There’s this thing called Impostor Syndrome that I only learned about in the past year or so. It’s a mental hitch in your git-along that causes a person to feel inferior to everyone around her, regardless of how much education, training, and experience she has.
People who suffer from Impostor Syndrome have no problem pointing out their flaws, and a really hard time owning their successes. This prevents sufferers from reaching their full potential, and can even drive them to self-sabotage their own hopes and dreams.
I am one of these people.
I’ve had some life altering experiences the past year. I’ve finally recovered much of my energy and health after several years of believing I may never overcome my autoimmune disease. I’ve maintained some serious boundaries where they were necessary, and I’ve healed some relationships I thought would remain broken forever.
And, I lost one of my very best childhood friends to cancer. She was the same age as me.
All of this combined to form an enormous alarm clock that woke me up from a lifetime of waiting around for things to just happen. I realized, in a major light bulb moment, that if I don’t get busy chasing my dreams and being really real, I wasn’t going anywhere. Ever.
It was with this realization in mind that I found myself saying yes to an offer from a life coach in the Netherlands for a free virtual session on Impostor Syndrome. And, in the words of Greg and Rowley in the book Diary of a Wimpy Kid…
This lady was the bomb! I literally got a tingly scalp and felt like I was being filled with sunlight during our session. I am not kidding. If you are looking for an awesome life coach to help you overcome feelings of inadequacy and general down-and-outedness, PM me and I’ll give you her contact info. And she’s not even paying me for referrals! I simply had such a great experience, I can’t help talking about it.
I’m a huge believer in the Universe leading me towards answers, if I just take the time to listen. And that is what this life coach did for me. She helped me quiet all the other noise in my head so I could hear. Then she asked me what my Higher Coach was telling me. And truly, two simple words popped in my head, from out of the deep nothing.
That’s what it said. Just, “Be Yourself.” With a capital Y.
I know this sounds really woowoo, especially to those of you who don’t believe in a Higher Coach. If you’d rather believe that this was just some kind of psychological mind magic performed on me by a random lady I found on Facebook, fine. Party pooper. You do you.
As for me, I am taking it to heart. Because this was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time, when I was perfectly positioned to hear these words.
I’ve already done a lot of work on being my most authentic self, yet for some reason this mandate from Heaven felt really scary for me. And I realized, I still hold so much of myself back from the world. Anybody else with me?
You think you are truly yourself? You don’t go through life with any pretense? You’re always letting it all hang out, regardless of what anybody is going to think of you? You don’t want to please your friends, your family, your coworkers or boss? You can stand tall in all of your beliefs and feelings, never bending yourself sideways or pouring yourself into a mold so you don’t rock the boat?
Well, that’s really nice for you. But being 100 percent always unabashedly myself scares the britches off me. I’m so afraid of offending someone that I am constantly self-editing myself.
Shame is a rotten creature. It comes at us from all sides. Our families shame us. Our culture shames us. Strangers on the internet shame us. We shame ourselves.
The old adage, “Never talk about religion or politics,” has been tested these last few years, and I actually think this is a really positive shift. On its face it seems like a bad thing, but the only reason its become a bad thing is because it seems like a bad thing. We’ve been culturalized not to talk about these things, so when we do, we are automatically defensive.
There are other topics in this category. Mental health. Race. Sex and sexual assault. Female body image. We’ve been so brainwashed to believe that these are taboo subjects that when someone talks about them, we are either offended or immediately put on the defensive.
I think these are growing pains. Secrets can only control us when they are kept. If they are out there, then we are free. Free to be ourselves, take it or leave it.
So, I’ve decided to challenge myself.
I made a stream-of-conscious list of whatever pops into my head when I think about ME, unfiltered, without worrying about offending anyone or stepping on toes. That part was kind of fun. It’s this next part of the challenge that’s got me sweating (and, as I mention in my list, I dislike sweating).
I’m going to post the whole unfiltered list in this post. Yikes!
It’s weird the things I realized I worry about other people knowing about me.
Like the music I listen to… why is it a guilty pleasure to enjoy Van Halen? I do not know. Or that I love my hands? I can like things about the vessel God gave me to carry around my soul, right? Why is it so easy to publicly admit all my flaws, but not my assets?
My husband calls himself a beefcake and says he has the singing voice of an angel. He flexes for the whole family and invites us to the gun show. But I can’t publicly admit that I have good hair? What gives, ladies?
(Men can get Impostor Syndrome, too, but according to a 2020 article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, multiple studies have determined that women reported a higher rate of Imposter Syndrome than men.)
