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How to overcome impostor syndrome and things that keep you stuck

August 11th, 2020

 

 

The truth is nothing is born without pain. Creating anything, a painting, a story, a dream—a baby—invites discomfort. The sooner we accept this, the stronger and more resilient we will be. Buddhist principles can teach us a lot here. Life is suffering. Full stop. But there is something we can control. Our reaction—and with this our mindset.

Sometimes this is easier espoused than done. Many of us have shelf-esteem. We read about what it takes to boost our self-esteem, to polish our believing mirrors, to varnish our fragile, weathered hearts. We read the instructions, the books, the manuals, but sometimes we fall short. We talk, talk, talk; feel, feel, feel, but we don’t do, do, do.

“I used to paint, I used to create, I used to….” shared one of my coaching clients during our session.

“It sounds like you used to do a lot of things,” I said. “What’s the new you going to say? What would show the ‘I used to girl’ that things are different in the future.”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here… to figure it out.”

There’s wisdom there. During many turning points in my own life, I have turned to therapists, career counsellors, astrologers, mediums—and oracles. Too often we are too close to the surface to see our authentic self clearly. Very often those closest to us have seen where our heart, talents and gifts shine most clearly and either through envy, deliberate attack, or a mistaken belief that they are protecting us, have stripped our joy with coat-upon-coat of blistering criticism, sarcasm, and shame.

This has been my experience and it has been many of my clients. It’s a theme that appears in all my books, most recently Why Doesn’t Mummy Love Me.

Go figure! Too often people are like Common Borer, also known as Woodworm and Furniture Beetle. The larvae of the beetle eat wood; not just the wood of your house such as weatherboards, floorboards, joists, etc. They eat any wood left untreated. Adult beetles, unless stopped, repeat the cycle, laying larvae who gnaw their way through the wood’s interior for 2-4 years and lay in wait. Pupating just below the surface they emerge as adults and eat their way out creating a new flight hole. The damage is done. Until we say, “Stop! I no longer want your rot!”

Then we must rebuild, renovate, repair. At some point in our lives, we need to seek wise counsel. Someone impartial. A guide, a mentor, a believer. Someone who can help treat the damage done by those who feed on our dreams. Someone who can provide creative, yet practical pest advice to stop boring borers from eating our fabulous, fun, and fulfilling futures. We need some to spark the curative power and audacity of hope.

“What if— “ I asked my client, “—what if you had a theme song. What would it be?”

She thought for a moment then said, “Abba’s. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do.”

Excellent! What fun! I remember dancing with my school friends to this song. I loved her suggestion and made a mental note to add it to my own Spotify Mental Health playlist.

Showing up for my client, as it does for so many of us, means overcoming imposter syndrome. It means getting out our wisdom wax, dusting off our passion polishers, and relishing our restoration rituals and enjoying envisioning our before and after shots.

“My inner light is shining bright with joy!” my client wrote to me shortly after the final of our three sessions. “There are a few bucket dippers out there for sure, but I’m actually having so much fun, the negativity doesn’t get me down for long! I have been experimenting with watercolours, writing more and the voice work is very very empowering for me. I sat an online exam on Saturday towards my Speech and Drama qualification and bashed out 2000 words in 70 min…all that practice from the university days paid off! I better jack up the meeting with the principal to keep that fire burning, but always interesting the way the universe guides the energy too eh? I am just trying to be very open-minded to all possibilities and to not worry about the ‘what next’. And I think in that goal I am doing really well.”

Bravo to her. And bravo to me and bravo to you too. The Universe rewards those who show up. She yelps for joy when you don’t let some passion-killer take the gloss of your gleam. She claps with delight when you continue to shine bright. She presses her golden palm to your and high-fives your commitment to fight the good fight

As his holiness, the Dalai Lama reminds us, “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storyteller and lovers of all kinds.”

Without walking in the rain at some point in our career, and creating art that uplifts our water-logged soul, we don’t get to be rainbows in people’s lives.

To do this we must affirm, “I love you. I can’t deny it. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do,” and do our work.

This has been an edited excerpt of Word by Word: Lessons on Writing, Love, and Life

 

 

 

 

Enjoy this video where artist Catherine Roberts shares how she overcame impostor syndrome—specifically her mistaken belief that without formal qualifications she could not succeed as an artist.

 

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Emotional alchemy—the spontaneous healing power of joy

 Why Being Inspired Matters: The Spontaneous Fulfillment and Healing Power of Joy

 

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