Day 13: The Stench Of Imposter Syndrome

Nature is glorious. Trees do their tree thing without a thought in the world. Grass floats in the breeze photosynthesizing all day, dogs eat and poop and snuggle. They follow nature’s plan without exception (alright alright, dog’s weren’t necessarily put on this planet to cuddle… or maybe they were…). Put them in foreign environments and they will still react on base instinct. Grass will grow in the cracks in the sidewalk. Dogs will adapt to their new surroundings and trees…. have you ever seen some of the insane places they grow? And then there are people…. the only species capable of true self reflection, with advanced feelings and critical thinking and problem solving abilities. Are there other sentient beings? OF COURSE. But humans are special… we have a creation capacity that exceeds any other beings (on our planet anyways); we think, we feel, we explore realms of human consciousness that goes far beyond the superficial. Humans are pretty damn amazing.

We are also the only species to take the simplest concepts and complicate the fuck out of them. In my humble opinion we, as a whole, have lost touch with much of our base instinct, which I define as intuition.

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Just look around! This world is stunning. Mother nature provides a staggering backdrop and endless inspiration and look at what we have done with it. We, as a species, have taken a few basic elements and created all of the cool stuff we have today! From buildings and toys to art and music, the ability of the human to create is phenomenal. There are endless combinations of “things” that can come from all of the cogs in the system. Plug a person in here, get this, plug a different person in, something completely different.

So why in the hell do we struggle so much with aspiring to greatness?

I think the answer is… because we can. We need motivation to create and what better way to do that then by introducing a little pain into our world. We are designed so perfectly… all of our emotions are drivers to somewhere. Happiness, a sign we like something, what do we do… we get more of that. Pain, we don’t like that thing, we move away from it. At our default level we work so beautifully. It’s our brains that complicate matters so much, and there is tremendous value in that, because without pain we don’t become strong, and without strength or motivation to move, we do not create. And what is our purpose if not to create?

I would argue that most of our strife in this world is self inflicted. We judge ourselves, we lose our sense of self and our intuition suffers. We disengage from the core frequency that we are born with through trauma and other defining life moments. The real beauty in being human though, is what we do with what we have to work with. We dream. We see beyond our circumstances. We latch onto an idea in our minds, our hearts take hold, and we use our bodies to build our vision. It is a perfect system.

So what holds people back from being great? What leaves them afraid to strive for the “bigness” of their goals? Why do we minimize ourselves so fantastically that sometimes we waste our entire time here on earth living in the backseat of our lives?

Enter, “Imposter Syndrome.” Defined as: “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own effort or skills.” I like this definition as well, “a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud,” thanks Wiki!

I have experienced this many times in my life. One of those times, and a frequent one, is at my job.

I am a doctor. No… I am a healer. I just happen to have a doctorate under my belt. Every day I am challenged mentally, physically and emotionally in my work. Each decision carries a tremendous amount of weight. Is this the right protocol? Am I doing what’s best for this patient? Am I practicing to my own moral and ethical standards? Am I good enough? I bring my work home with me every night. I pour over journal articles and lit reviews outlining different and novel procedures so I can have the most current treatment options in my back pocket. Sometimes my work is good enough, it’s supportive enough to the natural capacity of the body to heal that the outcome is the one desired. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I question every decision I made, and even though it was made with the knowledge I currently had at hand, sometimes it was the wrong decision. Sometimes patients die. When that happens I go back through the case step by step, agonizing over what could have been done differently, if an alternative choice would have led to a better outcome. It’s really really easy in my profession to get to the point of burnout and compassion fatigue as you lose patient after patient and start to question yourself. Do I deserve to be a doctor?

Am I good enough?

Fuck yes, I am. Medical schools exist to create people of persistence and grit. They create people who can make life and death decisions with limited information. They create people who are capable of pushing their bodies and their minds to extremes while still focusing on an outcome bigger than themselves. The medicine part is the easy bit. It’s all of the other “stuff” that comes with it that medical school prepares you for. I am a doctor because I am capable and was persistent enough to become one.

That’s an extreme example. Most people don’t have to have that experience and for them I say, good on you. It’s a bitch sometimes.

