Monday, November 9, 2015

The ongoing struggle w Imposter Syndrome

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I originally wrote this in 2010 and came across it today. I really needed to read it. My life has changed a lot in the past five years, but for bette or worse,  I'm still the same. So I updated this post to reflect my current reality in the hopes that someone else might feel better knowing they're not the only one out there pretending at life.
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Ever since I was a kid, I've felt like a faker. A big phony, as Holden Caulfield would put it. And that feeling persists. Throughout my life, on the occasions that I’ve done well or had people praise me for something, one part of me has always sort of felt like: “Well thanks, but if you had any idea of what I was really like…”  Let's be honest - I'm not what I seem.

I've always been awkward like that. I wore the wrong clothes, and I always said something completely random that made people wonder if I'd recently suffered some sort of head trauma.  I tried too hard when that wasn't cool, and I didn't care when I was supposed to.


But every couple of years, something happens that makes me aware that I’m not the only one who feels like this. Fifteen years ago, I cried in a professor’s office that I didn’t belong in grad school because I wasn’t good enough to be there. She told me that everyone - including her - felt that way and that the key was to shut up about it so that other people didn’t start to believe it, too. That was good advice. She’s now the chair of the Department.

But that was a long time ago and in another state.  And lately I’ve been sort of overwhelmed by the degree to which everyone else has confidence in what they’re doing. They all seem so cocksure and certain that they’re right all the time.  That must be exhausting.  Just watching them in a constant state of "often wrong but never in doubt" is getting kind of tedious.  But I shouldn't judge because there are days when I feel so deep in The Blur that I have trouble making a single declarative statement or remembering my own phone number.

Last week an acquaintance of mine, a lady that I respect and admire, said in conversation: “I have Imposter Syndrome.  I look like I’m right here, but in reality – I’m on the fringes looking in.”  I was like “WHUCK. DID. YOU. JUST. SAY?”  This woman (who’s maybe 20 years my senior) is attractive, articulate, reserved and intelligent.  She might as well have had a patrician English accent.  Basically, the opposite of me.  I am guessing she’s never had a boobstain in her entire life.

A normal person would’ve thought: “How unfortunate that this model of grace and composure feels like an imposter”. But I was like: “WOO HOO!” and almost jumped on my chair and started Jersey fist-pumping.  I went from being slightly in awe of her to wanting to jump in her lap and snuggle like a damn Pomeranian.  I tried to pretend I was a normal person for a minute and thanked her for her honesty and told her it was something that I really needed to hear at that moment.

I was reminded that I’m not alone in being a big phony.  I was reminded of my mother’s advice when I worried I would never make it as a grown up in a grown up world: “Just fake it with good manners. That’s all any of us can do.”  But I think I can do more.  I think I can tell the truth about all the ways I am not what I seem.  I can categorize some of the particulars of my I.S. (Imposter Syndrome - not to be confused with IBS, which has to do with Jamie Lee Curtis and yogurt).

I am a good mother.  No, I’m not. It's just I only work part-time instead of going to an office all day, so I volunteer for stuff.  You see me at my children’s school all the time and assume that because the teachers call me by my first name and my kids usually remember to say please, that I am a good mother.  That I’m involved in my kids’ lives. But actually, I still spend a few minutes at the end of each night reliving all the stupid things I said and did that I wish I could take back. Not a single day goes by when I don't screw something up.

I am a nice person.  If you were telepathic like Edward Cullen or Sookie Stackhouse, you would read my thoughts and know that I am actually an evil, horrible person and that the inside of my head is sometimes a bag of cats. Occasionally, I wish that very bad things would happen to others, for example, people who cut me off in traffic or do not obey the rules of the kiss and ride line and make me late. Or set off fireworks across the street from my house at 3am.  Sigh... I can’t help it.  I yelled at my daughter today when she didn’t deserve it. I haven't called my father back in a month. I audibly giggled at a lady in church who sings very loud and sounds like a small farm animal. Nice people don’t do that.

I am a good friend.  Why don't you ask my actual friends that question. I'm an awesome at friendship provided you don't need me to return your phone calls, texts, or emails regularly.  Also if you're fine with me only making plans about 15 minutes in advance and then needing you to drive my kids home from practice. If your definition of friendship is limited to me liking the stuff you post on Facebook, then I'm your girl. This overall tendency is made more pathetic by the fact that when others don't return my texts or calls, I quickly spiral into a vortex of "but why aren't they calling me back/what did I do/why am I such a loser?" because that makes total sense.

I am generous. I am the most selfish person on the face of the earth. I might do things for other people, but it doesn't make generous. My father in law was kindness itself. He would give you the shirt off his back and then feel bad because you wouldn’t take his shoes.  I’ll give you my shirt if you really need it, but I’ll want it back later and I probably won’t be happy about it.  And keep in mind, it’s not like it’s a nice shirt.  I probably bought it at Target and it probably has a boobstain and I’ll still be like: “Are you done with my shirt now?”

I have my shit together. It may appear that as my kids have gotten older that I've become progressively less of a train wreck. I now have a part-time job traditionally held by together people (that job is teaching undergraduates). I shower a lot more and dress like a grown up approximately 3 times per week. I don't have to deal with diapers and I'm getting more sleep. Ok, so maybe things are slightly better. But don't be deceived, I'm dealing with all new challenges and failing to meet them in very exciting and often embarrassing ways, sometimes at the expense of my children.

When I was a child, I felt embarrassed of the fact that I was a fraud.  When I was a teenager, I sneered at those who were inauthentic phonies (while I was watching Beverly Hills 90210 and applying too much make-up).  Now that I’m an adult, I can be honest about who I am.  I have Imposter Syndrome, but I’m trying to get better.  Every day, I’m working at being a good mother and friend, at being generous and kind.

And every day, I fall short and then I fake it with good manners.

(c)MommylandBlogs 2011 - 2015

41 comments:

  1. Love it. Thanks. Your posts always put things in perspective. I read them and think, 'Whats the worst that can happen when they find out I'm flying by the seat of my pants-they throw me out of Random Volunteer Activity?" Whew!

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  2. One time when I was feeling totally overwhelmed by motherhood and all that it entails, I confided to a friend about how much of a failure I thought I was and that since I was doing such a crappy job maybe I should just give up. My friend, who was a single dad at the time, was totally stoked to hear that. He practically jumped for joy. Before I had the chance to cause him bodily harm, however, he told me that he had always thought that I was super mom and had never heard me complain about parenthood. It made him feel like he had a chance at being a good dad since someone who was a "super parent" (I wish I could make those quotes bigger and in bold) actually didn't feel so super. The moral of my comment is, yep. We're all fakers, and I think that's okay. Also, sometimes your best friends don't know you at all.

    You go, Lydia. Keep on faking. Your mom was right. Besides, we all think we're way worse than we really are.

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  3. Thank you for posting this! I needed this one today. Mondays for me are always Incompetent Mother Day. I am starting my day knowing I don't have any milk in the fridge, out of the Cheerios and am considering putting half and half in a sippy cup until I can get to the store.

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  4. my entire life is built around "faking it". oh, and that whole "just smile and nod" thing, I do that A LOT. people seem to think I'm awesome as a result. I think people are crazy.

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  5. Many (many) years ago, a boss at my first important job told me, "Act as if." I tell myself that all the time.

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  6. You know what? I seriously think we all feel that way at times. A PTA mom said to me recently very snidely "must be nice to have it soooo together." WHUCK?! Really? I am the definition of absent minded professor (and really am a professor - making ti worse.) It's a miracle my kids are clean and dressed most days - and my 6 year old is completely self sufficient because he seriously has to be.

    So - can I also just tell you I am COMPLETELY OVER this "super mom" image we all try to live up to on some level. All of us are doing fine - nobody's kids are dead or totally damaged yet, and seriously who cares about the laundry? It gets done eventually. I seriously was just blogging about this last week because we all hit there "crisis of confidence" at times, and need to let the super mom image DIE. You need to read this: http://katesspaceblog.blogspot.com/

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  7. Dina Lohan was just on the Today show. Because apparently she is the rock in her family. By comparison, we are all looking pretty good this morning, honey.
    I think we are looking pretty good this morning, anyway. We're up. Our kids are in one piece. There is a path through the house. And this is the week we will all lose some weight:)
    Happy Monday!

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  8. My motto is to talk as if you know what you are talking about and people will believe you.....
    I regularly look at my kids and wonder what sort of damage I am doing to them...yes, they watch too much TV, and play too many video games...I yell and I don't make them eat their vegetables...oh and add to the mix the fact that my youngest has autism and there are all sorts of things I could be doing to scar him for life...but I love them to death and I think they are just about the only two people in my life that I would happily give the shirt off my back. ;O)

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  9. Lydia, I think you have a following because you're awesome. When I want to read phoo-phoo "everything is wonderful and beautiful in happykittyflowerland" I read Kelle Hampton's blog. When I want a good dose of funny and gritty and *real* I come here. Actually, I think I come here every day. So see? You're awesome. :)

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  10. Aunt Mary is sitting here trying to decide if you need a big hug, or a slap up the side of your head. Probably both. You do articulate well about the hardships of parenting, but YOU and EVERYONE else who reads RANTS are NOT BAD PARENTS!!! Even your cousins are turning out pretty good, and Aunt Mary had you beat on several fronts in the bad parenting score sheets. When I see you and the Cap'n with your three it is obvious you are getting the parenting thing right.
    By the way, your cousin observed yesterday that she knew a non-judgemental bib maker (me) and hinted I needed one too. (out in public with wine sauce on my sweater!)

