They sometimes say “expectation is the root of heartache,” which I dare say can be a self-fulfilling truth.
Expecting the best takes a lot of practice. It takes reminders many multiple times a day… But after a time, it becomes more of a habit than it is not, and that’s when the magic starts to unfold. . .
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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):
- The Perfectionist
- The Superwoman / man
- The Natural Genius
- The Rugged Individualist
- 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…
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.
The journey to success is not often a linear one, nor is it rife with “yes!”s and obvious, silver-plattered opportunities. Rather, it is littered with failures, mishaps, wrong directions, and “what the hell was I thinking!?”s. Reality can be tough!
But…our perspective of that journey – that non-linear, tumultuous, stress-inducing road – can make all the difference in whether the path ends with success* or another “not-quite.”
*success as defined by us, let’s be clear
When we can take each “failure” as a positive, we are on our way to finding the successes we are aiming for. Why? Because each time we fall, we learn something new – we learn how to better navigate the rocky road of life and about who we are, what we need, and how we function optimally. In other words (and as we tell our kids in Martial Arts classes) when we lose, we learn…and that’s why we LOVE to lose.
It is horribly unrealistic to expect that the seas are always going to be smooth. It is also unrealistic to expect that we will fearlessly and perfectly navigate through every storm and crashing wave. What IS realistic is to expect that each fall we take will provide us with invaluable feedback, a lesson of some kind, and something positive in the end (knowledge gained, new connections, self discovery, an “ah-ha” moment…whatever it may be.)
Open your mind to the possibility of failure being a much-needed life guide – without it, we are incapable of learning that our limitations are often much farther out than our minds might impose, and that we are indeed destined for greatness.
Fear not if you falter, then, but reap the rich rewards -PLB
Some days it seems like we only focus on how much farther we have to go. We beat ourselves up with “what if”s and “should”s, which not only clouds the joys of the present, but distorts our thoughts so much that doldrums are all we see. And that spiral will permeate every aspect of our lives. . .
Life as adults comes with so much responsibility… But, it also comes with immeasurable happiness. We get to learn every day, we get to make our own choices, we get to make a real difference by positively impacting the world around us. And…we likely make a lot more progress than we remember to give ourselves credit for.
If only for today…
Instead of looking down a long path ahead (one, by the way, you cannot predict, so why worry?), think about the distance you’ve already travelled.
. . . Remember how many times you battled adversity and came out the other side – victorious!
. . . Remember all the things you have done to be the beautiful person you are today, who contributes so positively to the world…
. . . Remember how much you are loved
. . . Think about how far you have journeyed and revel in the “damn, right, I’m amazing!”
You deserve to be acknowledged…and most importantly by yourself.
I got this Hungry Girl article in my e-mail a few days ago:
I’ve followed Hungry Girl for years – literally from the beginning. I was recovering from two severe eating disorders and found the site’s positivity both helpful and encouraging. To this day, I still get the newsletters, and still appreciate what she (Lisa, the founder) is aiming to do – help others live a healthier life beginning with THE key factor —-> nutrition.
Nutrition is something I think about all the time – not only because of my experiences, but because I am still an athlete. At 40, things are vastly different then when I was 20 – I’m constantly tweaking my routine and my nutritional intake in order to achieve my goal(s) of maintaining a healthy life. One, I might add, that is sustainable (what’s the point if you can’t stick to a plan?!)
Anyway…I really liked her article because these ARE tips that can help when trying to maintain weight, or lose a little extra. She isn’t launching into unreasonable means of achieving these things, and therefore not insinuating that anyone need to do anything drastic. It’s about little, overall changes. It’s about learning why / how those changes work, and being able to stick with them for the longer haul.
Here are Lisa’s tips (click on the link above for her take!) paired with a few comments of my own:
1 – RE-EVALUATION OF OUR DAILY, CALORIC INTAKE
I don’t advocate necessarily counting every…single…calorie, every…single…day. With a past like mine, I know that’s dangerous territory for many people (even those who haven’t dipped into eating-disorder-land.) This kind of hyper-micromanagement can lead to paranoia or OCD / addictive / controlling behaviors for certain personality types. Rest assured, that can only end poorly – trying to control to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis can cause a program to fail (impossible to maintain over time) OR a rebound (“let me just eat everything in sight because I can’t take this stringent restriction anymore!”) Restriction doesn’t work.
Being aware of our caloric needs, and focusing in on what the foods we eat contain calorically CAN help us to reprogram. We can paint a better picture of what our personal best nutritional plan is by:
- Making an effort to understand what an appropriate portion really is.
- Learning how many calories certain types of foods contain.
- Checking into what our specific bodies need calorically (Lisa shares a calculator in her article.)
