Living As An Imposter

Beyond the fact that I am utterly fascinated by human behavior, this particular “syndrome” is one I am especially interested in. Why? I have it!

What is Imposter Syndrome? It’s what is often described as a “phenomenon” (versus a mental disorder) whereby an individual feels he (or she) is not as accomplished as he is in reality. As such, there is an overwhelming feeling that he presents as something he is not. Or, in other words, those suffering from this syndrome feel like a full-on fraud, a sheep in lion’s clothing, and completely unworthy of their accolades. 

This article on Inc.com actually made me laugh – I wasn’t laughing at myself (nor anyone else who’s experienced this phenomenon), but rather because it’s so on point. The article, along with a few others out in the ether, suggest that this occurs for about 70% of the population – that, my friends, is no small sum! 

What got me onto the tangent? I was listening to a discussion the other day on the radio with Grace Killelea, founder of Half The Sky. And… I LOVED what she had to say. I’ve recently been mulling (rather feverishly, I confess) about my direction in life. I’ve found my fit and purpose but how to hone in and progress in a totally new field? How to do it at 40 years-old? How to feel successful without the external hoopla to validate my existence? What about all the accomplishments I’ve fought for along the way that I’m neglecting to acknowledge? 

The conversation, needless to say, was one I related to. At one point Grace was sharing her own journey – she talked about having to step back and reevaluate her own needs, attitudes, and approach to her career and life in general. She learned through some introspection that her intense need for approval and respect was disproportionate to what reality allows (the kind of realization that may be a tough pill to swallow at first!) She began to recognize that she personalized others’ responses, reactions and attitudes, and that she needed to let go – not so much of an internal standard, but of the expectation that others would meet her where SHE wanted…or that they really had any clue at all. Other people’s “stuff” often has zero to do with us – it would serve us well to remember that point across the board! She came out and said she had to let go of what “no longer served” her, and that is a phrase I use ALL the time.

Humans have a way of getting stuck in patterns – psychological, physical routines, stale attitudes, outdated opinions…whatever. They may have been what we needed once upon a time, but in some cases our older M.O.s serve only to hinder our current progress, or make a mess of present circumstances in a way we simply don’t need (who, really, needs any extra stress? If a negative outcome is at the hands of a habit we can change, might it not be worth tackling?)

Interestingly, it turns out that Impostor Syndrome isn’t a one-size-fits-all “psychological pattern” (phrase per Wikipedia’s link above) – no, there are in fact several profiles under the Imposter umbrella… This article from fastcompany.com shares five such categories, per author Valerie Young (The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It):

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Superwoman / man
  3. The Natural Genius
  4. The Rugged Individualist
  5. The Expert

If you aren’t sure which type you fall into, there are (perhaps not surprisingly) a plethora of quizzes online. I couldn’t say which one is the best, but if you pop it into google, you’re sure to find a few. I took this one just for giggles…though admittedly, I could have answered a few questions in a few different ways. Whether or not you partake in the game-like fun of online quiz taking, you probably know whether you suffer from this already…

But…

Is it something you are willing to admit to yourself or others? I actually feel a kind of freedom in sharing my less-than-desireable traits and struggles – it allows me to show that I am as human and flawed as the next person. Why is that a good thing?

  • It provides me the opportunity to connect more deeply with others (we are never really alone – SOMEone out there gets it)
  • It allows me to more fully embrace that I have areas in which I could use some work
  • It allows those who matter in my life to recognize that I am aware, willing, and able to address it
  • And it reduces the stigma I might feel internally about it (in fact, it may reduce the stigma others perceive as well)

I’m definitely not ashamed of this at all – in fact, I feel like many who know me well would say, “Oh, hell yes, she has that!” with a laugh. Those who know me strictly on the surface would doubt me to the moon, however… We impostors are really good at ACTING the part we *think* we aren’t really cut out for! 😉 What a conundrum!

If you also find yourself in this boat (no doubt a rowboat with a fancy ship facade? 😉 ) fear not… There are plenty of ways to mitigate the falsities your mind is surreptitiously suggesting. This article shares 21 tactics to try, Forbes gives a few tips as well, and this site touts 12 tricks of its own. Keep in mind, you can always google more. ALSO keep in mind that you ought to take EVERYTHING you read on the Internet (including my own diatribes!) with a grain of salt. Take what works, ditch what doesn’t – it is always up to you what you wish to absorb. 

