Tag Archives: fear

Impostor Syndrome

creative commons image by tiffany mack on flickr

I like putting names on things. Names help me make sense of my own head and various things outside my head and generally gives me a better sense of what’s going on. Names make connections and helps me tell my story about myself, knowing what’s what and why things happen.

Today the name I want to talk about is Impostor Syndrome.

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure why but every time I tried I just… couldn’t. I have ideas out the wazoo, several unfinished posts I’m working on and I’ve made no progress on them at all. What’s going on? If I don’t start writing again eventually my pending folder will run out. I don’t want that to happen!

Then it hit me. Impostor Syndrome. I think I have some of that going on. And hey, and soon as that hits me, I’m writing! About Impostor Syndrome, of course, but still. Writing is writing.

Ok, maybe I could give that name some broad context. For those of you who haven’t heard of Imposter Syndrome, it’s basically when we don’t internalize our successes or accomplishments. Instead of thinking “I did a thing!” we think “A thing happened near me and it looks like I did it!”

Impostor Syndrome is actually not unusual. I’ve known lots of highly successful people who were otherwise totally mentally healthy and strong who contended with Impostor Syndrome. I’m not exactly a super successful person so it doesn’t hit me often, but apparently I have a success, and BAM! I’m convinced I’m an impostor and everyone is going to figure it out and I’ll be exposed as a fraud.

Specifically, the success is this blog here. I know I’m still really small in the bloggiverse, but with what I had been hoping for and what’s been going on, I’m doing really good. I think it really hit me a few weeks ago when I looked at my blog averages. I obsessively look at my stats, but I almost never take a step back to get a broader view of how I’m doing. What I learned is that my blog has REALLY expanded over the past year. I went from an average of 28 hits a day to an average of 167 hits a day. That’s just… wow. That’s so exciting!

There are other things, but I already fear I’m looking like I’m bragging (and honestly, I kinda am). So we’ll just suffice for now to say that my blog is doing more than I had thought would ever actually happen. It’s amazing and flattering and an honor and HOLY SHIT WHAT IF I CAN’T MAINTAIN IT?!

I find myself wondering why people read this. I’ve had people suggest really really good possible blog topics for me, but also one’s that are really challenging and will take a lot of work to have any hope of making it to a finished form. And YAY people contacting me and YAY ya’ll think that I am capable of tackling topics like that but OMG what if I can’t?

When I looked at my stats and emails I had a few days of pride, thinking that all the work I’ve put into this blog is paying off. Then I started wondering what, exactly, I had done to make it work. And then it just started to crumble. I’ve been really open about myself and my life situation on my blog, partly to avoid just that. I don’t want to lie to any of you or give a false impression of myself or anything like that. Yet I still wonder if you *really* knew, if you wouldn’t be reading so much.

Heck, who am I to be writing How Do I Adult, when I can barely adult myself? I mean, yes, I am careful to only write about what I know and to pull from other people’s expertise when I can and I put a whole lot of effort into making those posts thorough and detailed (sooo much work) but I am still amazed that so many of you like them.

So to counteract the Impostor thing, I’m going to get it all out. I know I have before. Everything I put will probably already be on this blog, sometimes in great detail, but I’m writing it again. Because I don’t want to be a fraud, even if it’s just a lie that Imposter Syndrome is telling me. I mean, Impostor Syndrome is a jerk. It’s all with the “you didn’t REALLY do that!” and that’s not nice at all. Impostor Syndrome is NOT my friend, and if you’ve ever made it’s acquaintance, it isn’t your friend either.

So here it is. I have no job. Ages ago I used to work, but I sacrificed a great deal of both my mental and my physical health to do it. I hope that eventually I will be able to both work and be healthy, but I’m not there yet. I haven’t driven in years – I am currently actively working on getting myself more mobile again, but I’m not there yet. I struggle, a lot, with maintaining friendships and relationships. Sure, I am in a long-term relationship (going on 10 years!) and I have friends and can get to know people, but it’s hard. REALLY hard. So hard.

