“If you are what you should be you will set the whole world ablaze.” ~St. Catherine of Siena
My usual morning routine consists of arriving at work, making a cup of tea, reading a daily inspirational quote, and then getting started with the days’ assignments.
Every thirty minutes or so, my brain snaps away from the task at hand into a deep craving for advice. It’s the reason I read a daily quote and the reason I get my daily Tiny Buddha articles. It’s what I spend the majority of my free time exploring.
So, every thirty minutes or so I pull up the Internet browser and type in the search bar something along the lines of “practicing positivity,” “overcoming self-doubt,” “finding forgiveness,” or “letting go of the past.”
The war I am fighting with the negative tendencies of my brain is never-ending and largely supported by the online communities of people who feel much like I do.
The most important and influential people in my life are the ones who aren’t afraid to show me their vulnerability. I like to hear their stories and learn from their experiences.
Now, that seems to go against my own goal to be absolutely perfect. I don’t admire anyone who is “perfect.” Only those who are quite imperfect and willing to admit it.
Still, I have a hard time trusting that someone would enjoy being in my company for more than an afternoon. I’ve pushed away the people who love me because I don’t feel like I deserve their affection. Any admiration received is for some woman I cannot identify with.
If they stick around long enough, they’ll realize just how wrong they’ve been and sprint off in the other direction, leaving me here alone and utterly inadequate.
I am very much aware that I need to approve of myself before anyone else can. All of my free time is dedicated to cultivating self-love. My inner critic makes this journey a long and difficult one, though.
Today’s Internet search on self-love brought me to a new diagnosis, if you will.
Now, I’ve never heard of this, so I read an article or two to catch up. Basically, it’s the idea that what other people are seeing when you accomplish great things is not actually you. It is an imposter or fraud.
Someday they’ll discover it and realize that you are just average…or even less than that. You are not worthy of the attention, awards, or affection. When they wake up and see the real you, you will be cast aside.
This is particularly common among high achieving women. We feel so unworthy of our accomplishments that we refuse to accept the praise. We push it off saying that others just don’t really know us.
We refuse to accept compliments.
Many successful women in our society have been shown to exhibit these feelings of inadequacy. Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, and Marilyn Monroe, among many others, have all admitted to feeling as though they don’t deserve the positive reactions to their work at some point or another.
And what about me? From the outside looking in, I’m not the unlovable failure that I so often believe myself to be.
I graduated from a major university with outstanding grades.
I moved across the country without a job or a clue and still managed to support myself.
I have won the appreciation from my boss and am regarded as an asset in my company.
I was recently invited to serve in the Peace Corps and plan on moving to Africa in August.
I volunteer with the Red Cross and teach English to immigrants.
I am beautiful and strong and intelligent and kind.
Still, I manage to attribute my accomplishments to a little bit of luck and a lot of misinterpretation.
These positive things aren’t happening to me because I went out and followed my dreams. It’s because a scared little girl has been dog-paddling her way through life, head barely above water, and has managed to portray herself in a way that is pleasing to others.
I think this does come from the constant need to impress others.
We start to project a version of ourselves that doesn’t feel natural simply because we think that’s who we have to be. We may end up being motivated solely by praise and approval, not from the wisdom and longing of our hearts.
If we don’t open up to the vulnerability of being real, the feeling of falseness will linger over all that we accomplish.
Many people don’t know themselves well enough to even recognize if they are following their heart.
Being comfortable in your own skin requires you to dig deep and take the time to learn what makes you joyful.
We have to be serious about getting to know ourselves if we want to love who we are.
In the case of Imposter Syndrome, who is right? Me or the rest of the world?
My opinion about myself is my only truth. It doesn’t matter how many truckloads of affection can be dumped onto my lap. If I can’t see it, it does not exist.
How are we supposed to change our perceptions? We can start with the human folly of comparison.
We judge ourselves compared to perfection, not other people. We imagine Oprah and Mother Teresa to be shining beacons of perfection, but they aren’t. They are human.
We don’t have to be perfect to bring something meaningful to the world. In fact, perfection is an indescribable state because it does not even exist. We should take a stand to delete that devilish word from our vocabulary.
What human, animal, or plant exists in flawlessness?
Even the most beautiful flower may have a single petal that is misshapen or browned, but does that make it unworthy of praise? Should it go unnoticed?
In contrast, have you ever know anything to be 100 percent bad? You can find fatherly love in a dictator if you are willing to look for it.
When humanity can wake up and realize that we are as much the good as we are the embarrassing and painful mistakes, maybe we won’t worry if people are only seeing one side of us. We cannot accept parts of ourselves and deny others without becoming only half of a person.
Usually, I move forward with the idea that as long as I am alive, there is time to learn more. As long as I am curious about something, anything, that is one thing more important than feeling sorry for myself.
Luckily for me, curiosity burns strong in my heart. Today, I’m curious about self-love and confidence mixed together with wonder about our Universe and scientific discoveries.
The more I focus on the things that I have, the less I worry about the things I am missing. That is what practicing gratitude is all about and why it is recommended almost anywhere in the self-help community.
Upon closing, I find it relevant to say that writing this has been therapeutic for me, especially when I took the time to list some of my accomplishments. It really felt like I was writing about someone else. I’m not an imposter, though.
Somewhere along the lines we were told it is sinful to feel pride. However, it is only when you allow yourself to feel the pride that comes with accomplishing mighty works that you can start to see the inner beauty shining through.
Now it is your turn. Identify five or more things you have accomplished and for which you have received some sort of recognition. Write out what compliments were given and then sit with it. Try to relax into the feeling.
Maybe you are a single mother working hard to provide for your family when you have no idea how.
Maybe you are a musician or artist unsure if your style will make it out there in the critical world.
Maybe you’re a young writer submitting your first piece, oblivious if your words will have meaning to another.
None of us know. That’s part of the beauty that connects us. Your bravery is admirable, even when you feel like a failure.
Be open to the possibility that even though you are not perfect, you can still be remarkable. And you are.
Woman taking off a man’s mask image via Shutterstock