Oh boy, friends. Another post about imposter syndrome.
Why another one? Why wasn’t the first post good enough? Mainly because it comes in every once and a while and can feel pretty crippling. It’s like knowing there are five things you can do to make yourself feel better but you have no energy or will to do any of them.
I’m pretty sure if you’re a human being—especially a creative—you know what I mean.
So today, I feel like I can find the words to explain my strain of imposter syndrome and how it’s tampered with my creativity for the past few months. Hopefully you find something here that will help you. If not, skip down to the bottom where I stop venting and I start explaining what I did to put my imposter syndrome in its place and deal with it.
How Do I Experience Imposter Syndrome?
So for those of you who aren’t familiar with imposter syndrome, it’s an overwhelming feeling like you don’t deserve the good things or success in life. You feel like the weakest link, everyone else has their lives together, and you’ll never live up to your own expectations.
Me? I want to be the best—not better than other people, but just my absolute best. I’m constantly competing against who I was the day before. When people call me Wonder Woman, I take it to heart. If I could save the world, I would. I would make everyone around me happy and I would leave my print on the world. This is what I think about from the moment I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow.
With this quick intro into my mind’s workings, you can imagine that it’s hard to keep up. I fall short every month because I over-book and over-exert myself. I hate saying no and I hate feeling weak. Calling myself impatient is putting it nicely.
But the main problem with these feelings is that no one really believes me when I say I’m sad, or weak, or mildly depressed. I’m so happy! So productive! So badass! I spend so much time being supportive of other people’s mental health issues that people are shocked when they have to return the favor. Mental health shortcomings make people feel uncomfortable.
Thus, I unload all my sadness and frustrations on Travis, the most patient man I know. Thus, I cry and cry until I fall asleep and I wake up feeling better. I go back into the fray without learning from my mistakes.
And then I fall again. Fall back into the routine of saying YES TO THE THINGS, feeling too busy to un-stress my life, and worrying I’m disappointing other people.
What Have I Done About It?
So what makes this monthly meltdown different from all the others? Well, reading Present Over Perfect certainly put a few things into perspective. The author certainly lived a life similar to the one I fashioned and I didn’t want to face the same regrets that she did. I listen to a few podcasts where the podcast hosts face similar issues as creatives, and their words have helped me in recent months.
I also realized a few things about myself: about 90% of the things that stress me out are expectations I put on myself because of an innate worry of disappointing other people. There’s power in realizing that you can save yourself from some of your problems.
Also, it dawned on me that bashing myself as a perfectionist didn’t actually cure me of anything. I really needed to change, and be patient with the fact that it will take me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin and my life choices.
So I did the following things:
- I cried a lot. Cried, slept, and talked out my feelings. I just did a lot of leaking from my face.
- I had to stop in my tracks and do something. I had to put the breaks on my regularly scheduled stressfulness and look my issues in the face.
- I wrote down everything that was on my mind. I wrote about all the mental tabs that were open in my mind and why they weren’t making me happy.
- I also put my thoughts into categories of THINGS I CAN’T CHANGE and THINGS THAT NEED TO STOP NOW or THINGS THAT REQUIRE BETTER PERSPECTIVE. I can make sense of anything if I write it down and sort my thoughts.
- I did things that I enjoy. I should’ve been writing or working on something more pressing but I would go to the gym and lift weights, play Pokemon Go for an hour, or play video games (I’m currently into Child of Light and Kingdom Hearts).
- I acknowledged that extra angst was coming from current politics. I seriously don’t know how people can ignore politics when it affects so much of our future.
- I made a list of ideas of ways to de-stress. I thought of things that I felt would put me in the right direction or replace negative actions.
- I found this helpful video via Wonderlass that gave me some good ideas for making goals and plans for a quarter. I know this is still so Type A of me, but having a plan would help me set up actual, good expectations and a plan now means peace and stillness in the future.
Overall, I tried to be as blunt, specific, and detailed as possible. I didn’t want to ignore the elephant in the room, and I wanted my solutions to work specifically for me.
I should mention that some of you have already shared some ideas that work for you. I think it’s worth sharing them here:
Kara says: “I have a letter of recommendation from one of my professors that I read. It always makes me feel better about myself to see how she saw me. I also keep a journal, so I go back and see how often I feel like an imposter during a project. I’ve realized it hits around the same time each project. In the middle and about 90% through.”
