My Inner Critic & The Impostor Syndrome

In My Meditation Today. I woke up feeling bad because I had broken my word to myself once again. I had promised myself that I would not drink alcohol for the nine days of Navratri, but I decided to have a drink on the 7th day. It was a very deliberate decision. I was in the familiar cycle again; my inner critic was taking me to task. So I sat down and meditated. I used a technique in which I seek guidance from my future self. As I sat with her, trying to understand why I do this to myself, she put her hand on my heart and asked me –

“ Are you such a terrible person?

Does this negate everything good that you have done in your life?

Is there a lack of balance here in the level of feeling bad and the promise broken?

Did you manage to keep other promises you had made to yourself?”

As I sat with those questions, I felt a weight lift.   No – I was not a terrible person. No – this broken promise did not negate all the good I had done in my life. Yes – I had kept many of the other promises that I had made to myself for those nine days.

This story of “Oh it is not too bad to not keep my promise to myself” can very easily turn into a self-indulgent excuse. However, the meditation today opened my eyes to another side of this.

By most standards, I have lived a pretty successful life. I have been married for nearly 39 years and have two amazing, centered, compassionate, committed and successful children.

I have a Doctoral degree and three Masters degrees besides several other certifications and diplomas. When I got married at the age of 21, I had just completed my undergraduate degree. The rest of my academic qualifications, I gathered while we moved at least 20 times across four continents and raised two children. My husband was a young physician in training. So – there was no help with childcare there :). I am now slowly but surely developing a life – coaching practice. I have a blog; I am a published writer.

I have completed a half-marathon.

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I was 41 when I earned my doctoral degree. It took me a full 20 years and relentless determination to become a professional statistician.

If I had heard that any other woman had done what I have one, I would have automatically assumed that she had to have been an amazingly organized, disciplined person. I would have been very impressed. When I think about myself, however, I pick all the things that I did not do right. I tell myself that my degree and training is not quite as good as a colleague. The fear that I do not know enough because my training was pieced together while moving and traveling lurks behind every professional interaction.

I am a poster child for the “imposter syndrome” which is defined per Wikipedia as

“Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

It is this imposter syndrome that came home to me loud and clear today.

Every misstep is magnified and every triumph minimized.

Perhaps it is one of the reasons I often make promises to myself that I know that there is a good chance I will break. It is as if I need always to remind myself that I am an imposter.

The Wikipedia page on the “ Imposter Syndrome”  says, the research initially suggested that the syndrome was prevalent among high – achieving women, but we now know that it affects men and women in equal numbers.

I would say that all of us suffer from this syndrome.

We are always wondering when someone will discover that we are frauds. Although in truth we are all expressions of the divine, we are so oblivious to it or probably more correctly – so terrified to admit it that we would much rather think of ourselves as imposters. It does not matter how many adversities we have overcome or victories we have sailed through – it is much easier to rest in the space of “ not being enough” than to rise to our full power.

So we choose not to celebrate our victories and acknowledge our successes. Instead, we focus on one more thing that is wrong with us – whether it is our weight or our bank balance or our relationship status.  OR we make promises to ourselves and break them – and say – “ See I told you-you are no good .” Something, anything to keep us from shining our light.

How about we decide to stop this. How about we start cultivating an inner PR personality to counter our inner critic. How about we take time every day to acknowledge our successes instead of our failures? Hating ourselves is easy – the challenge here is to learn to love ourselves. That is our ultimate purpose.

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