I want to bring something meaningful to the world and it’s actually looking like I’m starting to do that, and it’s just this weird combination of completely wonderful and completely overwhelming.

So I guess this post is some combination of brag, confession, and thank you. A teeny bit of the bloggiverse or not, I’m doing well by my standards, and that’s awesome. And I’m a totally flawed human being-type-thing who struggles with mental illness and weird neurology and self esteem and that’s not so awesome. And you, all of you, you are awesome. I don’t always know why you read or like my blog, but every click, every read, every “like”, every comment, every share, all of it – it’s awesome. I’m so grateful. THANK YOU. I write, but you read, and it’s your reading that’s helped me keep going and given me ideas and pushed me to write even when sometimes it’s hard.

Also, Impostor Syndrome is a jerk. I’m going to try to not listen to it anymore. Anything that stops me from writing is nothing that I need.

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Uncertainty and Control

I am in my early 30’s right now. I am unquestionably an adult, at least biologically speaking. Yet I have somehow managed to make it this far with next to zero ability to deal with uncertainty.

It’s been coming up lately in my life. There are things going on that are just full of uncertainty and unknowns and grays. And they aren’t bad things either, they’re just uncertain things. But holy wow am I having a hard time with them. Uncertainty is just so hard for me to deal with.

I’m not entirely sure why this is. I suspect there are a number of things coming into play here. Things like how it’s hard for me to be vulnerable. Things like how I don’t generally trust people – people aren’t safe; people are dangerous. Things like how I want the world to be an absolute, black-and-white place with no in-betweens.

I’ve written before about vulnerability and how it’s important for making connections with people and being able to be close to people. It’s something I’m still working on, and I’m making some progress. I’m learning to be vulnerable, however difficult it is for me.

In a TED talk, Amanda Palmer talks about the art of asking. She talks about how it’s about vulnerability, but it’s also about trust. She gave a lot of examples of putting herself out there and asking people for what she needed, and how they came through for her and validated her trust. It’s a nice video and a nice talk, but for a couple of reasons I’m not sure it’s applicable to my own life.

For one, I don’t do much with the trusting. When I am vulnerable, when I put myself out there and ask or share something of myself, I don’t do it with trust. I do it with fear. It hurts to do that, every single time. It hurts to write this right now, and I’m sure it will hurt to post it. Having confidence that I won’t wind up hurt is something that I develop slowly and haltingly and painfully, one person at a time. And I have learned that I have to stop closing myself off before I can gain that confidence. Significantly before. I don’t much like that, but I do it because I care about being able to connect with at least a few people; having at least some people in my life who I am close to.

I also noticed that Palmer did not spend any time talking about asking, being vulnerable, trusting, and having it fall through. It was a very positive talk and it seemed to carry the implication that if you ask, you will receive. Except I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. Ask and you might receive, but it is by no means a guarantee. Sometimes you’ll fall and no one will catch you. Which is one of the reasons I don’t much like to ask for things.

If I want something and I can only get it by asking, I face two simple options.

1. Ask. I might get what I want, but I might not, and in the meantime things are uncertain and I am vulnerable.

2. Don’t ask. I will definitely not get what I want, and I know the answer right from the start.

It often seems like asking is the obvious correct choice. It’s something I’ve heard often enough, anyway. It’s the rational I used when I submitted a short story of mine for publishing (which, by the way, worked! Shameless self promotion – I’m published in LUMINA journal. Check it out!). I could submit my story and face the possibility of rejection, or not submit it and never even have a chance of getting published. I submitted, faced the possibility of rejection, and it worked out. Yay for me!

Only with me, I don’t think it’s the possibility of rejection, specifically, that puts me off of asking. It’s the uncertainty in the meantime. It’s the not knowing what will happen, and not being able to control the outcome. There are times when the certainty of not getting what I want is easier for me to deal with than the uncertainty of asking. When knowing the outcome – even if the outcome is bad – is better than not knowing the outcome – even if it might be better.

Because uncertainty is really hard to deal with. Like whoa.

I have been told, growing up, that I am a control freak. It offended me at the time, but you know what? I kinda am. I want to control everything around me, and I’m pretty sure this is also about that horribleness of uncertainty. I will cling to a bad answer rather than not know the answer. I will choose a bad outcome rather than have the outcome be out of my control. Much of how much I do this comes down to how well I feel I can handle uncertainty at any given time. If I’m feeling strong and stable, I am far more likely to be willing to let go and take a chance. If I’m not, though. If I’m feeling weak or I’m already hurt, then uncertainty can be simply too much to bear. It can be easier for me to embrace a solution that hurts me but I was able to choose, than be vulnerable and uncertain and let someone else choose. I will do this with an absolute ferocity at times, if I deem that being uncertain is Just Not Ok.

Only I think that this is not a good thing. I’m not going to demonize myself for it – I know that if I just can’t handle uncertainty, forcing myself to do so is not going to help anyone. It’s just that I think I take it too far sometimes. Sometimes my need to be in control of everything that has an impact on me can mean infringing on other people’s freedom of choice. It can mean, at times, imposing my answer (my hurtful-to-me answer) onto other people. This is not an ok thing for me to do.

Long term, the answer is obvious. I need to learn to handle being uncertain. I need to learn how to cope with it when something that impacts me is in someone else’s hands, and I need to stop trying to grab back control by whatever means I have available (which is usually by picking the option that will hurt me and imposing that choice onto other people, which kinda means I’m forcing other people to hurt me, which is seriously uncool).

Shorter term, the answer is trickier. The only way to get there is to be uncertain and flail around until I find my balance. I can get help with that through therapy and maybe through the kindness and patience of friends, but I won’t get there until I start doing it. But in the meantime, I have to balance when I am pushing myself, and when pushing myself might cause me harm. I have to find my edge and push myself to that edge, and keep pushing it to force the edge further and further out, and I have to do it hopefully without falling off that edge. I don’t want to fall. The prospect of managing all this is really quite terrifying. Especially since I don’t really want to deal with uncertainty. I want uncertainty to not be a thing. It’s just that it is a thing, and I want to be better able to deal with the world and with people and with interpersonal relationships, and that means handling uncertainty.

Whether I like it or not.

Wish me luck?

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I am not weak

This really quite blurry image just so happened to be taken right at a moment when we were taking a stumble. We kept on going anyway.

I originally wrote this several weeks ago when I was having a wibbly day. I’ve been feeling not so good again lately, so I figured it would be a good time to post it.

I’m a little odd.

Sometimes I’m very odd.

I struggle with things that many people find easy.

I have to think my way through things that many people find intuitive.

I have to be analytical in situations where people usually think it’s best to “go with the flow.”

I’m anxious. Very anxious. Often.

Know what I’m not?

I’m not weak.

People sometimes treat me like I’m a fragile little flower. They see the ways I struggle and just assume that I must be delicate – they don’t bother to look any farther. They see how I am weak in ways that they are strong, and assume that must mean I am weak all over. The world may cater to the strengths of neurotypicals, and especially the strengths of extroverts, but that does not mean that my strengths don’t exist. Nor does it mean they don’t matter.

I’m afraid a lot. I’m even afraid of cantering during my horseback riding lessons.

Know what?

I canter anyway.

I’m afraid of talking on the phone. When I need to, I talk on the phone anyway.

I am afraid of being honest about when there are ooky things going on inside my head.

I talk about them anyway.

There are lot of things I’m afraid of or that are overwhelming that I do anyway.

I learn, I grow, I challenge myself, I do things.

Yes, I need things. Things like accommodation, people to meet me part-way, understanding that I am not like most people and I don’t work the way they work.

What I don’t need is pity, or condescending pats on the head, or assumptions that I just can’t handle anything difficult.

Why?

Because I’m strong, that’s why. I’m stronger than I think I am, I’m stronger than many other people think I am, and I am darned well stronger than my fear.

Do you ever feel weak?
In what ways are you strong?

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