I’m so excited that Grace Killelea’s segment coincided with my being in the car – it was one of those moments where I did receive some indirect external validation. While of course the idea is that we create our OWN (I’m working on this continually!) it did offer me a moment of I’m-not-alone-ness right when I needed it most. I suppose that’s why I feel so inclined to share…

So many of us go to work each day under what we *feel* is a guise. But lo and behold, if we really reel out the list of things we have accomplished in our lives, the progress we have made as individuals, and the positive impact(s) we have had on those around us…we would be bowled over with a well-deserved “WOW!”

Hold your chin up when you look in the mirror – remind yourself of your multitude of talents, abilities, and achievements. It takes work to bathe ourselves in affirmations, and it may feel a little silly, but do the work – you deserve to feel proud in your own skin because you’ve worked hard to get where you are. So, dangnabit, have I! I’ll be working at it with you. 

Xo

Writing With Movement

I’ve  not heard of this gentleman, Christopher Poindexter, but his words remind me so much of being on the ice, or in a ballroom.

To dance or figure skate is – to me – like transcending spoken language, and speaking with the fluency (and vocabulary) of all the ages. It is as though I have the freedom to fly, though I haven’t (visible) wings with which to do so. And yet…it feels nigh impossible to share that “feeling” with those who haven’t felt it too.

As an Empath, I often question whether verbal language contains enough “words’ to capture emotion – for me, it falls short at times. Frequently, even…

One cannot capture the true and undiluted essence of flying with a pen (though if anyone would desire the ability to articulate such feelings accurately, I. . .and possibly Mr. Poindexter. . .would.)

I suppose that means we just have to be willing to fly, lest we not know the feeling of a movement that can – truly – set us free.

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The Life Lessons Of Competitive (Performing) Sports – OWN It

There are countless benefits to participating in competitive and / or performing sports, but one of the best lessons therein embedded is the idea of “owning it.” 

What does it mean to “own it”? Fear, anxiety, self-doubts be dammed, you walk on the floor or take the ice like a champion, PERIOD, as if you know you’ve already taken first place.

At first blush I thought that concept was not only egotistical, but also downright rude – I (I know – GASP!) actually cared about my competitors, and felt it was important never to seem cocky or rude, or even a hair too self-confident. It felt wrong to me, as if I might offend someone or be misconstrued as an insensitive person.

Really!?

Competitive sports are just that, and I’ve witnessed such an array of absurd / inappropriate / infantile behaviors over the years you wouldn’t even believe them…not only on the part of my fellow competitors, but their parents / significant personages in their lives. There’s plenty of “ugly” going on behind the scenes and perhaps for that reason I felt particularly compelled to rise above it and ensure that people knew I was a good person who sincerely wanted us all to succeed. 

 

 

Well…no one really cared WHAT I was thinking or how I came across! I wasn’t that important in the scheme of things (as it is said, no one is paying attention to you because they’re too busy with / worried about / preoccupied with themselves!) Yes, I’m the INFJ queen of reading into things and I was certain that I might offend someone if I acted a little too sure of myself…

But, as the Grinch once said, “W R O N G O!”

I learned very quickly in my competitive and performing career that my attitude was always VERY apparent – not only to my partner (in the case of dancing), or to my coaches and family, but to every person in the audience…and the judges. If I wasn’t 1,000% confident, it was visible – it is no matter who you are. How, you ask…?

When our self-confidence falters, we don’t carry ourselves the same way – our self-doubt often manifests as over thinking. And OVER thinking causes a host of physiologic changes in our body, posture and movement:

  1. We become more rigid, less fluid and flexible in our movements, as if they are contrived and strained
  2. Our breathing becomes shallow and we are aware that we might be sweating…
  3. Not to mention the torrent of butterflies that decided to stampede the “calm” within us right at that moment. Sigh. Nice timing!
  4. We also show it in our face…we lose the smile or seem overly concerned, so much so that our expression can be easily misconstrued as something negative by anyone observing us. Never a good thing when performing, in an interview or presentation, meeting someone for the first time etc….

It is therefore CRUCIAL that we pull it together and act AS IF (article here). As if what? As if we know damn well we are going to win, wow the crowd, have the desired result we want etc…

That doesn’t mean it’s easy because some of us may not totally have that self-confidence. YET. Owning it is very much a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” thing…and that’s okay. You have to PRACTICE.

