by Aurora Starr
Sitting in the coffee shop I watched with fixed curiosity as a thirty-something woman entered from the rain-soaked sidewalk. Her choice of attire; a colorful skirt and solid blouse with smartly matched leggings and subtle make-up simply shrieked of someone who was poised and full of purpose. As she carefully ordered some variation of a flat white, caramel, green tea infused what-the-fuckuccino I took note of her face. Was she rushed? Flustered? Indecisive? No, shit, she looked beautiful and confident, didn’t she? One might even say that she appeared to be brimming with self-assurance. I quickly adjusted my sweater, smoothed out my skirt and then thought about shifting my attitude.
Mean Girl – Table for One
My thoughts can quickly leap from that of cool, calm Zen goddess to the founder and CEO of Imposter, Inc. Self-sabotage is something that I’m sure most women and girls are familiar with, but we rarely talk about it. Yet, the inner-mean girl seems to always be waiting just on the other side of the locker room and she is not happy. How am I certain of that? Well, if my thoughts suddenly shift to, “There are people far better and more talented than you. Life comes to them naturally and everything for you is a struggle. You’re going to fail so why even try?” then I know I am committing self-sabotage. My personal favorite from the Mean Girl Greatest Hits Compilation, “Who do you think you are? Don’t be too happy. You lucked out and people will see through you soon enough.”
The Great Pretender
What I just described is known as impostor syndrome and it is produced by feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, insecurity, and devaluation of self. In fact, even high-achievers often fear being exposed as frauds. It can occur when trying something new or even when doing something familiar. It is a constant threat of “being exposed” on a professional and/or personal level as a con-artist, and a belief and bias that most of what you do is all about the timing and people will find out.
Self-awareness can be a frustrating quality to possess. I know these things, but what do I do with them? Talk to a friend, a therapist, a priest? What good will any of that do? Then the light-bulb goes off, no amount of thinking will change anything. I’m caught in the same self-defeating, help blocking loop that brings me full circle when it comes to self-sabotage. Something must change, and I’m the only one with any control over that realization.
I am not an impostor or a fraud. I am here because I’ve worked for it. There will always be others doing it better than me, but there’s only one me. Period. I have a voice that is my own, and I want to share it with the world. It’s not about being selfish or egocentric. It’s about affirming my right to be alive and engage with others in a meaningful and helpful way. Doubting my self-worth will do little to help.
Now if this is beginning to sound like one of those self-help books or seminars, let me save you the trouble. Stop reading. I won’t mind, really. I am the first one to call bullshit on all the women and men who profess to have the answers to life and happiness and peddle their reality as truth and common sense as some sort of universal awakening.
Being Perfect in My Imperfections
When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and goals that are based on what we think others want then we are drafting the blueprints for self-sabotage. Instead, begin to focus on the value of what you’re doing rather than how you’re doing it. In other words, determined action is far better than perfection. Ask yourself, what value can you find in the things you do? And don’t compare yourself with others, especially on social media. Those outlets are little more than masturbation, fun for a moment, but not a substitute for a real face-to-face encounter.
Allow for the time to honor and take inventory of your professional and personal achievements without shrinking away in self-deprecating negative talk or minimizing your efforts. Again, there will always be someone, smarter, richer, prettier and more talented, but that shouldn’t stop you from being a creative beast and contributing your efforts to the world. Big or small, your accomplishments and hard work count. Be proud – smile and say thank you when you are recognized for an accomplishment. Above all, own it.
Our life journey should not be one based on comparison. It really is not a competition. I am no better or worse than the person next to me. Our life situations are different, and we are unique, but we are no better or worse by comparison. It’s all relative.
As for the woman in the coffee shop? I watched her exit as composed as she had entered, quickly hailed a cab and made her way into the rainy cityscape. I wished her the best on her journey and then wished the same for myself.