Keep in mind, we are all different. Calculators, too, aren’t 100% (the best basal metabolic calculator is generally a test done at the hospital, or using one of those new, fancy-pants “pods” designed to account for other factors beyond height, age, and activity level.)
The point is, it is crucial to understand whether we need 3,000 calories a day, or more like 1,500 – we may be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing. Exercise can help you boost this number, by the way, so don’t consider a super low number a horrible fate. You can help it along.
2 – KEEP WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
I love that she points this out. Jumping on the diet-fad bandwagon isn’t going to save you – even if you lose a few pounds short-term (summer beach season is coming up – don’t be tempted!) you may well find the weight you lost coming back. Why? A “fad” isn’t a lifestyle change by definition!
What works then? Take a look at your history… Is there a time you remember (beyond being a teenage-metabolic-furnace!) where you found you were feeling and looking your best? What were you doing at that time to achieve those goals? As above, things change as we get older BUT…if you were exercising more, think about adding some movement back into your schedule. Think about the KINDS of exercises that work best for you…
You may love long runs so you can zone out and decompress… Maybe you like cycling outside, or doing zumba with a group. If HIIT for only 20 minutes seems to help your body shed the most effectively, look at finding room for that two or three times a week.
Along these lines, if a certain nutritional approach worked, maybe it’s time to revisit it. I can’t eat processed carbohydrates without feeling horrendous, so that’s something I avoid, as one example. Maybe a Weight Watchers type approach works for you because it holds you accountable, and helps you recognize how much you are really taking in. Perhaps it’s Mediterranean in flavor….that’s great too. We are not all going to respond to the same plan. If it worked for you in the past, break it down and think about WHY and HOW it worked. Find ways to incorporate those hows and whys into your current routine.
3 – 80/20 = SUCCESS LONG TERM
The “80/20” rule is a far more realistic approach to changing our not-so-healthy habits to good ones with success. What this entails is that you stick to your healthy eating and exercise 80% of time. There are going to be days where you are completely over your eyeballs. There are going to be others where you’re simply too exhausted (to the point that exercise might not be your safest best – bad form can mean injury potential.) There will also be days where you might be traveling for work and can’t maintain your home routine…
Life HAPPENS, and sticking to the “perfect diet” 100% of the time isn’t realistic for anyone. Instead, aim for being on point 80% of the time – this allows you a 20% buffer where you can deviate without sabotaging your many efforts to achieve your personal goals.
4 – BE ACCOUNTABLE and HONEST
Accountability and honesty are absolutely integral when it comes to personal progress. NO ONE likes criticism. No one likes to admit shortcomings. BUT…if we don’t’ address personal concerns we know to be true, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.
We ALL have room to grow – it’s okay to have areas that need improvement, and it’s okay to not always stay on track. What will never be okay, however, is lying to ourselves. Honesty is the best policy not only with others, but in our internal dialogue as well – we know what our goals are, we know if we are falling short, and denial will only perpetuate the problem.
Own up to whatever it is that needs some tweaking and watch how much you can progress once you take that ownership. Even small progress is a step forward, and it is astounding how much those gains can contribute to overall self-motivation and confidence.
You don’t need to live up to anyone else’s standards – what other people think is their business only. And you definitely don’t need to be hard on yourself! This is simply about owning our truths and recognizing that we CAN make changes once we are open to admitting them.
5 – REWARD YOURSELF
Equally as important as the rest! Maintaining and losing weight isn’t always super easy, especially as we get older and we see that our tried-and-true doesn’t work anymore. Make sure to take time to do something nice for YOU – buy a non-food goodie, repeat some extra affirmations, take a day to do a special activity you don’t always have time for, take a trip to the spa…! Whatever it is, treat yourself and remember how many things you are doing right.
I have the great fortune to work with many individuals with disabilities, and to learn alongside their families and those in special education. I have always lived my life believing that kindness is not only valuable…but crucial. I believe that when we have something nice to say, or we recognize something beautiful in another person, that we should speak up.
Working in this community has extended the importance of this even further. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing the face of a child when they suddenly believe in themselves. When we share a kind word and focus on their strengths (often in spite of great adversity) we have the power to illuminate their world. I take that responsibility very seriously, and frankly…I feel it is an honor to be in such a position. As all human beings, they already know where they struggle…they don’t need to be reminded of where they fall short, but rather to see all the things they do well.
No matter who you are, no matter who someone else is…if you have something kind to say...SAY IT. Don’t hold back because a few supportive words could make all the difference in someone’s day…or in their life. We all remember certain compliments we’ve received over the years, and we remember how those comments made us feel. Share that gift with others that they too may recognize their wonderful contributions to the world.