When You Feel Like An Imposter
When I was growing up I saw a lot of people around me doing different things. There were people in the news, some doing really good things and some doing really bad things. There were actors on TV, some showing their confidence, some showing their struggles. There was my family, the people they were and then the person they encouraged me to be. There were my classmates, their sweet words and their deceitfulness. There were my teachers, their encouragements and their expressed frustrations.
I grew up in the era of, “You can be anything you want to be.” So, from all of these surroundings I decided who I wanted to be. I picked confidence off the shelf. Oh, and some ambition, a whole lotta independence, a little dose of a tough girl attitude, and definitely a good amount of smarts.
I saved humor, silliness, and emotionality for only those who I knew loved me unconditionally.
I remember being at a frat party my Freshmen year of college. I was in a dingy row home basement, and a boy looked into my eyes from under my corduroy newsboy hat (come on, I was being bold!) and said, “You’re somewhere new, no one knows you, and you can be anyone you want to be.” My stomach knotted up instantly.
I thought I felt that way because I didn’t like the idea of making up a new version of myself. It seemed…wrong. I didn't realize until later on that my stomach knotted because I felt like I'd be found out. I had already picked up little things I liked from people around me long ago. Bits and pieces stuck. They formed me.
A lot of that is normal. But I had no concept of what it meant to be vulnerable. Vulnerability meant that I'd be letting people see the parts of myself that are true to me. I had way too many guards up to let people in. And those guards went up because when I let people in, and they didn’t understand how important it was for me to feel safe and cared for, I learned that showing who you really are can hurt. No one wants to volunteer to get hurt.
One day, in my late twenties, I realized that I felt like an imposter. I didn’t really feel strong, independent, or smart. I mean, I was. I was smart, I was independent, and I was strong. But I didn’t really feel like it. And I realized that I was exhausted.
I was exhausted because for years I had been trying to look strong, to look independent, to look smart. All of these things I had wanted to be were not really for me, they were the image I wanted to project of myself to the world.
That meant that I had been living most of my life caring more about what the world thought of me than of how I felt in my own skin.
I was so tired of trying. I just wanted to be me, but I didn’t really know how to. I didn’t know it at the time, but this Breathwork practice I was experimenting with was changing my life. This simple movement of my breath was allowing me to feel more like myself.
I could feel my emotions again.
I could let my laughter out in loud bursts.
I could maintain eye contact with strangers.
I could allow myself to be seen and heard.
Through this transformative tool I was able to shed away the layers of uncertainty and doubt, to show the deeper parts of who I really was with the world.
The cool thing was that I was already a lot of the things I picked out on the shelf.
But my mind had ideas about what those things looked like, and I tried to emulate them. So it felt inauthentic. It made me feel like I was a visitor in my own body. So when I got connected to my body, and let go of the thoughts about who I should be and what that looks like, I became who I really am.
I am whole. And feeling whole, complete, and true to who you are is real happiness.