I don’t think anyone was hanging on the edge of their seat or anything, but I wanted to follow up on a blog post I published in September. At that time, I wrote about how I was sort of struggling to accept the fact that life has been rolling along in a super positive fashion lately. I feel productive, I feel confident, I’m busy but I feel on top of things rather than being overwhelmed by things, I’m enjoying the skin/stress/weight/sleep/energy payoff of having stayed in my fitness/health A game for several weeks in a row now. But of course I also feel like this is all temporary and it’s only a matter of time until I backslide into the Land of Inertia (Required Uniform: Ratty Yoga Pants, Hooded Expression).
After I posted that entry an extremely perceptive and savvy commenter named Anne (hi, Anne!) shared the following:
I am actively trying to improve my overall ratio right now, and also trying to figure out why I’m tempted to give up for long periods when I know that the “high” periods feel really good – and it’s not like they’re intrinsically unsustainable, it’s really not – it is achievable to handle your shit well. However, one thing that really struck me in your post and moved me to comment is the thought that (paraphrasing greatly) ‘the real (you) is just waiting to emerge again and fail at everything.’ Two words – Impostor Syndrome – it’s a challenging issue. All signs point to you being a capable and accomplished person, people admire you, people are even jealous of how you’ve got it all together, but deep down you “know” that you’re just pulling off a really long con. As the accomplishments pile up, your anxiety can possibly rise further because your tower of false good qualities is getting so high, and you’ll of course be found out in the end, and the more of a fraud you are at that point, the more it will hurt your kids and everyone. OK, I didn’t mean you – I meant me. So – Impostor Syndrome.
Dude. I mean, dude. The only way that comment could have spoken to me more clearly is if it came with a tiny yet effective megaphone. I immediately researched Imposter Syndrome and felt that weird OMG I Really AM Crazy/OMG Thank God Other People Feel This Exact Same Craziness sensation wash over me (I recently experienced this when I learned ASMR is an actual thing), and last week I decided to talk to my counselor about it.
I read her part of my own entry along with Anne’s comment, and after she praised Anne for being aware of a phenomenon she hadn’t even really heard of, she told me that the more you’re mindful, present, and aware of this type of thinking, the more you come to accept yourself for who you are as a whole. The more you realize the part of yourself that you think of as a separate entity, the ‘good you,’ is just YOU — and the entity you think of as the ‘bad you,’ the sloppy lazy one, is actually a manifestation of the negative self-critical voice in your own head.
That negative internal voice is actually super common, and there’s a school of thought that says it can be silenced.
She brought up Eckhart Tolle, the … well, I’m not sure what to call him. The spiritual guru? You can read about him here, but basically he’s a popular author who writes about inner transformations. I’ve tried to read his book The Power of Now, but I kind of got lost in the woo-woo stuff and it didn’t particularly resonate with me.
My counselor LOVES him, though, and so I try to listen when she references his teachings. So Eckhart Tolle says he once suffered from major depression that went on for years, but went through an epiphany when he came to the belief that he couldn’t live with himself any longer. He writes,
And that phrase went around in my head a few times and suddenly, I was able to stand back and look at that phrase: “I can’t live with myself any longer.” And I thought, “Oh, that is strange. I cannot live with myself. Who am I and who is the self that I cannot live with? Because there must be two of me here, if that phrase is correct.”
Who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed.
Here’s another snippet from his work:
Most people define themselves through the content of their lives…. When you think or say, “my life,” you are not referring to the life that you are but the life that you have, or seem to have. You are referring to content — your age, health, relationships, finances, work and living situation, as well as your mental-emotional state. The inner and outer circumstances of your life, your past and your future, all belong to the realm of content — as do events, that is to say, anything that happens.
What is there other than content? That which enables the content to be — the inner space of consciousness.
Oof, that’s some dense stuff, at least for me. But the underlying message — that there is no ‘bad me’ or ‘good me’ — brings me peace.
I told my counselor that what she was saying sounded great and I really wanted to believe it. She smiled and said, “Well, it’s the truth.”
PS: If all this felt a little too touchy-feely for you, let me conclude by telling you that the first thing that came to my mind when I started thinking about my INNER SELF is this scene from Army of Darkness: