Maybe it’s because for most of my adolescence my peers managed to remind me of every single flaw I had. Ones that I didn’t even realize were flaws but just differences that either I was able to choose or not. Regardless, I was a magnet for those who figured out how to dress and to be cool in a way I never could. Maybe it’s because I grew up painfully shy and found it so difficult to make friends when I was so intimidated by every other child I met. Somehow they were able to create these impenetrable bonds, so strong and so tight that I wasn’t allowed to enter or if I was, it was on the outskirts. Juuuust outside of the area where I’d be invited to parties or after school hangouts. Kids are cruel, preteens are crueler and teenagers just reinvent cruelty on a level that I can’t even begin to understand.
I’m talking about Imposter’s Syndrome.
I’m sitting in the salon chair, cringing at how tragic my reflection was in the oversized mirror. I intentionally left the house this way but somehow the lighting in this place highlights all of the imperfections on my face. I was rushing and had an appointment to make… that was the excuse this day for not trying a little harder. Then again, I learned a long time ago that any effort I made on my physical appearance would be for me and not for social acceptance. So, if you pass me in Target and wonder if I even own a hairbrush… I do… I just refuse to use it a lot of the time.
I think many people who have met me over the years tend to like me because I can be pretty nonthreatening. I don’t have the big boobs to envy nor the flawlessly smooth skin. I don’t have the cute little nose or a gorgeous tan that glows even when indoors. I have cellulite despite every effort to get rid of it and unforgiving stretch marks that I’ve learned to ignore. I don’t have a big fancy job where I get to jet set around the country nor do I drive a car with the automatic lift thingy for the trunk… although that’s one thing I kiiiinda do wish I had.
Maybe when I sell another few books…
I’ve found a comfortable position for myself in my life. My mother taught me at a very young age to not covet what others have. If I want something, I need to truly want it and not just because someone else has it. I should be true to myself and work hard for whatever it is I decide to do. I made mistakes and chose to be honest about them for my own self-worth and healing and I have had triumphs that give me something to show my children when they are 13 and think I’m a complete idiot.
But – and this is a big BUT
When I hear a friend say something positive and complimentary about me, I can’t help but feel like crawling into a ball and hiding. Is this a normal reaction? Probably not. I’ve never taken compliments well and am still trying to navigate how that works without offending people or saying something strange that makes them think “What is wrong with her?”
Writing (aside from motherhood) is the only thing that I feel comes naturally to me. However everything else surrounding it, certainly does not. I have had to shove myself so far out of my comfort zone that at the end of each day, I feel raw and fragile… most of the time in a good way. Almost refreshing but always exhausting.
Imposter’s syndrome (per Google) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. (Thank you to my hair stylist for the therapeutic chat and diagnosis)
So to you who tells me that I have it all together. That I somehow figured something out about life and motherhood that you didn’t. You appreciate my vulnerability and honesty and enjoy the way I laugh easily and don’t take myself too seriously. You think my book is amazing and yearn for more of my words and I’m just sitting here crying behind the safety of my iphone. I read the words and I’m grateful in a way that I can’t even express fully, but I also have this voice in my head saying “They don’t really think that. They’re just being polite but you actually don’t write that well and your baseboards are covered in dog hair. You’ve cooked the same meal 45083 times this weeks because it’s easy and no agent accepted your manuscript… so you self-published and nobody gives a shit.”
I’m waiting for people to forget me. It was much easier not being noticed at all when I was younger because, at least in my mind, it was better not to have to come up with something interesting to say. Saying the wrong thing is worse than saying nothing at all. I watch the views on my blog, picking apart over and over whether it’s good enough to keep running or if people are gossiping to one another about how I need to stop pretending to be someone I’m not.
I know I’m me. I know that everything I do is what I want to do, meant to do, need to do… but I still can’t shake the feeling that someone is standing, waiting around the corner to tell me “You’re nobody!” It gives me great anxiety to talk about my book to people, in person. I search their eyes for cynicism and worry if I’m talking too much. I wait for them to say something passive aggressive or even outright negative about the one thing I am so very proud of.
They don’t. But I wait for it. Every time.
In 2 days I have my first book signing and I am so anxious that I almost feel sick. I don’t know why people wanted me to do it and I’m still in shock that it’s getting such beautiful feedback. The kind that every author wants to hear. I’m trying to remind myself that this is happening because people want it to… not just me but people who know me, or don’t that read my book and want to be a part of my journey. I will, hopefully, conquer these demons and allow myself to JUST be proud and not some shadow on the edge of it. I will always have the inner 11-year-old me, nervously searching the room for an ally, not realizing that I’m doing just fine.