But imposter syndrome doesn’t just live in the realm of the people who try to ward of death. Imposter syndrome lives in all of us. I have heard the same words come out of some of the most successful and capable people I know… Am I good enough? Does what I am bringing to this world have value? Is it aligned with my morals and ethics? Am I making a difference? Do I deserve to be influencing lives?

I had some imposter syndrome creep in today. I told one of my closest friends about some business goals that I was kicking around. This person loves the hell out of me and sees me in such a way that is, quite frankly, intimidating sometimes cause I don’t want to fall off that pedestal (and damn is it high). So, when I told him what I was thinking, this friend got excited. Like kid opening a package on Christmas, excited. And as soon as he did I could feel myself pulling back, making a metaphorical slow retreat back to my prison of comfort where there is a nice cozy bed, a predictable paycheck and two slobbering beasts at my side. I caught myself doing this and I stopped for a second and I thought… well, why the hell not? Why can’t I be successful? The friend in question is very prosperous in his own right in the same business arena I am questioning getting into and I trust him with my life. His opinion not only matters to me, but holds a tremendous amount of weight. And he thinks I can do it. So…. I’m going to do it.

It doesn’t matter what IT is. The “it” is individual to all of us. Humans are remarkable at creation and I am human… so by default I am remarkable at it too. I see this vision of where I want to go and what I want to become and it seems really really big and really really scary. But, as my friend pointed out, if you want to lift 400 pounds you don’t jump from 10 pound beginner weights to a 400 pound dead lift. You make small, manageable steps. You train your muscles, and pretty soon you are lifting 350, 375, 390 pounds until adding an extra 10 pounds to get to 400 feels like nothing.

We feel like imposters because we dare to dream big. We look at celebrities and their glamorous lives and it all looks so shiny and perfect but you bet your ass the majority of them deal with the same thing. Am I good enough? Do I deserve to be here? It’s easy to forget that we are all human. We all have many of the same fears and at a core level most of the same desires and wants in life (yes, they show up differently for each person) we want success, we want love. We are all human and we are all in this together.

The thing that defines greatness though, is that willingness to take the risks. It’s the nagging fear of not being or doing enough that is used as a driver, an almost desperate motivation. A hunger to succeed. And even when we do, we strive for more because it rarely feels like enough. We. Are. Creators.

And that imposter syndrome, that’s your friend. That’s your ten pound weight nagging in your ear and you lift it off and make the move. It gets a little heavier, you make another move until finally you are moving so much that that motherfucker is just a whisper that you can quickly thank for giving you an ass kicking and building some strength, but it can shut the hell up now. And one day you realize you’ve moved so much that you met your goal, and you create another. A bigger one. And the voice comes back. A new set of weights. A new journey. And you start the process all over again. Nature is a perfect system.

The biggest key to dealing with imposter syndrome? Having the RIGHT support. Having people in your corner who know and love you, who know your skills, who you trust for critical feedback. People who are QUALIFIED to give you feedback. I wouldn’t ask a plumber if my house was wired correctly. We often assume since people love us and are in our lives that their opinions are accurate. Sometimes they are, but sometimes those people simply aren’t qualified, and you have to use critical judgement and boundary setting to jump that particular hurdle. As you move towards your goals people will come out of the wood work with unsolicited advice. Most of it said without a thought behind why they are saying what they are. Many times it is a subconscious attempt to hold you back so that they are not forced to evaluate what they are doing (or not doing) in their own lives. Sometimes it is from a place of love and concern, and it can become muddy in your mind and heart and that imposter can grab a hold a little harder. Nothing wants to die, including your old life. Our fears exist to keep us in a known threat state. The antidote? Brutal focus, goals shared with the right people (#mentorsareamazing) and only them and then you keep lifting those weights. Until pretty soon you are the strongest you have ever been, and your dreams are in your hands.

Are we imposters? Hell, no. We are creators. Nature designed us that way. It’s okay to dream big, to start taking those steps and when that voice starts nagging, appreciate it for what it is and keep on moving. ❤ ❤

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay trees Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

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