When it comes to imposter phenomenon, or as it's more commonly known, "imposter syndrome", I often feel a sense that someone else belongs more than me. For example, with these meditations, I will often feel someone has done it better or will do it better, and I just don't belong in the arena at all.
I feel like I should be on the outside, looking in at the people who are doing it right. I feel as if I'm going to be grabbed by my shoulders, shaken, and demand an explanation as to why I thought I, of all people, believed I was good enough to do this.
The funny thing is, I don't ever fear this should happen to other people. I don't question if other people should make meditations or workbooks. I don't question if they're valid. It's as if this only applies to me, and I'm the only fraudulent person in a sea of qualified "real" people.
The even funnier thing is, nearly everyone else feels this way too. So if we all feel like we're the imposter, and surely everyone else is good enough, where exactly are all these so-called overly qualified people?
The topic of imposter phenomenon came up for me today as I listened to a podcast on NPR. As they said, it was originally coined as "imposter phenomenon" and not syndrome, because syndrome applies it's something that can be diagnosed and cured.
Does that mean there's no cure to this often-times crippling feeling? At the time time, no. There's no cure. But there are tools a person can learn to manage it. And if you can manage it, you can still go after all those goals and dreams.
What really helped me, was to reshift what I wanted my end result to be. I let go of the need to be perfect (which is really a need to avoid criticism), and let the new goal to be satisfied. Now, my goal is not to be perfect. Or to be the best. Or to arrive knowing everything. My goal is to do a good job, and to know I did the best I could.
This sounds simple, but it really did feel like a huge weight fell off as I thought about it. Once I let go of perfectionism, and gave myself permission to aim for my own self-defined version of complete, I felt much freer and lighter. I also felt as if I was operating within realisitic parameters, and not setting myself up for failure.
And I believe it's this fear of falling short of perfect that leads to the feeling of being an imposter. I have let go of the need to show up being the best, because honestly, what is the point of life if I start at the finish line? I'm now giving myself permission to grow and learn and explore my creations through my own unique learning process. And through that process, I have no doubt I'll create far better work than anything I would've done that was "perfect."
I've put the episode of NPR below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Whenever I'm working on a creative project there's always a moment when I begin to doubt everything I'm doing.
I start looking at what I've written and feel it's stupid. I feel my idea's are stupid. I feel everyone is going to think everything I do is stupid, and they'll wonder why I ever thought I was worthy of their time or energy.
As I was putting together a journal for this website, those doubts began to sneak up on me. They kept whispering from behind me, No one is going to like this. Just look at it. Admit it, it sucks. Normally, I listen to this voice without question. I feel myself sink into my chair, agreeing, Yes, this is stupid. And so am I. But the other day, as this voice came up, I just couldn't bear it any longer. And so I said to myself, I'm not going to play this game any longer.
And that's what it is. A game where I pretend I have nothing good to offer the world. A game where I pretend I'm nothing, I'm a nobody, and I will always be that way.
It's a game I play with my brain. One part of my brain gets scared. It fears all these uncertainties. And so it does everything it can to try and get me to stop. While another part of my brain, that knows nothing of this fear and is only excited, suddenly forgets everything else and agrees with this small part of me that has no vision.
It's amazing that this very tiny part of my brain can feel so BIG and POWERFUL and like it KNOWS SO MUCH.
This tiny voice likes to see if it can gain control of the show. It likes to see if I'll let it be in charge. It has no business being in charge, and it knows this. It knows there is a whole ocean of passion and power within me, and this little voice likes to try and convince me that IT is the ocean, rather than the drop.
This game has become so tedious for me. It's exhausting. And repetitive. And quite frankly, boring. Nothing interesting ever comes from playing this game with myself. The outcome is always the same. I feel lower and lower until I give up on myself. And then I wonder why things don't work out the way I want to. And then eventually I remember who I really am, and I start again, on something different. And then eventually, that little squeaky voice comes back, knowing where my fears are, planting seeds of doubt.
But I can't anymore. I can't play this game with myself. I refuse. I'm no longer going to pretend I have nothing of worth to offer this world. I'm no longer going to play mental chess with the part of me that acts out of fear and does everything in its power, including insulting me, to hold me back.
Instead, I'm going to give that small voice a hug and have a long, overdue talk with it.
I'm going to ask it when it first learned to tear me down in order to feel safe. I'm going to ask it why it feels safer criticizing me than encouraging me. And I'm going to ask it what it needs in order to give me love and support, to trust in the flow of my life, and to have fun with who I am and what I'm doing.
When the small, critical voice within me is ready to answer, I will listen with patience. I will listen with love. I will give it the love it never got, and I will remind it that self-attack is not the only way to feel safe. Self-love is another, and better, option. I will love myself so fully that what happens outside of me will be just that - things happening outside of me.
