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Entry date: 11-17-2022 - Imposters - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome my whole life. I’ve only come to realize it more over the last few years and it is, quite honestly, tough to admit. This week in particular has caused it to rear its ugly head.


What it is, basically, is exactly what it sounds like. For me, it is nagging self-talk that basically ends up with me telling myself I am a huge faker. I constantly tell myself that I am about to be found out for being a huge fraud, even though I have more than enough proof that I am not. I am curious if teachers suffer from this more than other professions, but I’m guessing that everyone feels it at some time or other.


When I was younger, it would pop up with my interpersonal relationships a lot and with sports. I identified a lot of my worth with how good or not good I was at playing sports when I was in elementary school. This was a way to get a certain amount of cache, as a male, and even though I was always reasonably good at baseball, basketball, and football, I just never felt like what I was doing was real.


In class, even though I was just as smart as anyone, I measured myself against those who had more self-confidence and it contributed to that same feeling of being found out at any time for being the imposter I see myself to be. It didn’t happen every day or anything like that, but it happened a lot and I didn’t know how to talk about it.


As I got into high school, it impacted me a bit differently. Sports gradually faded from my way of showing value to my peers and was replaced by my ability to connect with people easily. This was a good skill to have, but I still felt as if I was going to be found out for some transgression or mistake and labeled a loser or a liar or, God forbid, a poser. That was a tough one. As I embraced my individuality more and more, I got labeled a poser by some of the people who had been dressing in a punk or mod fashion, even though I had been enjoying the music itself for years by then. I just didn’t know how to wear the uniform yet.


When I started having dating relationships, I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or talk openly about my feelings, wants, or needs, so I ended up in situation where I tried to keep someone else happy a lot of the time without taking care of myself. This contributed greatly to that same old comfortable feeling of being something other than the real deal.


I didn’t really experience this feeling professionally until I started working at the car dealership in the mid-90s. I knew enough about cars to be just a bit dangerous but couldn’t care less about how the new Corvette worked or why it was better than the older ones, for example, and I usually felt like an outsider when these types of conversations came up. I didn’t have the nerve, though, to say, “I don’t give a shit, fellas. Have you heard the new Butthole Surfers record?”


I’ve always had so many outside interests and things I wanted to pursue that a lot of jobs for me where just that. Unfortunately, for people like myself who deal with imposter syndrome, nothing you do is ever really good enough to get you over the hump and let you feel like you have done what you needed to do to prove yourself. For most of us, it is just something we have to figure out and deal with and you don’t know what will cause you to feel it.


Starting a new job is a huge trigger and this week, it’s pounding on me. I’ve learned from doing some reading and self-reflection that an easy way out is to give my new boss a lot of power when I’m feeling this way and that usually creates a situation where I have to dig myself out of a hole of my own creation. I end up showing the new leader that I am more needy than I actually am, so I am trying to avoid that this time and just working my way through this shitty feeling.


I’ve never, for example, tried writing my way through it as I am today. I’ve also never admitted it like this. For years, I have worried that people would find out that I have these doubts or that I feel like a sham. Now I know, though, that this is common for people like me and I’m not alone. One good thing is that in the last decade, I don’t let it stop me from pushing forward like I used to do.


In my 20s and 30s, this feeling could stop me in my tracks and push me onto a path of least resistance. It would win, sometimes, and tell me that I should stay in my lane and be happy with what I had instead of going for what I wanted. Rhondi, actually, has been a hugely instrumental force in helping me see that I don’t need to listen to that bullshit. She’s encouraged me to accomplish things but also helped me see how to do things realistically, too.


Deep down, I know I am who I am and not a fraud. I know I can accomplish the things I want to accomplish if I am willing to push through the discomfort and self-babble that says, “You’re a fraud. They are going to find out.” Whoever the fuck “they” are is all in my head and “they” can fuck off. “They” can also think whatever they want, too. I can’t control that.


All I can control is putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. If there are things I need to get better at, so be it. I am in charge of that, too, as is everyone when it comes to life. This is a real blog. Not a fake. No matter what my brain says.


See you tomorrow.



Am I really a kayaker? Maybe this is just a picture of Alice and I'm not really even there. I don't know sometimes.

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1 Comment


thegoodrick
thegoodrick
Nov 20, 2022

Really interesting self perception. This rings pretty close to home with me too Tom, and to add to that confusion, I was adopted. I have to admit, it has been a lifelong struggle for me to truly understand who I am when I had little knowledge of where and from whom I came.


Luckily, in July 2020, I finally met my biological mother and was able to have some questions answered, but it was still difficult to understand as there is nothing that lead me to my birth father.


Meeting “cousins, aunts and uncles” on either side of my adoptive parents families provided no respite in my quest for self understanding. I often let life lead me in directions I…


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