It’s a statement we find all over social media. I am worthy. But sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds. We carry our experiences and generational learning. Our lived experience encompasses both experiences and decisions, as well as the knowledge gained from these experiences and choices.
There is nothing I can do about the past, except not let it define the current or future me. Imposter Syndrome is so prevalent that there are suggestions that it’s not a syndrome at all, just a general course of life. Whichever camp you are in, not feeling worthy affects most of us at some point in our lives, it’s up to us to find value so that we can live our best lives.
Regardless of how confident I may appear to be, there are many things that compromise the veneer. A lifetime of introspection (ok, navel gazing), I am now at a place where I can truly ‘see’ my worth. I might even learn to really like myself. I still don’t really know where the demons that plagued my life came from. But, from whatever source, pain still hurts. I don’t know what made me feel “less than”, “not pretty enough”, “not good enough”. Fortunately for all the “nots”, I never questioned my ability to do, or go, anywhere I wanted. Yet for the freedom that afforded me, it is also where my “imposter syndrome” started.
In my earliest memories I’m the leader of the pack. There’s a group of between six and a dozen kids that ran, largely without overt supervision, in a newly developed neighbourhood in western Canada. The landscape was so new and raw, we had wonderful piles of dirt to build and mould into whatever fantasy we wanted. Fences had not yet been erected, so the ‘backyards’ all ran together in this wonderful moonscape, pirate’s den or western frontier. Whatever played on TV, we imagined ourselves part of; Lost in Space, The Lone Ranger or fighting on the western front.
Somewhere around the age of ten or eleven, things started to change. I went from being the centre of my little world to the bullied kid at school. It would be easy to play the victim here, but here’s the rub, I was partly responsible. Somewhere I had found that as my local popularity diminished, if I played the hypochondriac, I got attention. Children saw through this and attacked – a bit like rabid dogs. I had never learned to defend myself and didn’t do so for the next couple of years.
It was only when I finally stood up for myself that the direct harassment stopped. By then the damage had been done. Bullying had happened with such normalcy and consistency that I ingested it, and over time, I began to believe it myself. I knew I was being a fraud (it’s why I have no time for malingering or hypochondria now). Children learn what they live, and as a direct result they will model what they see, whether it’s good or bad. I was isolated and alone. But I had also learned to present a front. I still did well in school and none of my teachers were aware of my torment. My mother was, but she was in no better place to handle rejection and discontent, they were not skills she had developed – here is part of the modelling behavior.
As I progressed through my teen years and into my twenties, my public-presented face solidified. I finished school, I had friends, I danced, and I traveled. But I couldn’t maintain relationships, after all, I’m not good enough, nor am I deserving. That was the most consistent message and the one that would ultimately define my path.
What I now know (it’s only taken 60 years and covid reflection time to find this out) is if I don’t value myself, if I don’t see myself as worthy, no one else will. A lifetime of introspection came to an amazing realization when I sat down and listed what I like in friends and people. What am I attracted to? What is of value? And maybe most importantly, what traits do I have that people look for in me to be a friend? When I could answer that, I began to understand my own value.
This is sounding overly simplistic, there is nothing I can do about the past except make sure that it doesn’t determine my future. I can choose to be me, raw, earnest me. I matter. I can seek attention, or I can stay quiet in the corner, both are me. I can do or be anything I want to be. It’s up to me, my intentions, my perseverance. If I fail, I will have learned something. And if I succeed, I will fly.