You have to push the discomfort to the side and recognize that your internal “stuff” is going to show externally. People will also FEEL it, so if you want to come off as a shining star, you need to be sure your energy is aligning with that vibe. When you “own it,” you help to get the brain on the same wavelength as what you are aiming for, and that will make a world of difference in how you are perceived.

Remember, owning it doesn’t mean you are cocky or rude or anything else that may feel “negative” to you. It’s about acknowledging all the asweomeness you have to offer, and ensuring that others catch a positive vibe from you. If they are wondering what your problem is, think you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously, or that you don’t’ believe in yourself, they are going to reflect that in the scores / in their response to you (or your performance.) If you want to bait them hook-line-and-sinker, you want to be absolutely certain that they know you feel confident in your abilities, and that you KNOW you have value. It will be clear in every aspect of your behavior and physicality. 

So next time you have to get out there…shake your tail feathers, smile a huge smile, and say to yourself, “I OWN this. I already know I have the result I want because I have all the tools I need to achieve that, and the hard work and talent to back it up.”

Go GET IT!

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Heavy Metal Humor

A woman at the skating rink recently said, “Oh, you don’t have to wear your iPod! You’re welcome to put some of your music on – we alternate!” She was utterly joyful and eager to share the sound system…until I said, “oh no, that’s okay. I like heavy metal.”

With a “just kidding” kind of laugh she replied, “you can keep your iPod!”

🙂

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On Eating Disorders And Being An Athlete In The Midst…

I appreciated receiving this article, written by Karen Crouse, which speaks to a very real problem in sports. It is also – I should point out – scarcely relegated to figure skating (the topic of the article) and related performing or aesthetic sports such as dancing, bodybuilding, and the like.  Rather, it has a much broader (and frankly insidious) grip on athletes around the globe. 

Eating disorders were something I grew up knowing plenty about – I was classically trained in ballet for over ten years, competitively figure skated for about sixteen years, and danced competitively in International Latin and American Smooth ballroom for seven years. In those arenas, thin is ALWAYS in.

Yikes.

Can weight make a difference in performance? Yes, absolutely. When it comes to one’s joints, or one’s ability to do the particularly acrobatic and athletic jumps and spins, it’s important we are at a weight healthy for our frame. Figure skating, for one, is a high impact sport and that takes a toll even on a healthy body. When we are unhealthy, those negative side effects can be multiplied many fold. However, a lot of it – a sometimes far heftier percentage – is about the “look.” And, when it becomes about our appearance, things can go downhill very quickly…

It isn’t only that I, like many athletes, was “young and impressionable” at the time – top athletes generally ARE on the younger side (remember that part about impact on the body?) Athletes begin training early, so there is certainly danger in implanting these injurious notions early on.

What is also a real issue, however, is that a focus on a person’s “weight” can suddenly have bearing on whether or not you are even “considered” for a winning position – that will change your tune pretty quick if you have goals of any kind. (Deny politics play a role in results? You’re kidding yourself!)

In ballroom, for example, if you aren’t groomed properly, you simply aren’t taken seriously. Period. It’s as easy as that. I’m not putting it down, I was in it…and LOVED it. But it was a horrible hassle, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice. Before a competition I needed to be:

  • Spray tanned…TWICE (because my pale skin wasn’t in)
  • Have my nails done (as in, they needed to be long and noticeable)
  • Have my hair professionally done every time I competed (multiple days, means days of hair-doing)
  • Professional makeup (fortunately I did this myself, but then half my suitcase was makeup I had to lug)
  • Make sure I was as fit as could be (wearing next to nothing / very revealing costumes…yes, people would notice if you gained a little extra. And they wouldn’t be shy about mentioning it)

Those things were prerequisites.  Then you added to that judge preferences like wearing tan fishnets or stockings (okay, no big deal, that helped “pull me in” a little so I stayed slim in that tiny costume…) But it was rough because if you didn’t take those “suggestions” you often were out of the running…before you even took the floor. No, I’m not kidding. Figure skating was a little less harsh on that front, but the pressure to “lose a little” was definitely an undercurrent.

