“I’m real! I’m so authentic!” This right here has been my mantra. If I were a corporation, it would be my logo, slogan and jingle. That’s how strongly I believe in showing up as my authentic self in my relationship and career.
Unfortunately, it’s all bullshit. I’ve bamboozled by own damn self because I’m suffering from “impostor syndrome.”
According to Wikipedia, “impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” Basically, I feel like a complete failure in my career and relationship with Boo, and I never feel like my best is good enough in all aspects of my life.
My impostor syndrome manifested itself in high school when I pretended to be unaffected by everything and everyone. Being a student at Phillips Academy Andover – a prestigious preparatory school that’s molded the minds of Kennedy’s and Bushes – made me – a Dominicana by way of the public school system of Washington Heights – feel inadequate. I used to be one of the smartest students in my class; at Andover, students were brilliant while I was average.
I felt like an idiot half the time and the other half I struggled with teenage insecurities: I hated my small breasts, flat ass, curly hair, thin European lips, African button nose, and my too-big-for-my-face Medicaid glasses. I didn’t kiss a boy until 16 because, when I liked a classmate, I convinced myself he didn’t desire me. I crushed on Dee, E, and D-Money (not all at the same time) and I didn’t feel good enough for any of them. My flirting skills were sub-par (see: nonexistent.) Instead of flipping my hair and flashing a coquettish smile, I’d give my crush a high five or pound. And when Dee, E, and D-Money became enamored with other women, eventually bestowing them with the title of “girlfriend,” which I so craved, I shrugged it off as if none of it affected me.
And it always affected me.
Fast forward 20 plus years and I meet Boo. I felt simultaneously thrilled and terrified. When we chose to commit to each other, my impostor syndrome kicked in. My shadow side whispered, “Why does he want you? Your career is unstable, you’re not successful, you have no financial stability, and you’re living with Mami again after your attempt at a TV hosting career failed. He’s too good for you and he’s going to leave you.”
That right there has been a running theme in my relationship.
I often feel like I don’t deserve the love of a strong, professional, smart and successful man, and that leads me to question whether I am good enough for Boo, which he then reflects onto me. Often, Boo criticizes me and I instantly feel unworthy. Now I realize that it’s not about him. Boo is simply reflecting what I feel about myself. And I feel like an impostor.
Not to say it doesn’t take two to tango, I’m just taking accountability for myself and my feelings. That’s a start, if you’re suffering from “impostor syndrome.” You have to come clean about your dark and dirty feelings, and reflect on how your feelings of inadequacy is affecting your career and personal life. Talk it out, write it out and, ultimately, believe you are enough. Even if you have to fake it for a while until you build your sense of value and worth. And when you fear you’ll be exposed as someone who isn’t smart enough, talented enough, responsible enough, strong enough…just enough…remind yourself of your most admirable qualities and take a breath.
As for me, I’m continuously working on turning this around and truly being my authentic self in all aspects of my life. I’ve stopped being so hard on myself; I don’t have to live up to anyone’s professional or personal standards and expectations, including my partners. And when I feel Boo wagging his perfectionist finger at me, I’m not taking it as personal as I used to and just continue to do and be me. I try to shut down my impostor syndrome with these words: “Just because I am working on myself doesn’t make me less than. Just because I love and live unconventionally doesn’t mean I am a fraud or that my way is wrong. I am good enough just as I am.”
It doesn’t work all of the time. I still freak out and wonder what the fuck I am doing with my life, and fear that I am running out of time to feel true fulfillment in my relationship and career. But, I am trying. I am aware. I am growing. And there’s nothing fake about that.