwise, if I carry on like this, it is eventually going to suck me down with it.
We’ve all experienced brain fog.
Normal brain fog is usually the inability to think clearly, make sense of a situation or use any problem solving skills. It’s a frustrating feeling, but there is a worse kind.
Emotional brain fog.
This occurs when you are so overwhelmed you can’t think rationally anymore.
I feel like that recently. There has just been too much, and I have reached my capacity. My brain cascades into numbness, I can feel it falling, shutters closing around me and then there is nothing. No errant thoughts and ponderings wandering across my mind, just the screams of the overwhelmed, the whimpers of the tired. I have very little fight left in me. I don’t know how to recuperate anymore. The words start but trail off a few sentences in.
Even writing this is taking longer than usual.
I need a break from everything, but in this modern life when do we get to take a break? I have to be at work at 9am tomorrow. How much of a break can you get in an evening where you have so many things to do, that can’t wait.
If anyone knows the answer, please give me a hint…
How do I bury you?
You are in my head, from morning til night. In my thoughts, in my dreams, in my hopes, rattling around my brain, a jumble of memories and sentences, expressions and feelings.
Should I bury you?
It probably isn’t healthy, but it can give me so much joy. Where lies the balance between helpful and harmful? How do I stop myself from investing in the good things and protect myself from the harmful things?
Could I bury you?
How could I stop the constant internal chatter? How can I move past this? How do I bury you when I don’t want to?
To create is to live. I believe that every single one of us on the planet has the ability to create and be creative, and I believe that through a creative process, we come alive.
As a child many of us are constantly creating, making a mud hill, painting a picture, creating a make believe world, a story, lego structures, forts, etc. I believe that through this creative process we learn. It is a way of interacting with the world, of pushing boundaries and limits and learning about yourself.
The simple joy of creating a mud hill, playing in water or drawing for the sake of drawing seems to disappear when we are adults, and yet I believe that this process something so naturally human. It is a basic creative mode, where there is no goal, no outcome to be monitored or assessed, just fun to be had in being creative.
This is something I vow to do more of, to reconnect with that creative inner child, who has no critical demons demolishing the thing that she creates with self doubt and ideas of failure. To just create for the sake of creating and just to be in the moment with that process.
I trace things with my thumb. My own imaginary lines, following what my eyes see. Have done for as long as I can remember.
Subtitles, facial features, road signs, punctuation, clothing hems, angular shapes.
Imagine how beautiful it is..
when I get to trace your face.
Your eyes are mesmerizing, full of mischief and joy, each crinkle, lined with my thumb as you laugh at me..
Your lips, so full and tempting, line by line dancing around the ball of my thumb. If only I could reach out and trace them for real..
I know your face by heart, I could draw you a thousand times, every expression, every minute detail, I can close my eyes and there you are…line by line dancing around my thumb..
Chris Cornell, 1964-2017
Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.
For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.
I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the…
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