I remember getting the main part in a play in school when I was about six. I had been up against a couple of other kids who had also read for it and while it wasn’t a big deal (It was for a presentation not the Christmas play or anything), I felt overwhelmed about landing the lead, like I didn’t deserve it or a mistake must have been made.
Now that I am the mother of a six year old I realise how ridiculously young that is for a child to feel that way. The sad thing is this has been a regular thought pattern for me for as long as I remember, about absolutely anything and everything.
Since I was really little I have suffered with cripplingly low self esteem. I would beat myself up about everything I could; my capability, my likability, my looks and weight and my achievements. I never believed in my talents and didn’t ever feel I was good enough.
In todays modern world this is now known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, if you haven’t heard of it then a brief summary of the condition is this:
‘A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.’
In laymen’s terms: I believe that one day people will see me for who I really am and walk away. My friends will realise I am not that fun, my boyfriend will realise I am not that attractive or interesting, my work colleagues will realise I am not very clever or good at my job. If someone compliments my artistic work, I take it as them just being polite. If I have achieved anything in life I assume it was a fluke or because no one better was around for the opportunity.
My belief is that how I view myself is correct and anyone who gets to know me will one day realise that for themselves.
I know people grumble about everything being ‘labelled’ these days but for me, being able to put a label on my thoughts and mind process has helped me beyond words. It has made me realise that I am not a freak, nor am I alone.
I burst into tears when my therapist explained the condition to me. Finally I felt like someone understood the way I felt. On so many occasions I had tried to articulate my way of thinking only to be met with perplexed stares. It made me not want to open up anymore. That, and the response of ‘Oh we all have insecurities’ like I was desperately attention seeking.
Living with this mindset is exhausting and lonely, the effects can resonate in so many different ways too. A person can appear angry, bitter, jealous. These emotions are almost always fuelled by insecurities and self doubt. If someone has ever acted hurtful towards you for no reason or you have ever dated someone with a jealousy issue, the problem was with them and not you.
(Please note I’m not saying this excuses abusive behaviour, because nothing does.)
There is a happy ending to this story I promise, because upon finding out what was going on in my silly little head I started working on ways to deal with it and change my mindset.
It has been about six years now since I really threw myself into making big changes and some days, like anything, I can struggle but my general outlook on my life is so different.
I know that I project my feelings about myself onto others and usually am able to collect my thoughts in my head now before acting on them. I am also completely honest with myself and others about how I’m feeling if I am having a bad day.
The great thing about being honest is not only is it liberating for me to be open, but you gain so much more respect from the person you’re being honest with. That in itself makes you happier.
Most importantly though, I work on liking myself. Because by working on that I am also working on shifting that self doubt out of my head. I tell myself that I am worthy, that how I view myself isn’t how others view me and that I am as talented and interesting as everyone else.
Keep telling yourself it and those thoughts eventually start to sink in. Just like those negative ones did before them.