As I was writing my list, I found myself using the phrase “Deal With It” a lot. As in, “This is me, deal with it.” Particularly when the shame I was feeling over the issue came from an external source, such as family or culture. I liked it, so I kept it in. And so, without further ado…
Deal With It
- My favorite color is ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Rainbows have ruled my life since I was a little tiny girl.
- Though I love the singer P!nk, I generally dislike the color.
- My favorite music is: Bruce Springsteen, Brandy Carlisle, Van Halen, Cindy Lauper, The Chicks, Adele, Whitney Houston, Ed Sheeran, AC/DC, Aretha Franklin, Florence and the Machine, Annie Lenox, P!nk, Prince, Martina McBride, Dwight Yoakam, The White Stripes, and Frank Sinatra.
- I love girl power songs. #GirlsJustWantToHaveFun #RespectAretha #Roar #GirlOnFire #FightSong #ConfidentDemi #YouDontOwnMe #Fighter #IntentionalHeartacheDwight #MostGirlsP!nk #IndependenceDay #ImEveryWoman #BornThisWay #AWholeLottaWoman #RedesigningWomen #IWillSurvive #9to5 #TheMan #Brave #QueenBey
- I love movie soundtracks.
- I love dancing, even though I look like Olive Oyl. (This is not a self-criticism. Just a fact.)
- I kind of love looking like Olive Oyl. Olive Oyl rocks.
- My neck is so long it cannot properly support my head. Literally. I have an MRI to prove it.
- I can’t pass a hopscotch without jumping through it.
- I can’t walk past a rose without smelling it, even if it is in someone else’s yard, way down on the ground where I have to get on all fours to reach it. (I stay on the sidewalk though. I’m not a trespasser!)
- I embarrass my kids regularly by jumping hopscotch and smelling roses in random people’s yards.
- Sometimes I enjoy embarrassing my children.
- I disklike the taste of coffee, but I love the smell.
- My main food group is smoothie. I also love those baby food packets that you can squirt straight into your mouth. I keep them handy for a snack when I’m on the go. Yes, I eat baby food. It’s convenient and yummy. Deal with it.
- I got my tonsils out when I was 32. It was horrible. I couldn’t eat solid food for a month. Thus was born my love of smoothies and baby food. I also put a piece of Oreo chocolate cake in the blender and sucked it through a straw. It was delicious.
- I love growing food in my backyard.
- I’m a decent cook.
- I love baking, especially cakes.
- I love planning and hosting my children’s birthday parties.
- My favorite holidays are my kids’ birthdays. My husband’s is a close second. Baking their favorite cakes and celebrating my favorite people? Yes, please.
- I love my hands.
- I hate sweating. Thus I hate exercise.
- I love walking. I could walk for hours.
- I still wear the same custom-made orthotic insoles in my shoes that I got when I was in early high school, in 1991. They are made of this indestructible plastic amber stuff. They squeak when I walk.
- I like wearing men’s shoes.
- I also love Mary Jane shoes.
- I’ve never done marijuana. And I’m cool with that. #hiptobesquare
- I buy the vast majority of my clothes at Walmart and Target. A real splurge is a trip to Kohl’s or JC Penny. #lovemesomepennys
- The changing colors in the fall is my favorite.
- I love maple trees. I want to move to Wisconsin and live in a maple forest. When I was pregnant I tried to convince my husband to name the baby Maple if she was a girl. We didn’t have a girl so he was off the hook.
- Sometimes I pee my pants. Just a little bit. I’ve birthed two humans. Deal with it.
- I love being a boy mom.
- I have a scar on my tummy where they yanked my exploding right ovary through my belly button. Deal with it.
- I used to hate my broad swimmer’s shoulders because I thought they weren’t feminine. Now I love them. #mamasaidknockyouout #strongisbeautiful
- I hate high-rise pants.
- I don’t know how to fix my own hair.
- I’m blessed with thick, soft, shiny hair. I used to apologize for it. Literally, as in, “I’m sorry my hair is so hard to deal with.” Then it started falling out. Now that it’s back, I’m never apologizing for it again. Deal with it.
- When I get nervous or stressed I chew my lips, sometimes in my sleep, and sometimes until they bleed.
- My nose runs constantly. My nose also sweats when I’m nervous, stressed, or thinking really hard. My nose is weird.
- I talk with my mouth full. #whosmylittlepiggy
- I am incapable of attending a social gathering without putting my foot in my mouth. Unless I don’t talk, which happens sometimes.
- I don’t like the taste of my foot.
- My favorite meal is two McDonald’s cheeseburgers, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.
- All the good things give me migraines: sugar, caffeine, champagne, late nights, writing at my desk, McDonald’s…
- Bad things give me migraines, too: cigarette smoke, stress, fatigue, head colds, narcissistic jerks.
