Years ago, I read a NY Times article about the Imposter Syndrome, and found comfort in knowing that even the prolific Maya Angelou lived in fear of being “discovered” as, well, an imposter of her own accomplished self.
Now I stand here, on the subway platform. Running dangerously late for a lunch date with a work friend I admire. Having launched a campaign that combines chronic illness advocacy and the Women’s March on Washington (#MarchingWithMe). Just having received an email from my agent delaying her notes on a draft I sent her. Preparing to stop by one of my clients’ offices after lunch to say a quick hello to my editors there. And I’m overwhelmed by wave after wave of, “Am I tough enough for all of this?”
I shift my physical stance on the platform into my Wonder Woman pose. When the subway comes, I sit straight and strong. I channel the women on my list of Five–especially Michelle Obama today, because damn am I gonna miss her as our First Lady–and try to breathe low and deep.
I’m not going to sabotage my own ambitions by yielding to these feelings. They are, after all, feelings, and my observations during this Year have very much shown that feelings can be manipulated and changed to a certain degree. And intellectually I am very aware that my struggles in this moment — my feelings of inadequacy, the Imposter syndrome that has me knowing my agent is displeased with my work, the PTSD-like expectation of negative impact against my chronic illness advocacy, and the overall angst that my body just won’t keep up with any of this — are, in some ways, ones to be very thankful for. I have fulfilling work, an agent, a cause I believe in, and a body.
But there’s a Catch 22 to the worlds I’m working within right now, applicable to my study of negative thoughts and cultivating confidence:
- I should be positive and strong, but not egotistical or proud.
- I should be honest in the storytelling of my own experience, but never without recognizing the foil of every experience those who might read my work could have for themselves.
- I’m to give advice because it’s asked of me, but in such a way that’s sensitive to those listening… even if we’ve never personally met.
- I’m to be grateful that “I look good”. Because looking bad, evidently, would make the fact that I feel bad even worse. In such a circumstance, I should be grateful for superficial beauty — feminism be damned.
- I’m to know the answers across the board. Even before I know what question is being asked of me.
Some people handle public situations masterfully. I don’t. It’s one of the reasons why I find advocacy and writing about myself difficult, and would rather write about others. In the case of #MarchingWithMe, the cause and circumstances are such that I’ll muscle through the learning curve. With something like this entry… well. I told myself brutal honesty with this online journal thing. But I hope no one reads this.
Because soon I’ll be at the restaurant for lunch. And then at the magazine office. And then home again to continue working and to soothe my body from the exhaustion of subway + people + sound + talking that wipes it out so. I’ll escape back into my safe home cocoon where sound, texture, temperature and sight all calm my symptoms. And I’ll write.
For now… shifting my slumped body back straight and tall. Repeating my list of Five, which now has Mary Walker subbed in for someone. And I’ll be. totally. all. good.