“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”
― Mark Twain
Not all sparks come in the form of sweeping hero’s journeys. Sometimes these ideas are more tender and personal, meant for the creator alone. I experienced one such spark this week, when it came to one of my worthiest foes: impostor syndrome.
I’ve battled this villain in the muddled middle of my own hero’s journey for so long I honestly thought there was no climax to be had, that it might be an impossibility for me to ever get the upper hand on it. How do I overcome a belief so instilled in the core of my being that it makes me believe that anything I do is laughable, dishonest, fake? That any success is a matter of luck and that at any moment the people around me are going to realize it and turn on me.
If you think that this logic is flawed and presumptuous at best about the goodness of people to look the other way and lie for my sake—you would be right. Which ties into what brought impostor syndrome to its knees for me this week.
I was talking about my struggle with needing outside affirmation of my own writing, and how frustrated I was that I both wasn’t getting it and that I didn’t want to need it. That’s when my friend asked me with all seriousness what it is that they could say that would make me believe them when they said I was doing well.
I started to answer reflexively, then paused. Because I didn’t have an answer.
The truth is, there is nothing they could say that I would believe they honestly meant, that they weren’t just being nice. This goes for friends, family, complete strangers, and even agents (of all people!) My impostor syndrome is so instilled in the core of my being that there’s not a single person in the world that could compliment me that I wouldn’t believe in some small way that they were just being nice.
It’s at this realization that the chokehold impostor syndrome had on me was released. We’re still in a constant battle of wills; sometimes he wins, sometimes I do. But with a spark of belief that perhaps I’m more than what I give myself credit for, the battlefield has been evened in a way it never has been before.
Maybe one day I’ll win.