- I have only vacuumed maybe a dozen times in the last four years. My husband and sons clean our floors. #thesejointscanttakeit
- I won’t let my husband do laundry, load the dishwasher, or do the grocery shopping. Only I know how to do these things correctly.
- I’ve never mowed a lawn in my entire life. Lawnmowers are aggressive. Ditto for vacuum cleaners. And chainsaws. But I kind of like chainsaws.
- My husband is a chainsaw ninja. It’s sexy as hell. If my husband is standing next to his fire truck, holding a chainsaw, step aside. Just sayin’. Nothing turns me on like a wildland fire truck. #proudfirewife #backseatfantasy #nomexpantsforthewin
- I dislike loud noises.
- I don’t like crowds.
- I’m an introvert. After being around a lot of people, I need to plug into the quiet to recharge my battery.
- I paint things.
- I write left handed. I do everything else right handed. I can paint with either hand. I can write nearly upside down on a dry-erase board.
- I secretly dream of getting a pixie cut. It will happen someday. Even if I look like a giraffe, or a q-tip.
- I also secretly dream of learning how to throw knives.
- I also also secretly dream of throwing knives at bad guys while wearing black leather pants. #blackwidow
- I’m obsessed with Marvel movies.
- I’ve read Gone With The Wind at least 30 times. The first time was when I was 11. I don’t love the movie, though. GWTW is not a sappy love story. It’s a war story. It’s a strong, imperfect woman’s story. It’s a story about complicated female friendships. It’s a story about race and power. It’s a story about the box women are put in, and the conscious choice each woman must make to either stay there or smash her way out.
- Without my glasses or contacts, I’m legally blind.
- I’ve had my hearing tested so many times. They tell me it’s fine, but they are wrong. I can’t hear well out of my left ear.
- Doctors are just people. They don’t know everything.
- Still, wear a mask. I have autoimmune disease. My dad has cancer. #maskup #dontbeajerk
- Sometimes I get tired of wearing my mask and take it off. #weareallhypocritssometimes
- I am a Christian. Yay for Jesus! #NobodyOwnsJesus #JesusFeminist #deconstructwithme
- Jesus and science are not mutually exclusive. Deal, y’all.
- #MeToo, more than once. #rapecultureisreal #itshappenedtoyourneighbor #itseverybodysproblem
- I believe that Black Lives Matter.
- I love police officers. My son dreams of being a cop, and I couldn’t be more proud. One of my favorite people is a cop. #niceeyebrowssojo
- Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are not mutually exclusive, but saying “all lives matter” is an intellectually lazy copout. Deal with it.
- I love the American soldier. #woundedwarriorproject
- I love the American Constitution second only to The Holy Bible and Gone With The Wind.
- I am firmly convinced that the two-party system is destroying American democracy. I once considered pursuing a doctorate degree to study this. Maybe I still will. Deal with it.
- Don’t try explaining to me that the U.S. is a republic, rather than a democracy. It’s both. It’s a democratic republic. If you’re going to show up, do your homework first. #factsnotpolitics
- I am an Independent. I vote for character, not partisan politics. I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, and third-party candidates.
- I loved John McCain – like, old man crushed over him. I can’t stand Donald Trump. Deal with it.
- My husband voted for Trump, and he may again. I don’t know and I don’t care. I love him anyway. ‘Cause I’m a grown-up and it’s a free damn country. You can go ahead and deal with that, too. #vote2020
- I’m proud of the American flag that flies on our house. When we replaced our old flag, I taught my sons how to properly fold it, and we retired it at our local American Legion. We don’t let our flag touch the ground. Trump or no, it’s my flag, too. Deal. With. It.
- We must love everybody, but we don’t have to like them.
- We are all toxic in somebody’s story. Myself included. You, too. Deal with it.
- There is a huge difference between trust and love. We can forgive without ever trusting someone again. Love isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Love is, in fact, a battlefield. #benatar #redefinelovefirst
- I write. Honestly. Deal with it.
Seriously, you guys, that felt so good. Now it’s out there. I highly recommend making a Deal With It list of your own. It is so liberating, and so insightful. I learned new things through this exercise, about my fear of truly being myself, how the cultural distaste for vulnerability and honesty has limited me, and how hard I’ve tried to be all things for all people. Even if you don’t share it with the world, it is so good to put it down on paper (or screen, in my case).
Trolls will be deleted, because they can’t deal with it. But mature discussion is okay. Let’s talk, all you grown-ups. That’s how we heal!
Copyright © 2020 Sara Beth Wald