Imposter Syndrome: The Case of The Disappearing Girl

Tell me what I’m good at, seriously. The more successful I’ve become the more difficult it’s become to believe I’m good at anything at all.

Today I was watching this Facebook video of a girl sketching a family, except the sketch looked like a photograph, and I got irrationally pissed off. Like who the fuck is this girl who just wiggles her hand all over the paper and its becomes a PERSON. I genuinely got a little mad. Because she’s good at something. And it seems like it must have taken no practice, no work. She just was born and was able to make pictures with her hand like cameras do. And I thought: there is nothing I do that I’m that good at.

I can doodle stuff that looks bad but kind of just bad enough that it’s ironically bad and it looks cute. Like I drew this cat last night and it doesn’t even look like a cat but it’s kinda just so bad that you kinda start laughing. That’s where my skill levels out in everything I do. And I’m convinced of this.

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I can write, and I have a blog, but it’s only just so successful that people are tricked into thinking I know what I’m doing. Not so successful that I can actually go around and say hah, oh yes, puff puff, I’m a writer, jolly good.

NEVER THAT GOOD.

This is something that has plagued me for a long time: someone is already doing what I’m doing better than I’m doing it. No matter what we’re talking about. Writing, blogging, advice, doodling shitty doodles, saving the world one poorly hashtagged instagram at a time. I have just over 1,000 followers on twitter which sounds impressive if you don’t use twitter but what about the girl with 120,000 followers who just retweets photos of cats butts. What does she have that I don’t? Skill, talent, a keen eye for the market, I don’t know, but I don’t have it.

They call this imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the new hip cool way to feel either

1) bad or

2) empowered about how shitty you feel about yourself.

Move over introversion and extroversion, buzzfeed has a new hot baby in the process of gestation. And it’s gonna be this: we have no idea how good we are.

I thought for a while maybe this was a girl thing, like, oh, I have to be a little coy about how successful I am. Play it down a little bit because some people might get intimidated in their big boy pants. But then I realized all my guy friends feel exactly the same way.

Do you know what the three year old version of yourself would say if you walked up to him, kicked him over, and said “IM IN MARKETING.”

He would say holy shit.

Because we’re grown ass adults now with grown ass jobs and I think sometimes we wake up on that conveyer belt and we forget that it’s already happened. IM A DOCTOR. IM A CONSULTANT. IM A PRODUCER. IM A PHOTOGRAPHER. IM A COPYWRITER. IM IN MANAGEMENT.

Your three year old self doesn’t care about how pathetic and self-loathing you feel about yourself. Your three year old self is like HOLY SHIT. You’re a manger? A manager of what? I literally can’t even see over the counter at the bank right now. I’m so young I still have a cardboard sheath that holds all of my finances because all of my finances are the state quarters THATS ALL I’VE GOT.

And as your younger version waves his lifetime savings in your face, clinking down to the floor, you realize. You realize the things that have been happening every single day. Things that would be too traumatic to realize all at once. You know what a 401k is. You have a savings account, even if there isn’t anything in it. You can cross the street without getting hit by a car and if you’re playing catch you probably won’t run in front of a truck. You have successful and sometimes unsuccessful romantic relationships. There are people who call you a friend and you call them a friend back and you found each other WITHOUT BEING SAT AT THE SAME TABLE IN FIFTH GRADE. In the sea of unpredictability, you’ve found some sense of stability and security. You’ve discovered yourself like Dorothy on the yellow brick road, and each wacky zany character you meet is a new, invaluable piece of yourself, building to the undeniable truth that, well, you know what you’re doing. Sorry.

You do. Because you have to do it. And in the process of doing it you learn to do it better. But you don’t see all that shit. You just see you. Right now. Sitting here. Reading this. You have no idea how you got here and that makes understanding that you’re doing it so much more complicated.

I have imposter syndrome because the last 27 years of my life are kind of a pastel blur of things that happened. Mostly I’m focusing on the things I want to happen next. Actually, I spend an absurd about of time focusing on what I want to happen next. I barely have enough time to register what is happening in the moment I’m actually in. This isn’t to say I don’t slow down and smell the flowers. I am very particular about slowing down and smelling flowers. But for some reason I never seem to smell myself.

And with the bright beautiful blue future ahead, it’s kinda hard to realize how much has already happened. How good you already are.

Now all of this fantastical blibbity blab brings me back to my original point. I don’t really know what I’m good at. I will sit through an hours worth of something (french! writing! drawing! giving advice! basic computer work!) and the whole time I will say I really don’t know what I’m doing, I’m so bad at this, god look at this shit, this is horrible, I should go sit down and read a book quietly and not disturb the people that actually know what they’re doing.

The problem is I would disappoint the rest of the world that knows the actual truth. I am an adult that knows what I’m doing. I mean, I’m pretty sure. And I have to keep playing that role because now I’m a functional cog in society. I’m doing my part. And people are responding to that. I’ve had people tell me that I changed their lives in some insignificant way and I still burn my eggs and god it makes no sense at all, but it’s proof that I have to keep doing it. Whatever it is. All of it. It’s worth it in the end.

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