Imposter?

I so love my Bitmoji avatar.

This fall I’m out speaking again, yay! Audiences have varied, from medicine to the judiciary, and the topic is still mainly health, wellness, and self-care. I have updated PowerPoint slide decks from 2020 with personal and professional learnings and synthesis from the past 2.5 years (much of it chronicled on this blog). Some ideas remain foundational and timeless, such as the 5 reciprocal domains of health (Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Stress management, Relationships) and each individual’s nodal role in complex adaptive human systems of connection. This year I have added the 3 reciprocal tenets of self-care (working label): Self-awareness, Self-regulation, and Community Building, listing specific practices under each heading and showing how they intersect and mutually uphold.

I do my homework in advance. I make multiple planning calls, clarifying audience demographics, learning objectives, and key take-aways. I spend hours compiling resources to reference. I know this material left and right, up and down, inside out. I have studied and I can teach–I live my presentation content every day in my practice.

And yet, I wonder. Am I really the expert? I haven’t published any papers (except I contributed to one that I’m pretty proud of), and no longer hold designated leadership titles. Doubt sets in when I think of those in my audience who resist my message–that our jobs are excessively stressful, our work cultures promote boundary-less self-sacrifice, and in addition to personal resilience practices (exercise, meditation), we need to connect with one another in order to really thrive, which often includes asking for help. I feel rejected before even arriving on site.

I have called on the tribe for pep talks and validation the night before more than one presentation. They step up every time, reminding me of my credentials, fueling me. I have played “You Raise Me Up” on repeat for days, reminding myself of all on whose shoulders I stand. I power pose a few minutes before going ‘on’, lengthening my posture to the full 5’2″, plus 3″ under my heels. By the start of my talks, I see my audience not as adversaries to be persuaded. Rather, I recognize them as highly motivated, resilient, dedicated, fellow lifelong learners. It is my job to reflect back to them their inherent strengths, identify how they are already well, and raise them up with whatever knowledge, insight, or advice I can offer that’s relevant.

The feedback is almost always very positive. I always manage to connect with at least a few people, and walk away satisfied that I did my best and it was all worth the effort.

I know my value. I recognize my expertise. I stand up straight in it, and I really do think I own it. Still, I fear arrogance. It’s like a demon following me around, waiting for a moment of weakness, of uncontrolled and overblown ego, to overtake me and blind me to my own flaws, areas where my inner work is glaringly unfinished–where my actions are apparently inconsisent with my preachings.

Huh, maybe that’s it. I think I don’t have imposter syndrome…but rather fear of hypocrisy? Or at least fear of being seen as a hypocrite? That would certainly grind against my core values of honesty and integrity.

Or maybe I just want to be liked?

Oh well, I’ll think more on it. Meanwhile, more inspiring music, text threads with the tribe, interesting reading, writing to parse it all out. And I’ll just be me. That’s good enough.

3 thoughts on “Imposter?

  1. It’s perfectly natural to have doubts, Cathy. I suspect it’s healthy; it keeps us from arrogance and over confidence. I used to have those doubts before I met my groups when I was working as an outdoor activities instructor – certainly a touch of imposter syndrome – but once we met, my experience and (I hope) professionalism kicked in and all went well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mick! Humility manifest as self-doubt… I’ll have to listen again to the Hidden Brain episode on self-doubt, maybe. It’s all so interesting, the origins, manifestations, and interactions of thoughts, feelings, past experience. I maybe overthink it all most of the time. ;P But if the outcome of my activities and interactions is net positive, maybe it’s all okay after all and I can stop worrying so much. ;P

      Liked by 1 person

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