The Imposter and her healing

When we fear and hide, we may lose the shot at the love we deserve. We can’t always expect someone to break down those walls for us and find us. It is in mistakes and in pain where we learn the most valuable lessons, and it is the fact that it can make us better people that makes the ache truly worth it.

Escaping

I wrote a piece sometime in 2014 titled “Sometimes the healing is in the aching“.  I talked about the pain and the necessity of the “ultimate heartbreak” and how the fear of it consumes us. And I also did mention that most often than not, this pain is self-inflicted.

After all that has happened to me the past few years, I couldn’t help but pat myself in the back and think that I had known it all along. It’s like my past-self screaming out a snarky “I TOLD YOU SO!” with a matching eye-roll. Four years after, here I am finding myself tired and consumed by my own fears, and breaking my own heart.

Today, I know I am healing.

For World Mental Health Awareness Day, I opened up on Instagram about the struggle I have had over the past four months. Looking back at all the things I’ve written since the start of this blog makes me think it’s been happening all along. When you force yourself to believe that you’re this strong, independent person and make others believe it, too, it gets pretty hard to accept that you need help.

“But you look like you’ve got it all figured out!” 

I cringe at this response every time I try opening up about what I’ve been going through. Of course, that’s what it looks like on social media! No one really posts about their failures.

I’ve done quite a number of talks on personal branding and “dressing the way you want to be addressed”. I’ve had young girls come up to me and message me about how they idolize and have me as their #goals or career peg, and I’m guessing now that that’s what’s making accepting this a lot harder. I feel like I had let the important people in my life (and the ones that have looked up to me) down. Like a true blue Capricorn, allow me to wallow in self-blame for a moment. I’ll get to the point, I promise.

I’ve long denied that I needed healing and didn’t want to accept that I was “broken” in any sense. It as only until a few discussions with my mom and my closest friends did I realize that we’re all the same — beautifully broken and trying to figure life out. We all need self-compassion!

Real healing is ugly

It’s frustrating. It’s staring blankly as you take your first bite of late lunch and then realizing you weren’t hungry anymore. It’s exhausting and draining. It’s waking up at 3am every single day and failing to get back to sleep because you’ve started overthinking, then crashing mid-day. It’s a lot of ugly crying. And maybe a bit of overspending.

Healing is not a trip to beautiful, scenic Sagada to find yourself. It’s not the dreamy sceneries of EAT, PRAY, LOVE. It’s not in long walks around the Eiffel Tower while eating a delicious falafel (based on experience). Don’t think a beautiful trip is going to magically fix you, and don’t try painting the process as anything other than what it is.

What I’ve learned from wise friends (and a good therapist) is that you have to learn to be there for yourself. You can’t be escaping your reality if you want true healing. True healing is learning to cope and deal with your realities, not running away from them.

The Imposter Syndrome

Fresh, confident, intense, intimidating and bordering cocky — I’ve been described as many things in the past years and I have embraced it as my career-driven, girl boss persona. It’s gotten me so far into the career ladder and has rewarded me with recognition here and there. 30 under 30 Young Marketers, 30 under 30 Asian Women changing the World, and many others. All of these achievements have made my parents extremely proud of me (which has honestly been the best reward out of all of this).

But why do I feel like I don’t deserve it?

Is it in the nay-sayers that have repeatedly called out that I’ve only gotten this far because of my looks? Because of my connections? Because of privilege? Because of luck?

I’ve begun feeling like I’ve created this imaginary world to be able to fit in and accept myself. I’ve always felt like I was running out of time, and it was a warped view of myself and reality that I had learned to live in. I eventually caved and broke down, and as I tried to pick up the pieces, I tried to put a name to the feeling.

A friend called this out as the “Imposter Syndrome“: a psychological pattern, initially prevalent amongst high-achieving women — in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

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Once I’ve gotten to put a name to the feeling, I have learned to address it. Allow me to share with you ways to overcome this Imposter Syndrome (as inspired by this article):

  1. Talk about it. Recognize that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Having it all in your head is really going to consume you!
  2. Separate feelings from fact. Get feedback from others that can give their honest and unbiased thoughts towards what you’ve been feeling. Then you can recognize which areas you can work or improve on if you’re really feeling like you’re faking it. Having these thoughts and learning to separate what’s real vs. what’s not is part of self-awareness and is a great trait to have.
  3. Develop new ways to respond to failure or mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over messing up — learn from it quickly and move on! My mistake here is that I escape from it. I move on without learning from it and end up making the same mistakes again. You have to learn to go through the problem, not around it.
  4. Pay it forward. Learn to recognize and compliment other people’s achievements as well. By acknowledging when others do well you create an environment where openly appreciating effort is more commonplace.
  5. Have a new mental script. 

“I never ask for help because if I do, it will look like I don’t know what I’m doing”  ⇒ “There are things I don’t know. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”

“I don’t deserve this award/break because I didn’t really do anything.”  ⇒ “I will list down the things I have done to reach this success and deserve this break, I will recognize opportunities for me to learn and develop. I will accept both positive and negative feedback and know that even recognition and breaks are needed for my growth.”

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Some people confuse Imposter Syndrome with humility OR false humility. But regardless of what it’s called, anything that brings you down to the wallowing well of self-blame and disappointment has got to go.

“When we fear and hide, we may lose the shot at the love we deserve”

When we are consumed by our fears and anxieties, we lose the shot at the life we were meant to live, too.

I didn’t write this to give you a step-by-step on how to heal and be okay cause honestly, I’m also still in that process. My friend messaged me after reading this article saying that “we attract what we claim” and that we should claim that we are healed instead of healing. I replied saying that I’d like to claim that I’m healed but it all goes back to my imposter dilemma, a.k.a. trying to claim something that I know in my heart isn’t real yet. I obviously have a lot to work on, but I am getting there.

I wrote this to get these thoughts off my chest, and hopefully get it off someone else’s too. We only truly start to heal and be better versions of ourselves once we acknowledge our demons and call them by its name. The healing may be ugly, but only you can make the journey worthwhile.

Please share your thoughts with me! If it makes anyone in the world feel just a little bit better or a little less alone, then it’s done its job. 🙂

Look up and move forward. Healing is upon you.

XX C

 

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2 Replies to “The Imposter and her healing”

  1. Hi Cat! Indeed, healing has started when you are able to talk about it. 🙂 You’re in the right direction.

    It’s my first time to hear about the “impostor syndrome”. But based from what I read just now, could it be basically our sensitivity/fear to what others have to say about our life/achievements ?

    I believe I have also felt the same way for a time in the past, to some extent, that others might doubt the things I do or accomplish. Worse if they happen to be our relatives. I just brush them off, as long as I know for a fact, what I am doing. 🙂

    Just a thought I’m sharing.

    1. Hello Jon,

      I think more than fear of what others have to say, it’s more of our lack of confidence in ourselves. We downplay our own achievements because we fear what we do is not enough in the grand scheme of things, and that we don’t deserve the praise we receive from the things we do. “Imposters” find it hard to visualize what success is and think too little of themselves. They’re in constant doubt. What others have to say is part of it, but it’s more of an inner struggle.

      Thanks for your 2-cents! Super appreciate you dropping by.

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