Although it's tempting to get angry with this voice, to blame it for my anxiety and my fear, I know it's just doing what I asked it to do. At some point in my life, I learned that the only way to be safe is to cut myself down before other people do. I internalized the belief that I'm not good enough, and it's only a matter of time before other people reflect this back to me, so why wait for them to say it? The other part of me, the bigger part that only wants to love me, tried to out maneuver this tricky little voice, but it was always quicker, always one step ahead, and thus, the game began.
Now that I've dropped my game pieces and walked away, that critical voice inside of me will have space to see things different. Rather than being consumed with planning its next move, it will be free to contemplate what I've known all along - I am worthy and I am loved eternally by Divine forces.
That part of me that is small and yet so LOUD will finally see that the only way I could have won that game was to lose. It was a game I was playing against myself and there was no way to come out ahead. The only way to win was to wave my white flag, surrender, and enter into peace talks with my own self.
If you need a little help getting your own thoughts off of self-defeat and onto empowerment, try this free 5 minute meditation. It's a sample from my Empowering Visualizations package, which you can learn more about here.
I recently led a discussion over the book Siddhartha with a small group of people. I was nervous about doing this, as I've always been a participant in events and never a leader. A few days before the event, I woke up feeling the first pangs of nervous energy creeping into my body. I could feel them pulsing through me, ready to build bigger, to turn into anxiety, and then full blown panic.
As I sat with this feeling, I first felt its familiarity. Any sort of public speaking, of any size, has always caused me great amounts of anguish. I have become so accustomed to associating this kind of experience with anxiety that I have never even questioned if I could change it. I just see it as a part of my identity. A core building block in the essence of who I am.
But the longer I sat with it, the more I realized it's not a fixed part of who I am. It's just a familiar part. There's a common thing with us humans where we like to hold onto the familiar, even when we know it's not in our best interest.
It can be even harder to challenge these things when they feel like they're a part of our identity. When we isolate a part of ourselves as unhealthy or in need of change, our gut reaction might be to feel as if we're rejecting a part of ourselves. Rejection always feels painful, and so rather than look at this part and say, "I think you have to go," we hold onto it tighter. This comes from a misguided sense of self-love, from the part of our self that wants to protect us from pain.
It's as if letting this one part go will pull a thread that will unravel our entire sense of self.
And maybe it will. Maybe that's what all the fear is about. It's the fear that if we let these things go that define us that we'll somehow cease to exist.
In a way, this fear is not completely irrational. If we let go of our core, defining attributes then in a way we will cease to exist. We will no longer exist as the person we were. The old self will die and a new self will be reborn in its place.
As the book group gathering grew closer, I felt myself pressed up against this dilemma. If I didn't let go of Nervous Melissa she was going to lead the meeting, and I would experience all the things that make public speaking feel dreadful. If I did let go, I would create a new reality for myself. One that was foreign and unfamiliar, but full of potential and new possibility.
On the morning I woke up full of nerves, I began to feel into my thoughts. I remembered that my thoughts create my reality, and I was thinking thoughts that created these nervous feelings. It surprised me how unconscious I was of my own nervous thinking.
I then reminded myself of what I know of anxiety - it doesn't begin in the body, it begins in the brain. Unless I am thinking things that make me anxious, I will not be anxious.
I have tried changing these nervous thoughts before. I approached them in every way, from gentle and loving to aggressive and hostile. I've told them I love them. I've told them I hate them. I've reassured them. I've breathed into them and visualized white light in them. I did everything I could to get them to stop wreaking havoc on my nervous system.
The only thing I hadn't tried was refusing to acknowledge them. Knowing I could never change them, I went with the only other option: create new thoughts. I had to think new things and let those take over until the old thoughts died off on their own.
I began focusing in on this, breathing into my desire to create a new reality. I began asking myself what it was I wanted to create, and then repeated that over and over. I repeated it until my conviction grew and the thoughts began to flow on their own.
I choose to create feelings of confidence. I choose to see myself as capable and worth listening to. I choose to believe in myself. I choose to see I have good ideas. I choose to see myself as a leader. I choose to be self-assured. I choose to be relaxed and in the flow.
I choose to create a new reality for myself.
Throughout the day, I kept shifting my focus to this new reality. I reminded myself that as I focused on these thoughts, new pathways of neurons were being laid in my brain. I was creating a new automatic flow for my thoughts. I also reminded myself that the less I fed the old thoughts, the sooner the old pathways would dissolve.
By the end of the day, I was feeling like a new person. I felt I'd finally broken myself of the habit of fighting with my own thoughts. I felt the lightness of not spiraling down in old, exhausting patterns.
Over the next few days, I continued to do this. I also used my visualization for empowered speaking, which really helped me to take this in and become one with it. By the time the book meeting arrived, I felt confident and ready. It ended up being a great time, and I'm now looking forward to the next one.
Whatever reality you're living now, you can always create a new one.
Sometimes it's as simple as deciding to do it. I wish you much love as you go forward. And remember, change is hard. Be kind to yourself and give yourself space to change in your own way, and in your own time.