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  11. The only "normal" people in the world are the people you don't know very well. The rest of us are imposters.
    I loved this post! thanks for the laugh & helping me feel just a little less hopeless.

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  12. See, that's the reason I love this blog so much...it's not all happy, preachy, we-are-perfect moms...I read it and know I am not the only one who is being driven bonkers by my kids on an hourly basis...and not the only one who feels like a faker, cuz I sure do! Every day!

    It's ok to admit no, I"m not even close to being a perfect mom, I am just a woman who loves the offspring I have somehow managed to produce and every day I wake up determined to be a better mom, which usually I have failed at by 10am...

    Love it. Yep, I definitely have Imposter Syndrome too ;)

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  13. My husband and I were just discussing how the babysitter we had interviewed seemed so nervous and must think we're actually adults *snicker*. If she only knew...

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  14. Hello, my name is Kim, and I am an Imposter. "Hello, Kim"

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  15. If no one will else will cop to being selfish, I will! I hate being that way, but my thought process goes exactly like you said! And you are definitely brave, because I've never told anyone but my husband (but I bet people can tell anyway!) I once heard a sermon about a child in Africa who never got fresh food. An aid worker gave him an orange, and the first thing he did was to offer half of the orange to the aid worker. I am in awe of that kind of automatic generosity. I try to keep that story in mind to try to inspire me to be a better person.
    My Imposter Syndrome has been haunting my work life more than my parenting life lately. I know my boss thinks, somehow, that I do a good job, but I'm like, "If anyone ever *watched* me work, they'd know that I'm making it all up and am no good". You are not alone! Thank you, today and everyday, for coming clean and letting us know we are not the only ones!

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  16. Lydia, I think you and I might actually be the exact. same. person. Or separated at birth perhaps?

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  17. You know what? I love you, Lydia. Also? I think we've discovered that, in all probability, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD has Imposter Syndrome. So forget working harder toward an unreachable goal (NOT being an "Imposter"), let's just raise awareness. Maybe we should have Awareness Drives. Like, at Starbucks. People who donate to the cause will be performing the very worthy feat of paying for your latte habit. And maybe, just maybe, Gwyneth will hear about it, and come sidle up to you with a big Selfy Steam, and maybe mutter a little under her breath, "So...I've got Imposter Syndrome too."

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  18. One time I wrote a post named, "I only paint the toes that show" ... because I too have the imposter syndrome... I think we all do... and I think it's going to be pretty hard to kick until we all admit that we have it and stop pretending that we are super mom and have it all together... until we stop judging each other and just accept the fact that there is a little messy bitchness in all of us... Amen:)

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  19. "Just fake it with good manners." Lydia, please consider this a virtual hug from me, to you and your mom. I love you both even more than I already did (you, too Kate!)

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  20. i feel exactly the same. i am not always nice...i scream first, apologize later. i think my kids don't even notice the yelling anymore...they know i erupt and then it blows over. i have a friend who has to have every bit of her life perfect...and just thinking about being her is exhausting! i can't even keep my house clean for more than 2 hours. but i can even fake that! hide some clutter and spray some air freshener. imposter syndrome...i like that! i have always felt like i have been waiting for my real life to happen...that i am just in this til i have the right house, car, bank account....but sadly-this is it!

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  21. I made it through nursing school with (IS) the State of Washington even gave me a license to practice nursing....yep, typical (IS). I learned years ago that I could do anything that anyone thought I could ;) even if I didn't believe it!! Now, years later, I continue to be an impostor as my staff looks to me for advice...what in the world are they thinking? Don't they know who I really am? ;) You're not alone, there are lots of us out here. We should start a secret society of impostors, then we could pretend to rule the world.

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  22. I am not a perfect mom. Every morning I stumble to the coffee pot...then my 4 year old wanders in looking for Mommy and a cup of chocolate milk (how can I argue? I prefer it, too). If I have to work I toss on my uniform (that needs ironing), dress the kiddo in what he chooses (matching clothing are highly over-rated), we brush our hair and teeth (no makeup for mommy), then off to drop him at daycare, and then me to the job (just barely on time). Evenings and days off are semi-controlled chaos with meals, playtime, showers, and bedtime.
    Our home is lived in. If you can't stand some clutter and dust clean it yourself or just don't stop in. There is always noise of some kind, my son is not a quiet child, and I've learned to accept it (for the most part). We (yes, we) are happy, clean, and reasonably well-behaved (we all melt down here and there). Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean the dinosaur my son was feeding breakfast leftovers to...