I remember going to skating camp at Simsbury’s International Skating Center of Connecticut. I was in my mid to later teens (definitely the mesomorph of the group!) and I recall – very clearly – the younger skaters being worried about gaining weight. They wouldn’t eat ice cream, they would ask for coffee (at that age?!) with skim milk… They wouldn’t have chips…. Even back at our dorms, some would skip breakfast because they didn’t want to have too much (more Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams for me?)

Let me be clear, I am ALL about healthy, clean eating – it’s not about how I look so much as how it makes my body feel. My body is a “finely-tuned machine,” according to my doc, and it tells me what it needs. But when you are FIGURE SKATING…for HOURS A DAY…you burn more than a Clydesdale! I mean, it was craziness!!! These kids were WAY too young to worry about weight, not a single one had any inkling of a problem (which could impact joints, as athletic as skating can be), and they couldn’t enjoy themselves as a result – it was heartbreaking!

Now a days, the pressures are – apparently – still there. It was eye-opening to read that Brian Boitano (an idol I watched win his gold when I was ten years-old) was very much subjected to this, and wasn’t actually at peak performance (very likely) at that time. Hard to believe if you saw those jumps! It’s also saddening to hear that Adam Rippon has struggled with this as well. I love that they are open about it because eating disorders carry a lot of shame with them – speaking up and making it known that we are not alone can be enough to save someone afflicted from a life of suffering.

My disorders – Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia / Anorexia Athetica – were a result of something very different, but they nearly devoured me whole too. I thankfully managed to cruise through my sports both unscathed and unapologetically…but I was acutely aware of the oft-unspoken-about illnesses in the background. Having suffered through it later, knowing full well how damaging and dangerous such sickness can be, was testament to how powerful these diseases are… 

For many of athletes, body image is tightly wound around performance. . .which is tightly bound to our identities. Sometimes – to add fuel to the fire – that can be perpetuated by the people we look up to or rely on in the sport, as well as tied to our future success.

It’s a struggle to see the “good” sometimes – to see how strong we are, how well we are doing… It’s even harder to recognize…and then ADMIT…when we aren’t fueling ourselves the way we need to. I recently took back to the ice (on a VERY minor scale) but I’ll tell you…my legs are different. I can see it, I can feel it, and my body is asking for more carbohydrates and food. And…that’s what I give it if I need to. But like Adam Rippon, the mind will make a point to call out that we are doing something different – It’s like an internal guilt trip from the Ghost of Athletics Past!

Eating disorders are terrifying – like other addictive illnesses, they have the power to completely derail us, if not end our lives completely. While I refrain from “talking politics,” and don’t much care for celebrities shouting out their messages at the top of their lungs…there is some benefit in this particular arena. It is important to be honest and open because eating disorders are often highly isolating – we begin to decay on our own, and keep everyone at a distance while we whither away. The knowledge that we aren’t alone in our struggles it might help others find the strength and courage to seek treatment – one life saved is one life saved!

Truth be told, having had no one to look to during my own…? I would have LOVED to have this kind of hope to grab onto… 

 

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A Happy New Year Free Of Fear

I’ve largely lived my life by these words, in spite of sometimes vacillating when I’m on the precipice of going through with whatever it is that’s frightening me…

Generally – after tears have dried, and doubts have reached their peak – I dive in. Why? Because ANY day could be my last. Not going through with something is a disservice to every part of me – heart, soul, mind, body, spirit.

For years, though, I shied away from figure skating, a sport I grew up doing. I learned at so young an age that the slick, icy surface of the rink was like walking on solid ground is to a toddler… The rink was my second home. But after a massive setback in 2012 with a leg torn in three places, severe contusions, a 2-in-1 reconstruction surgery, and a complicated…very long-winded…recovery, I always seemed to find a reason not to lace up again.

With the goal to become a Black Belt (and getting sidelined while at Brown) I went back to the Martial Arts that claimed my left knee. A year and a half later another round of ballistic kicks tore the right ACL and meniscus, though this time I flat-out refused to fix it. As my right leg is my “landing leg” in skating, the fact that I’m missing the tendon responsible for holding the patella in place (in the forward direction) has been the key driver of my anxiety.

Enter needing to move my belongings from my home of 33 years, five years after the first knee injury… There I find my beautiful custom ice skates, hand-crafted by a legend, in desperate need of TLC – I actually shook my head in disgust that I’d have let them sit there so long unloved. After brining them back home and finding a pro sharpener, my husband hopped in the car and drove me a distance to get them tended to.

