The very title has me hanging my head in defeat.
Who do I think I am? Why do people think they can trust me with these responsibilities? Surely everyone knows that I’m a fraud, just as I know it. One day, they will know that I’m not who they think I am and will point and say “SHAME!”
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It strikes smart, successful individuals. It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment, like admission to a prestigious university, public acclaim, winning an award, or earning a promotion.
I have felt like an impostor most of my life.
I don’t have a ready answer for that question.
When I was a child, I didn’t feel like I fit in with the other kids. I wanted desperately to fit in, but my likes and dislikes didn’t fit in with theirs. So, I changed, as best I could, to try to fit into their mould. I loved wearing dresses in elementary school, but no one else did – so I forced myself to wear pants. They loved music, I preferred my environment to be quiet and peaceful – when I did listen to music, it wasn’t what everyone else was listening to; so, again, I was labeled different.
Going into the teenage years is awkward enough for most kids; to me it seemed like everyone else had figured it out, but I was from another planet. I liked school, loved learning – but that’s not what rebellious teenagers are supposed to do. So I didn’t study, my one avenue that I could successfully rebel at – and succeeded with good grades anyway. I was in honors classes, and I questioned why – I didn’t study, I didn’t want to care about getting good grades – couldn’t the adults see that?
And then it happened, I actually failed. It came at a time when I should have been at the top of my glory – a senior in high school, a major part in a play, a leader on my team – and I failed English class. School rules state you cannot participate if you fail – and I finally proved what no one else knew but me – I was a failure. I was ashamed of myself. I ran away, literally dropping out of school, certain that everyone was pointing at me behind my back.
The months that I was away from home were not all roses and fun, but neither was it gloom and doom either. I learned a lot while I was away – about the world, about myself, and about life in general.
I had no direction, no purpose to my life at that point. I fell into adulthood working, paying rent and wondering what was next.
Marriage – which was again a failure (if you count that I divorced him within 2 years). Yes, I had my wonderful son Buddy out of the deal, but even that made me question myself at times. Flotsam was ashamed of our son; he was ashamed of his disabilities; he was ashamed of me for “giving” him a disabled son. The doubts would occasionally creep in, would make me wonder – am I a failure as a mother too?
Work was no better. I was quickly promoted, a high-school drop-out, from employee to supervisor – the youngest in the company (I was only 21). I had other employees questioning, within my hearing, what I had done to deserve the promotion over them? I blew the comments off, I worked hard, and I learned all I could. But still, I felt like I didn’t belong there.
Every few years, another promotion to another department, brought back the same doubts, the same questions – why? Why do they believe in me? Why do they trust me?
During this time I married Hun, with his three children; and Jetsam who openly questioned my value. She acknowledged that I was a mother, but sneered that I was obviously not as good of a mother as she was. That I failed at being a mother. The kids, feeding off their mom’s disdain for me (desperate for her approval), echoed her statements, determined not to give me a chance. So it became a self-fulfilling prophecy for them – in their eyes I am a failure of a parent. Today, I still question what I did wrong; how, when I love these kids so much, how did I fail with them? I question this as the failure is all mine.
And then it happened, at work I was promoted to the point that I could no longer succeed. I failed and I could no longer handle the pressure. I crumpled and quit, willing to throw away a 20 year career. The stress of trying to prove that I was worthy was too great. I was a failure and now everyone knew it.
I stepped back; I examined my life, my hopes, my dreams, my own desires.
My mind wandered – researching, learning, soaking-up how to find myself again. Reading, podcasts, journaling, meditating; all in hopes of rediscovering who I truly am.
I concluded that I had not been living an authentic life; that I had been living my life for others, to make them happy rather than myself. Glimpses of my true self had poked through, straining to free itself from the cage I had placed it in – trying to appear “worthy” of those around me who wanted me to be someone else, someone different.
The times I had stood up for not only myself, but for the kids – to Flotsam, to Jetsam, and even to Hun.
The time I had insisted that I wasn’t ready for a promotion – knowing in my heart that it would lead to the failure it finally did.
Ignoring those around me, admonishing me that I cared too much for kids who didn’t return my feelings, telling me to give up – standing my ground and saying “no, I will not!”
It has startled me, in writing this post, to come to the realization that I have been an impostor. That I have good reason to feel like one – because I am one.
I have been trying to be someone I’m not all this time. I have failed at being Karaboo.
All this time, I have been ashamed of who others think I am, instead of embracing the greatness of me.
Yes, I am stubborn – but that also means that I am determined, persistent, steadfast, tenacious and tough.
I can be opinionated – but also confident, bold, courageous, undaunted and self-assured.
I tend to be judgmental – which is a combination of my intuition, awareness, experience, reasoning and understanding – and more often than not, my insights are correct.
Finally, I have been accused of being uncaring – they see the surface of my intensity and not my passion, dedication, and spirit.
People who know me are going to say I have changed.
They will be right.