Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I know I am not the only one to have ever experienced this terrifying voice in the corner (and sometimes the very center) of your mind. The doubter that suggests you’re not qualified for the position you hold. In some cases this voice can be crippling but in mine, it spurs me. Usually.

Not a day goes by that I don’t remember how well my life suits me, how much freedom and pleasure I enjoy, how (I think) I’m helping folks learn and grow in their bodies, and that it could all come crashing down around my ears at any moment. Every day, or at least every few days, I wonder when my upward momentum will reach exhaustion and begin coming back down. Given all the mediocrity and downright misery in the world, who am I to deserve such joy?

So I try to justify it. I read and write and try to exercise enough to make me feel that I’ve earned my place. I take classes and process information and synthesize it and still I’m pretty sure it isn’t enough. I often seek assurance from close friends that I am actually as good as I think I am and they tell me where I am strong and where I can keep working. And yet the voice never quite quiets.

And yet… My conversations with Betty brought me a strange peace. She asked me: what if I were enough? What would my life look like if I didn’t have to overextend myself and constantly earn others’ approval? At first I tried to give concrete answers but after several unsatisfactory attempts, all I could sob out was that I “just want people to like me!”

After that conversation, two hours that ended, as they always do, in heavy, sobbing, cathartic tears, my imposter syndrome shifted from deeply personal to academic. Something that no longer dragged me into ‘yes’s I didn’t mean but instead informed my decisions to move forward or not, as needed to address legitimate shortcomings. Instead of pressuring myself into tolerating things that stressed me, I can choose to tolerate, or not, as I see fit, without that added layer of guilt or shame.

Though I have not lost my constant sense of faking compentence, it no longer controls me.

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? What if you were enough? What if your passion and curiosity and insecurity were enough to open doors and lead you to greater things? What if learning and growth were choices you made for yourself instead of choices made for you by that doubting voice? What if you made decisions based on what it useful and good instead of on what you think you have to do to keep the illusion? What would that look like?