I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t deserve this. I shouldn’t be here.
Hi. My name is Jen and I suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Badly. What is Impostor Syndrome, you ask? Well, you’re in the right place, ’cause I’m gonna tell ya. Striking women more often than men, and gifted women in particular, Impostor Syndrome is that lovely set of lies the voices inside your head tell you when you are successful. That nasty little voice that whispers at you, sneering at your success, and is so persuasive that you believe it time and time and time again.
I didn’t suffer enough. I don’t deserve it.
With a flute performance background, you’d think I would have learned how to better cope with this. You’d be wrong. See, while I was naturally inclined to be better than average on the flute, I had to work my ass off to get past a certain level. I learned that toot sweet in college, and thankfully I had a wonderful and loving teacher/mentor to gently encourage me. It’s not a coincidence that I pretty much stopped playing at a professional level after he died several years later, but that’s neither here nor there and let’s continue. I knew I had worked hours upon hours upon hours and thus could say “thank you” when complimented on my performance. When, on rare occasion, I was less than prepared and skittled through a performance by the skin of my teeth, the Impostor Syndrome flared up. There would be much flushing and embarrassed thanks, as all I could hear through the hot roar in my ears was that nasty little whisper.
I’m a fraud. They’re going to see right through me.
But when something is difficult for me, and I work hard, and I succeed…well, I know I earned the praise. Music theory was my bugaboo in college. Hated it, struggled with it, was ever so glad to be done with it. And because I hated it and struggled with it, my grad school entry tests indicated that I needed to take an additional theory class. I put that class off as long as possible, and when it came time to finally suffer through the mind-bending hell that is music theory, I found that my professor was no less than the husband of a dear friend. An outstanding professor, someone I knew socially, with a reputation for being a tough taskmaster. Crap. Schenkerian analysis was the main focus of the semester; I understood it in 1999, I have not a clue what the hell it’s all about now. But I studied it and I learned it and I mastered it and by God, I earned that A. I’m prouder of that class grade than giving birth without drugs eight years ago next month.
I’m not really all that. What will they think when I’m found out?
On the other end of the spectrum, when something comes easily to me, well…I get embarrassed, I don’t want to bring attention to it, I wish for the floor to suddenly discover hunger and have me for its very first morsel. I may have worked at it, but it was easy and mostly enjoyable and why do I deserve any recognition for that?
This was too easy and I can’t let anyone know that and I really should go now.
That I’m grappling with an oh-so-delightful patch of Impostor Syndrome right now is no coincidence. Next month Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press is publishing my book. And I am thrilled and embarrassed and proud and terrified and the whispers just keep getting louder and louder and is the floor hungry yet? I wanted to be a writer long before I wanted to be a musician, so this is a dream come true. But I know how long and hard I worked on one and I know how long and hard I worked on the other, and the numbers aren’t even close.
I was just lucky. I’m really not that good.
To the best of my knowledge there is no cure for Impostor Syndrome; I believe it’s just something you have to learn to live with. Coupled with Perfectionism it makes for an interesting evening of internal voices duking it out (don’t even ask how long it took to write this post). I’m just tired of its whispered lies.
When Jen can shut out the lying whispers, she writes over at Laughing at Chaos.