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  23. Wow, you've managed to put a name on the way I've felt for most of my life too! I tell you what, you chickies ROCK. Good to know we are not alone out here :)
    I'm going to take your mother's advice to heart, and may even tell my daughter the same.
    Thanks for the daily dose of laughter from one jackhole to another.

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  24. heh. You said "cocksure." heh

    Just kidding. My co-worker and I have been discussing something similar lately. That we feel like we want to be better people than we are and just keep falling short. Hmmm....

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  25. Great post! I am so much like you that it's scary, boobstains and all. Hey, I have a carseat houdini also -- any chance you'd post photos of (or some instructions for) the duct tape solution so I can be all MacGyvery too? I've just been pretending not to notice when the monkey boy escapes (AGAIN!), often before I've even started the car.

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  26. LOL! Dude, my motto is: "If you can fake it, you can make it!" If I didn't have that, I'd be balled up in the corner of my closet somewhere...

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  27. This is what I love the most about you guys- it's SO comforting to realize that I'm not the only imperfect mommy and that it's ok to admit it. Before I found Rants, I thought I was living in a world of Perfect Mommies and I was the only one who occasionally lost my schmidt or did anything less than perfect (which I do all day). Thanks for the much needed dose of reality and for helping me realize I'm not alone and that just because I'm not perfect doesn't mean I'm a horrible mom. I agree that we're all imposters...there is no such thing as the Perfect Mommy! We should all stop pretending that we are perfect and I think even stop striving to be the perfect mommy- it's an impossible goal!

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  28. Perfect post, for all of us perfectly imperfect impostors out there! You know, we just do the best we can, and at the end of the day, if our kids are sleeping soundly and contentedly, with hearts full of love and bellies full of food (even if some of it is unhealthy, whatever) and know that tomorrow they will have the same, then I think we're doing more than okay. Life is about love, family, and comfort, not about perfection and always having the right answers. Enjoy these imperfect years, ladies...we all know they'll go way too fast. T-box wine cheers all around! :-)

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  29. love love love it! I really needed to hear this today. May even post my own version of Imposterism on my blog. Thanks...really...THANKS! :)

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  30. Ugh, welcome to my world. I constantly say stupid things out loud and then spend days wondering what the people who heard me say it think and if they will ever talk to me again. I feel your pain, totally.

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  31. Are we really selfish, or is it that we rarely get a blessed moment to NOT be self-less?? I know I should be all silly smack happy and proud that my kids are happy, fed, loved, etc. But what I really would like is to crawl into a quantum time leap/black hole/whatever and find out what it is like on the other side. I have recently found myself envious of people without kids or with grown up kids. If I hear one more person tell me "they grow up so fast - enjoy it" I will have to start packing extra sandwiches and be considered "hammed and dangerous". grrrr! Love it Lydia and (im)posters! Thanks for the comraderie!!

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  32. You are too hilarious. I crack up in hysterical hyena-like laughter when I read your posts and then think "Good thing I am not at a bookstore laughing like this or people would think I was weird." Wait....I actually do laugh hysterically in bookstores while reading potential book purchases......

    Anyhow, I totally have I.S. as well. It makes me laugh inside when people tell me I am super mom because I am thinking..."seriously??? I am just glad my kids are dressed and fed today!!!!"

    Thanks for the great post!

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  33. Love this!! This is how I feel every.single.day.of.my.life. From being a mother to my chosen profession. I am within months of becoming a professional that is supposed to know WTH they are doing and actually help people and I feel like a total impostor.

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  34. I hate dropping my kids off at preschool because all the other moms look so perfect, and in control. We recently went to an event at the school with my husband, and I noticed my husband looking at the other moms, and I imagined how I probably didn't measure up to them. I didn't say anything, but he started to laugh suddenly and said he was so glad I wasn't like them because they all seemed a little high maintenance. I fell in love with him all over again and realized it only matters if I'm doing the best I can...and that I need to stop trying to read minds because I'm bad at it.

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  35. Oh. My. God. Can I join this club? I need to be in this club. I know that no other club would have me but this one.

    Compared to me, you are so advanced. I haven't volunteered to do anything at my child's school this year. I'm scared of being upstaged by 3rd graders. Pathetic.

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  36. Wow.......simply: THANK YOU

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  37. Lydia, anyone who actually worries that they might not be a good parent IS a good parent...you care enough to be concerned about what you do or say and you love your family.

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  38. We're all imposters in one way or another. But now we're imposters TOGETHER! And that empowers us, or at least allow us to discuss it over cocktails.

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  39. Mom my used to say - fake it 'til it's real

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  40. I totally needed to hear that too! Thanks.

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  41. I'm so glad you recognize that you're NOT an imposter, even if you feel like it sometimes! You are so many good things, and sometimes we just have to put them down on paper to know it.

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