Just for today, I will radiate success with my whole being. Not tomorrow, not next week, and not someday. But today.
What makes me feel successful today will change tomorrow. And each day after that it will change, as I change and evolve my idea of what success even is. I know that today I am further than I was yesterday. I'm a little wiser. A little stronger. A little more centered.
Today is the day that I won't just believe, but I will know, I am successful. It doesn't matter if I haven't achieved the thing I set out to achieve. It doesn't matter if I'm not holding the results of my dreams within my hands.
What matters is that I valued those dreams and gave them space to breathe and grow. What matters is that I dared to believe in the value of my own ideas. I am successful because I took the first shaky steps in realizing my full potential. I am successful because I am here, learning, growing, facing my fears, embracing my fears, embracing me, and becoming one with all that I am, in all ways.
What makes me successful is personal to me.
No one knows where I started. No one knows what I went through just to get to this moment. No one knows the mountains I climbed and the valleys I traversed just to show up today and say, "Here I am day. Bring it on."
Today I will celebrate my own personal idea of success. I will look back and realize that I have overcome a lot. I have achieved a lot. I have done things that shook me to my core. I have changed in ways no one will understand the impact of but me. I have even torn down my idea of self, questioning the very nature of who I am and what's possible for me, without any idea of how I would land safely on my feet.
What makes me successful is not always even success.
Sometimes I fail, and in that failure, I know I succeeded because I tried something. I dared to step outside what was familiar and known and tested the boundaries of my world. My failure is the seed from which my dreams will take root and grow.
And when I fail, I allow myself to be one with my disappointment and insecurity. I remember that success is not always about winning and being the best. Sometimes, success is about honoring where I am, nurturing my wounds, and taking time to rest before picking myself up and trying again.
No matter where I am at, or where I'm trying to go, today is the day I believe in my success.
Today, I am successful because I refuse to let other people project their fears and limiting ideas onto me. Today, I believe in my own idea of success, and I don't need anyone's approval in order to declare, "I am successful!"
Even if no one sees it but me, I will value and cherish my success. I will nourish it with my love, and I will guard it from the judgement of others.
And by the end of the day, if I no longer feel successful, if I feel down and defeated, that's okay. This is only for today, and tomorrow will be a new day, full of new opportunities, new people, new ideas, and new energy. I will wake up tomorrow and tell myself, "Yesterday I tried my best. And for that reason, I am successful."
But tomorrow isn't here. There is only now, and so for today, and only for today, I will believe fully in my success.
Below are my all time favorite books for adventurous spiritual seekers. These are the ones that truly changed my life and stayed with me long after I'd finished them. Many I've read more than once. I tried to cover the main areas of spiritual interest and divided the books into four categories. If you've read one of these books or you have a book you think I should read, drop a line in the comments!
The Nature of Personal Reality
by Jane Roberts
If you only read one book on this list, let it be this one. This is the book that cracked open my mind and turned me into a sponge for spiritual knowledge. It's mystical, beautifully written, and will leave you feeling like you are a vital part of the masterpiece that is the Universe. I recommend this book to everyone and have read it multiple times myself.
by Hermen Hesse
As you read this book, you will feel as if you are walking side by side with Siddhartha. You will go on an incredible journey of courage, loneliness, awakening, connection, love, loss, and enlightenment. This book captures the wild roller coaster of emotions and experiences as one awakens spiritually. When you get to the end, you will have a new perspective on your own life and this mysterious journey between birth and death.
Nothing that comes your way in life is too much for you.
We all go through challenges. Disappointments. Unfair situations. It's easy to let it overwhelm us, to where we think "This is too much. I can't deal with this illness. I can't handle this difficult child. Or, I can't take this traffic, it's driving me crazy!"
God would not have allowed it if you couldn't handle it. But as long as you're telling yourself it's too much, you'll talk yourself out of it. You've got to get in agreement with God. You are not weak. You are full of can-do power. All through the day, whether you're stuck in traffic or facing a major disappointment, you're attitude should be, "I can handle it."
I can handle this grouchy boss. I can handle this difficult child. I can handle these people talking about me.
You can't have a weak, defeated mentality. You've got to have a warrior mentality.
No person can keep you from your destiny. No bad break, no disappointment, no sickness.
My mother was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in 1981, given a few weeks to live. She could've fallen apart and thought, "God, it's not fair. I've served you all these years. I don't understand it." No, her attitude was, "I can handle it. I'm not a victim I'm a victor. Nothing can snatch me out of God's hands." This week, we're celebrating her 80th birthday - still strong and healthy, full of joy, full of peace.
God is in complete control. The most powerful force in the Universe is breathing in your direction.
You don't have to get upset when things don't go your way. You have the power to remain calm. You can handle any situation. Quit letting little things steal your joy. Every day is a gift from God.
- Joel Osteen Podcast
"You Can Handle It" 3/27/19