My dear Sweatpants & Coffee tribe,
I have a confession to make. I am a total FAKER.
Every single day, in big and small ways, I am, on some level, terrified that I am a fraud. Some people call this Impostor Syndrome, which basically means that no matter what you accomplish, no matter how much you achieve or how well you are loved, you remain firm in the belief that you are not worthy.
High achieving individuals like Neil Gaiman and Maya Angelou suffer from Impostor Syndrome, which makes us low to medium achievers feel even better about ourselves, thanks. I mean. You’re on your eleventh best seller and you still feel like a loser? I can only hope to fail at that level. Me, I start feeling like a faker when I bring my Betty Crocker cupcakes (or, let’s be real, purchased from the Safeway bakery cupcakes) to the school bake sale and set them down next to the homemade masterpieces from the moms whose kids show up to class with expertly braided hair and who never forget to pick up their child on early dismissal day. Or when I feel like a human-shaped bag of slime and my husband says I’m beautiful and I thank him but secretly wonder if this is the year his eyes start to go. Or when anyone says anything nice about me ever.
When your core belief is that you are not good enough, nothing can convince you otherwise. Your constant inner monologue is “Wait’ll they find out the truth. Any second now, they’ll realize who I really am.”
It’s not true, of course. You’re just not that good an actor. You haven’t been pulling some elaborate con on every person you’ve ever met, 24 hours a day, every day for your entire life. But somehow, those of us with Impostor Syndrome find this a totally reasonable thing to believe. Me, a beloved, good, inherently worthy person? Ha! Nice try. Me, a master performer who has somehow managed to deceive the WHOLE FREAKING WORLD, continuously since birth, without a slipup? Oh, yeah, that makes sense.
I live in the tortured, ridiculous, perpetual conflict between what I believe about myself and what everyone else sees and believes. It’s not a nice mental neighborhood, I gotta tell you. Noisy, crowded, and the furniture is constantly being rearranged. And it’s totally self-obsessive. We anxious impostors spend as much time thinking about ourselves as, say, reality show stars. It’s just most of the time we’re thinking about how shitty we are instead of thinking how amazing we look in that selfie. (Reality show stars definitely have Impostor Syndrome, by the way. You can tell.)
The bad news is that there doesn’t seem to be a cure for Impostor Syndrome, which is not even technically a mental disorder. It’s just sort of a crappy feature of human existence. But the good news is that you don’t have to try to cure your Impostor Syndrome. You make peace with it. You recognize that you might have a wonky default setting and that you have to make a deliberate and continuous effort to allow goodness. You’re always going to have to remind yourself to take off the poop-colored glasses and try to see the world and yourself without the distortion filter. You’re always going to want to question the love and praise and acceptance you are given, but you can learn to take a breath and then stretch out your hand.
The truth is that worrying you are an impostor is a universal, authentic, innately human experience. Because we are strange, glitchy beings whose brains sometimes give us incorrect feedback.
You’re good enough, and you always have been. So am I. Let’s keep reminding each other.