Trish says: “I sometimes listen to the Creative Penn podcast because I find Joanna Penn very encouraging. She’s very forthright with her own struggles with imposter syndrome and self-doubt and it helps to hear someone who is a very successful Indie author struggle with it and overcome it daily. The other thing I do is confess it to my husband who is not only a fantastic developmental editor but the best cheerleader I have in the entire world.”
Nina says: “I don’t fight it so much as I’m trying to learn to live with it. Fighting it feels like feeding it—I just accept that it is there and try to move on. That, and I keep a folder of screenshots of enthusiastic things people have said about my writing to refer back to.”
What Can You Learn from Imposter Syndrome?
Maybe you have felt the same as I have. Maybe you didn’t know the sense of dread and frustration had a name. Maybe you give it a different name altogether.
Well, know that literally every person you look up to has likely experienced imposter syndrome. Literally anyone who creates something has felt like they could’ve done better or they’ll never finish something great. I’m sure everyone has had a day where they didn’t want to get out of bed.
You can learn that everyone you interact with has a story. Whether they’re happy in-person or online, they’ve got their own slew of challenges. Never assume that people always have it good and they didn’t work hard for their happiness or contentment.
Also, you can learn that by talking about insecurities and self-doubt, you unlock a door that allows others to talk about their problems. Sometimes you have to be the first to break the ice, but I guarantee that it’ll remove much of the burden. I wish people noticed me and realized I was struggling. I wish they knew I needed someone to listen to me.
I know what people say. You can be a masterpiece and a WIP simultaneously. Give yourself grace. Learn to say no. You are better than you think. All those Winnie the Pooh quotes. Sometimes I believe them and sometimes I don’t. But I’ve learned that imposter syndrome is okay to carry as long as I know full well that I can put it down. It’s not strapped to me unless I secure it.
So that’s my views on imposter syndrome, what do you to overcome imposter syndrome? What should you and I do to get out of our way and do what we were meant to do? I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on social media.
6 comments on “How Revisiting My Imposter Syndrome Helped Me Grow”
One sentence really stuck out to me: “I spend so much time being supportive of other people’s mental health issues that people are shocked when they have to return the favor.” This sentence didn’t surprise me. It’s my experience that most people with mental health issues have trouble focussing on others’ problems. I say this as a (no longer practicing) psychologist and member of a family with rampant mental health issues. The same people, when their issues are in abeyance, may be very supportive, but when their problems are in flower, they tend to absorb them completely. Not everyone is like this, of course, but it’s a pretty common mechanism how mental problems interfere with relationships.
That’s a good thing to keep in mind. As in, I shouldn’t be completely disappointed that someone can’t come to my rescue when they’re already neck-deep in their own problems. I should speak kinder of my friends and family, but sometimes it can be frustrating when you need extra attention and not everyone can drop what they’re doing to tend to me. Even if you’re not practicing, do you have some advice to share about how to respond to these sorts of things? Should I tell my friends more blatantly I need help, or should I stick with more steady sources of comfort (like my husband who’s quite a stellar human being)?
Ahem. I’m not sure what to say. At such a remove, not knowing anyone involved, I hesitate to make suggestions. However, if you’ve been expecting friends to somehow intuit your needs (my mother was great at that) it might not hurt to tactfully let them know. Depending on the person, though, it might be harmful. When I came across as needing something from my sister, she shut down; she was supposed to be the one getting help, not giving it. Sorry if that isn’t helpful.
Oh man, yeah, this is probably not the place for hardcore advice. But I really appreciate your two cents! I think it’s something to remember in order to keep a better perspective when things go south. 🙂
Whitney. I love this post. You are so good at the words! You eloquently said so many things that are constantly on my mind but I haven’t found words for. Can’t say I have any great advice to share! But thank you for putting words to these things. It’s comforting to know others feel the same way.
I agree! For every person that empathizes or tells me they experience the same thing, the more lighter I feel. I think imposter syndrome is so tough because it makes you feel so alone. I have to remind myself that any person who strives to improve has felt the same way to a certain degree! I think talking always helps, and know that you can always come to me for help or to commiserate. <3