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For Here Please | Impostor Syndrome and Learning to Be Bold

By Jen Violi

When I think of imposters, I think of any given villain from Scooby Doo, caught in the act by Scooby and the gang, ripping off the mask we all thought for sure was their real face, shaking a fist and shouting, “Yeah, and if it hadn’t been for you crazy kids, I’d have gotten away with it!”

When I think of imposters, I also think of me.

Me, acting like I belong. Me, acting like I know something. Me, acting like a leader. Me, acting like a beautiful, sensual woman. Me, acting like a writer, editor, mentor. Me, acting like I matter.

Eyes darting left and right, toe tapping. Beads of sweat on my neck, the one that’s far too short and thick for an actual beautiful and sensual woman. My real face hot and itchy behind the sexy rubber writer face I’m sporting.

Feeling absolutely certain that some young gang of detectives will rush me, rip off my mask, and expose the truth of me to the whole television audience that is The World. Revealing the truth—I’m a witless, powerless, ugly outsider, without any kind of valuable skills or gifts, let alone inherent worth.

Writing that out feels harsh, almost shocking. The lingering sweetness of the cherries I just ate turns sour in my mouth. Maybe the cherries were imposters, too! But those distasteful words do accurately render the voice of my inner critic.

It’s been roaring this week, because I’ve also been roaring. Using my voice to advocate for, gulp, support of my voice. On Wednesday, on Facebook, I posted a big-for-me request for my upcoming travels and pilgrimage. Publicly asking for $3,800 in funding, via donation, Patreon, or purchases of the online writing prompts and programs I offer. All so I can limit my income-generating work with other writers and take the time I need to write this August and September. To finish the witchy YA novel I’m ten drafts into, to complete a first draft of my memoir, The Book of Beginnings. And to fully sink into a writing retreat in Ireland and a pilgrimage in Sicily to connect with my southern Italian roots and the slow, savoring kind of magic I long for.

 

I posted this big ask, and right away, regretted it. I cowered at a raging cacophony of inner critic voices, most prominent: “Who the f$#% do you think you are? Who are you to ask for this? Well, we’ll tell you. You’re a fraud, a failure, weak and stupid, and so very behind schedule.”

I burrowed into a hole somewhere inside my rib cage and came out long enough to be given $529 in response to my ask.

I looked over my shoulder at the inner critic, temporarily shocked into silence. I was grateful for the quiet.

The next morning, I made coffee and sat on my back porch, grateful for cool air, soft clouds, and the power of writing some shit out, which led to realizing I knew the answer to the critic’s question.

Who the f$#% do I think I am? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m a person opening myself to vast creative expansion in unfamiliar territory, operating on faith, and asking for something in a way that feels uncomfortable, because it’s unfamiliar and countercultural, and not because I’m a fraud. 

Not to get too meta here, but in that moment, I felt like I actually ripped the mask off of imposter syndrome itself. I saw the pattern: imposter syndrome always pops up when I’m actually acting from my deepest, truest self.

And I can’t be an imposter if I’m being me. Same goes for you.

The next time imposter syndrome commences, performed by the Inner Critic Tabernacle Choir, I will know this truth: I’ve just received confirmation that I’m not only on the right track, but also on it as the real me. The genuine artist. The indisputable joy nugget that I am.

I do belong, and I do know something. I am a beautiful, sensual woman. A leader, a writer, a mentor, an editor, and most of all, a person who matters.

After this realization, I went back to social media, shared my insight, and my generous friend Brenda chimed in that she’d match donations that day up to $500. People met that challenge and then some. That night, I scrolled through a stack of PayPal emails on my phone, with not just funds but notes of love and affirmation, and I wept. Because that’s what actual me does, a lot. Pass the Kleenex. Just two days after that initial post, people have contributed $2,092, which means I’m over halfway to my goal. Be still my heart.

This is a reminder, in case you need it, too: the inner critic is all about constriction and contraction, and it shows up in a way directly proportional to size of the creative expansion we’re stepping into. The fiercer the critic, the bigger the possibility for extraordinary growth and creation. The more riotous the imposter syndrome, the more authentic the self showing up.

This is also a bold and true request, dear readers. Can you help me reach my goal by the end of this weekend? No gift too small, every bit appreciated.

If you’re willing and able to contribute, I, the real Jen Violi, am willing and ready to receive.

Here are a few possible ways you could do that:

I’m so grateful for you showing up here and reading my words, for so often responding to them with such warmth via comments and likes. I do not take for granted the gift it is to be able to share my heart with you. Thank you for being with me in my ongoing Receptivity School lessons.

Here’s to you in your own big, bold asks, using your beautiful, valuable voices. Here’s to all of us being our deepest, truest selves.

with all love and gratitude,
Jen

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About Jen Violi (33 Articles)
Jen Violi is the author of Putting Makeup on Dead People, a BCCB Blue Ribbon Book, and finalist for the Oregon Book Awards. As a mentor, editor, and facilitator, Jen helps writers unleash the stories they’re meant to tell, from blogs to websites to award winning books. With advanced degrees in creative writing and theology and certification in the Gateless method, for twenty years Jen has facilitated retreats and workshops and mentored and nurtured hundreds of writers as they find their voices, hone their manuscripts, and take creative dives and leaps. Jen’s writing has been featured here in Sweatpants & Coffee, Lady/Liberty/Lit, Nailed Magazine, Mookychick, The Baltimore Review, Annapurna Living and more. Find sanctuary for your story at jenvioli.com and www.patreon.com/jenvioli
Contact: Website

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