The Eternal Impostor

The Eternal Impostor

Last night’s options were either to drink a bottle of wine, or write. There was no wine in the house. I decided to go for the latter.

This is a post dedicated to everyone out there like me who is passionately building something new and sometimes pushing yourself past the point you can handle as an abusive act of self-challenge. This is also known as running before you walk, and it may have a root in our dear friend, the impostor syndrome.

If you’re anything like me, you care deeply about what you are building and it’s already a job in itself to keep your inner impostor under control. I’m very much still a victim to this thinking, even though the Shamanic path has led me to believe deeply in duality and the inevitability that support and challenge will always come in equal measure. Plainly speaking, this means irregardless of what you do or do not do, 50% of people will like you/what you do/how you do it; the other 50% will not. Connecting to this and reminding myself of the existence of duality usually frees me from the need to people-please, pander or doubt myself.

And yet.

I still hesitate a little whenever I publish a new post or share it online. Sometimes when I later catch a glimpse of someone long forgotten in my Facebook news feed, I momentarily wince at the thought of them reading a post about how I’m now a Shamanic Practitioner, deep down the path of Woo-Woo. I strain my brain trying to access the last working memory I have of how they may perceive me. Who was I when I last saw them? Is it at all believable to them that I am now a Shamanic Practitioner??

In the words of Joan Didion: I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be. If at all possible I’d like to get rid of a few of the current versions too. #Goals

joan-didion-quotes-lost-touch-couple-peopleWhen I was the worst version myself, I would have looked something like this: a gossiping, self-inflated, arrogant, opinionated, superior jerk.

In London I had a big ‘serious’ job, with a title and salary to match. I certainly wasn’t a perfect manager, but my tyrannical streaks were completely acceptable in corporate culture: I talked big, bossed people around, delivered great results and never asked for my fair share. My reputation was solid because I was the ideal corporate pawn with a glossy image. I played the game.

In Dubai, the careful construct I had crafted about my professional self fell to shambles. I landed in a new city completely naive about the job market and unwilling to play the game because I simply believed myself to be above it. I went from job to job, never able to settle in anywhere, always unhappy with my place.

Simply put, it was one of the most destabilising periods of my life. My self-esteem and identity took a serious hit. Without my career to validate my worth I didn’t know who I was. Even when I had a decent job I felt the need to continually tell everyone about my past successes, to remind them that I was better than my current situation. Maybe they belonged there (poor them!), but I certainly didn’t. I was like an old jailbird on death row, talking a big game about past heists and convinced it was just a matter of time until I broke out of prison.

I couldn’t let go of the old idea of who I used to be, because if the old me was just a windfall of fortune that couldn’t be replicated it meant my inner impostor was correct. 

I wasn’t talented, I had just been lucky.

Just writing that out gives me chills. The fear is still there.

There is an added pressure I feel with being seen as a healer of sorts (a term I loathe), after a protracted period as a self-involved luxury personal shopper. These two vastly different identities make for odd bedfellows. Most of us imagine healers to be superhuman beings, touched at birth by a special cosmic connection that automatically unravels itself in its entirety when the call to service is heard. Healers are seen as the ‘chosen ones’ instead of people who have dedicated time and effort to cultivating a skill. This imbalanced perception leaves very little room for screw-ups. The truth is that true spiritual development, the kind that lasts, looks nothing like an escalator with a smooth climbing trajectory.

For all these reasons and more, claiming my new identity as a Shamanic Practitioner has been a difficult process and it is still underway. I’m not perfect. I’m just starting out and my practice is new. I’m a fledgling baby wannabe-Shaman, just starting to crawl around under the watchful protection of my Shamanic teacher. And I need that protection – the health of my mind and body rely on it.

It’s hard to negotiate the triangulated and unwieldy space that exists between being confident in your abilities, acknowledging that you still have much to learn and simply feeling like a fraud. Paralysed with fear, we can easily surrender to the fear-driven demands of our inner impostor.

That insidious machine started inside of me recently. My innumerable corporate past-lives have given me an encyclopaedic knowledge on how to handle the launch of a business: create the brand, define your target market, build your audience, start the blog, manage your social media, promote yourself.

Structure, structure, structure. Build, build, build. Don’t just stand there, do something.

This is the crux of fear-based impostor thoughts: you aren’t enough as you are, and to make up for this lack you need to build something as your cover. The impostor tells you to be ashamed that you are not perfect and to live in perpetual fear of anyone discovering the real, imperfect you.

I bought into the fear and it was a mistake. Faced with an emerging impostor situation, I jumped into overdrive, obsessed with building my image and expanding my reach. It’s easy to use the portrayal of success like an adept magician uses smoke and mirrors to direct attention elsewhere. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, kind of thing. So, in the last 48 hours I’ve changed a few things here on the site and elsewhere. I’m no longer advertising my ‘services’ and my bio is now an accurate depiction of me as I currently am, not who I’d like other people to think I am. I’ve claimed my space.

To build something authentic and solid requires you to walk before you run, so you can make sure it’s rooted deeply in you from a place that is clean and full of heart. It won’t be fast or easy, and it will leave no room for your inner impostor to hide.

It’s a lesson I learn and re-learn, again and again.

Whatever you’re in the process of bringing to life, there’s absolutely no shame in being new, starting small, screwing up or not knowing the next step. Don’t listen to the voice that tells you have to be perfect before you can claim your space.

May you give yourself the gift of time to lovingly build your dreams, and the forgiveness to make all the mistakes required on the way.

With Love,

The Eternal Impostor


Feature image from here; other image from The Awkward Yeti.

How about you – any impostor feelings lately? I feel you. Tell me more about it below in the comments. ♥