Once at the rink I began to share my experiences with the sharpener and his wife, both of whom remember what figure skating was in its heyday (honestly, a lot different from what it is now.) We gushed about compulsory figures and the impeccable edge manipulation of the pros back when…and of the strength, power, and infinite grace of the skaters who were on the world stage at the time I was training. I mentioned some of the places I trained, and the coaches I worked with – to my joy, they knew exactly who I was talking about – it felt like I was chatting with old friends. ❤

I’m certain I was brimming over with happiness – feeling as though I was back in my world – and as such, my husband decided to give me a nudge. And then a few more… He could tell I needed (and deeply wanted) to be encouraged…but that anxiety was doing it’s best to keep me derailed.

No such luck!

I remembered the phrase above (uttered brilliantly in a favorite Bar Luhrman film, Strictly Ballroom) and I thought…“damnit, I’m here. I am putting these on and I’m just going to try…” I was sure I’d face plant but the encouragement of my husband (and knowing my parents would have been at my side too) helped me brave the moment.

I went around two times, came off…and burst into tears. I feel the tears overtaking me even now, and can’t begin to enumerate the breadth of feeling within me. I posted a photo on social media as some of my friends (who endured the brutal winter winds at 5:30am alongside me!) would understand the accomplishment. The comments – wholly unexpected – not only warmed my heart, but brought (thankful) tears to my eyes. To know that I was remembered is like receiving a gift I never dreamed of receiving… The joy of my parents and in-laws too…it’s overwhelming and incredible. Figure skating was my “language” – it gave me words when I could not speak, and courage when I was in the throes of fear. I felt as if I was the wind itself…  

Feeling “home.” And…once a performer, always one! 😉

I have struggled over the last two decades feeling that I shouldn’t have given up the potential, the dreams, and the hopes… I remind myself that going to college was the “right” decision, and an important one. . .but I would be lying if the “what-if”s don’t’ plague me at times (never a good thing – to read my post on “Letting Go Of SHOULD”…click here.)

Part of my emotion is sadness – I know I can never go back, and that my landing leg isn’t stable enough to sustain the jumps I so loved doing…

That hurts

But I also know that no other sport has been as “right” for me as figure skating. I was meant to be on the ice and if getting my sea legs back means I can at least help others (Special Olympics and adapted sports are on my mind!) in future, then I know it was worth doing.  

2018 arrived in the same silent fashion as the sun each day – there were no fireworks beyond what we (as human beings) artificially set off. It is, therefore, up to US to “just do it”  – carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe VITAM. We can easily sit on the sidelines and watch life go by, but we deserve so much more than that. . .

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to need an extra nudge or two…

It’s even okay to say “I don’t know if I can do this. . .”

But once that’s out of your system (and I’ve been there too), dust yourself off and take the plunge.

You deserve the richest and most wonderfully happy experiences in life – without trying, you’ll never know what you are missing. . .or. . .what you HAVE missed all along.

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Clearly Bronzed

Where was this when I was ballroom dancing! In ballroom, bronze is not only “beautiful” but begrudgingly a “must-do.”  If you want to be taken seriously – and I’m not exaggerating – you better believe you need to grace that floor looking like a golden goddess.  Pale skin is NOT in, much to my own dismay.  Protesting the fact won’t get you anywhere. . . 

Trust me on that.

allure.com

Enter – years too late (*insert expletive here*) – this phenomenally, brilliantly clear Hydra-Mousse from Tan-Luxe. It apparently delivers exactly what it claims to, minus all the horrendous “side effects” of a traditionally brown-dyed solution.  

Now I can’t be too hard on the brown-tinted selections out there – they DO make it easier to see and smooth out mistakes.  BUT…the prospect of using a self-tanner and NOT having overly-orange skin where you’re drier, OR clothing, sheets, and expensive costumes that have decided to tan along with you. . .well, that’s pretty damn fabulous.

I mean, dancers everywhere can rejoice finally.  No more brown streaks, overly glowing elbow, or horrific scent (thanks a lot, DHA!) It isn’t inexpensive necessarily but then if you’re saving on cleaning bills (and not freaking out about warming up and starting to smell funny!) this might be for you!