I watched my niece attempt something and fail terribly at it. Every time she failed, we would both laugh it off and she will do it again. It’s almost like she felt joy from doing something so badly. Maybe because who she was, wasn’t defined by how her audience (me, in this case) thought of her, or her own result. Impostor Syndrome who?
For my 3-year-old niece — when success was not the barometer for the task, Joy was the outcome. Kids never feel like impostors because they’re thrill-seekers, serial entrepreneurs.
They explore everything without feeling attached to anything. The moment it’s gone, that’s it! They move on and like a reptile sheds off its skin, we shed off this thrill and put on identities as we emerge into adults. We do everything to discard the childlike spirit.
And I dare say, that this identity, these labels we put on (writer, coder, student, creator, kind, cheerful, part of a clique) is the reason we feel like impostors.
“No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it” — Paulo Coelho
The root of Impostor Syndrome
The thing is, we’ve all felt like a fraud at many points in our lives. But have we ever felt inhumane? Has there been any day where we doubted if we were human?
Inhumane syndrome — The feeling of being robotic. I doubt that because as people, we know we’re humans. That will not change.
We will always ‘live’ so we don’t doubt our humanity. We will not always ‘do’ so we doubt our skills.
Impostor syndrome comes about because we equate being to doing. You don’t have to be good at what you do to feel good about it. If we do something long enough we’ll naturally get good at it. And if you’ve done it long enough, you can do it again—even when you don’t feel like.
Repeated actions become daily consciousness.
I could have given you a listicle, a 10 step formula you can always repeat when you feel like an impostor. You would love that, won’t you? But how many of them have you read and yet you can’t escape the triggers?
The true key to winning impostor syndrome is to displace your self from the equation. What you do is not who you are. Where you go to school is not who you are. What people think of you is not who you are. Neither is being overly confident or excessively humble.
The root of impostor syndrome is self-absorption.
“The pain of the narcissist is that, to him, everything is really a threat(or trigger). What doesn’t surrender in reverence is blasphemous to a high opinion of oneself — the burden of self-importance. The narcissist reconstructs his own law of gravity which states that all things and all creatures must adhere to his personal satisfaction, but when they do not, the pain is far more intense than it is for one who is free from the clamours of ‘I’.”― Criss Jami, Killosophy
“Ayomide, I get what you’re saying. But my impostor syndrome doesn’t come from self-absorption, in fact, I hardly think of myself.”
Then listen to your own language, when you’re triggered.
“I feel like a fraud”
“I’m not good enough” “I don’t have what it takes”
“I don’t know If my audience will like my content” “Am I even creative at all?”
I — I — I
Self-absorption or not?
The letter ‘I‘ takes first place in impostor syndrome for a reason. The second Letter ‘M’ makes it I’m (I am). I am a fraud. If you remove those two letters, it leaves you with ‘Postor‘ — No definition. Nothing.
In the same vein, remove your identity from the equation and you sever the root of impostor syndrome. Think about this for a minute.
You can’t be an impostor to what you have not identified with.
The problem begins with the labels. When we allow labels form our identity, it’s akin to putting our minds in a rabbit-wheel, that when the wheel doesn’t run, we doubt that we’re rabbits in the first place. We self-sabotage.
Get out of the cage! Use career-labels or friendship tags for connection with people and not for validation. For attachment to a cause and not for your identity.
You become a creator because you’ve created in the past. You’re a designer because you designed amazing things in the past. A writer because you’ve written. It’s not about who you are nor is it about what others are doing or saying. It’s all about what you’ve done. REMEMBER THIS.
I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ – Maya Angelou
Hey, you’re freaking awesome. I’m here to guarantee you that for purely existing in 2020. In a year where people are hardly surviving, you’re thinking of Creating. Of changing the norm. Of birthing something from the depths of your core.
That’s not normal. That’s the Creator of the universe, my God —Yahweh, stroking you to bring out the art He has deposited in you.
So keep an achievement note. A record of everything you’ve ever done. Those achievements didn’t come by luck! Hard work and grace brought you here. No matter how small they are — That 3 minute YouTube video, that 400-word article you stubbled together on your note pad in high school, the way you listened to your friend when they needed someone, the way you encouraged that total stranger. If you did them before, you can replicate. One mustard seed giving life to a fruitful tree, but the root must not be those labels.
And if you’re the beginner who’s saying “Ayomide, easy for you to say, you’ve written how many articles now and you have a tiny audience. I have no achievements, I’m just getting started”
Hey, look up. Look at me. When I decided to write every day for two weeks in May, I didn’t make the decision because I felt like the godson of Ernest Hemingway. I did it because I remembered that a year ago, I wrote my 2nd ever article on peer pressure. Not many people read it, but a friend who did, told me that on the days she feels the weight of the world, she goes back to the article and it changes everything for her.
Your work has that effect on someone, somewhere. But you won’t know that if you don’t look past yourself.
Every day I opened my PC, I felt condemned, uncreative, fraudulent. But I remembered, that if I wrote on Monday, then I could write on Tuesday. Each article, the confidence for the next one. So start regardless of how you feel. Each time you start, make it the fuel for the next one.
Small wins, tiny breakthroughs.
Impostor Syndrome is the overwhelming feeling that you don’t deserve your success. It convinces you that you’re not as intelligent, creative or talented as you may seem. It is the suspicion that your achievements are down to luck, good timing or just being in the “right place at the right time.” And it is accompanied by the fear that, one day, you’ll be exposed as a fraud.
A fraud. Of course, you are! You’re claiming something you’re not. But what if you never claimed it? Nobody was born in a field. You claimed that for yourself, so now shake yourself out of that rut and reclaim what you actually are.
First a human and then yourself. You will never be a fraud at being yourself. Nobody is like you. Embrace that. So validate yourself and do the best work you’re capable of. Write to your soul and Create because you can.
You cannot shame the shameless.
When feelings of inadequacy and incompetence keep you from working on your promise; remember these three things –
- You’re not good enough. Agreed. I’ll Do it anyway
- You’re not good enough. Absolutely. So I will Do it consistently to improve.
- You’re not good enough. Affirmative. I have made peace with my mediocrity. So I’ll enjoy doing it again till perfection comes.
And if you’re a Christian — even better. For we do not identify with what we feel or what we do, but in everything, Christ IS for us. Our righteousness, our hope, our Life. We let God define our identities. So rest in that.
Inadequate is a feeling.
Self-Sabotage is a choice.
Choose to Live Free of Labels.
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