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:

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Girl in Greenwood
Girl in Greenwood
8 years ago

If Eckart Tolle is too woo-woo for you, you might try a book called Feeling Good. It’s basically a DIY manual for cognitive behavioral therapy, the gist of which is to learn how to notice your negative self-talk and then defuse it, thereby changing your emotions by changing your thoughts. I personally found it helpful dealing with depression and anxiety – when the little voice in my head said “you’re a horrible person!” I can now recognize that it’s happening, counter it with positive self-talk (“no I’m not! I am nice to animals and I take groceries to friends with new babies and smile at old ladies at the post office!”) which usually shuts up the nasty monologue. And I end up feeling okay. And it doesn’t matter if I believe in a true consciousness separate from the bodily world.. :)

Kim
Kim
8 years ago

This is so…amazingly explained here, that it kind of makes me angry at my therapist I give a chunk of money to every month, who gives me useful information about, oh, 60% of the time.

Artemisia
8 years ago

Oh, this. Yes, this. I have not heard of Eckart Tolle, but am willing to check something out from the library.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome is a fucking BITCH. That whole idea of believing that the GOOD you is actually YOU and the “bad” you is mostly your own bullshit talking…so hard. It makes total sense on paper, but damn if it doesn’t get jumbled in the folds of my mind. I hope to someday believe it.

It’s funny – I feel like by accepting that I have bad days but am a good person I am somehow “letting myself off the hook,” or something else that I can’t quite articulate. But I’d never think this of you! Or my best friend or even my office-mate that I don’t even really care for. Of course you are a good person and everyone has to fall apart a bit now and then. That doesn’t mean you are inherently, morally flawed.

Why can’t I believe this about myself? What fold in my brain trips up this thinking?

Artemisia
8 years ago

P.S. All of this thinking out loud is not really supposed to be about me but rather a rhetorical chat with you, about how you are feeling/thinking, too. It came across pretty thread-jacky. Sorry.

Roseann
Roseann
8 years ago

I’m currently reading a book called The Untethered Soul. It’s basically the same stuff Eckart is saying. The voice in your head, the one that tells you that you can’t do something, or whatever, is you, looking for the easy way out, or for a comfortable feeling, or whatever. It’s pretty good, but I haven’t finished it yet.
I have the imposter stuff going on in my head too. I know, logically, that I am doing really well, in life, in work, whatever, but my brain apparently thinks I am just scamming everyone.

thank you for this. It has shed a lot of light on how my brain is just jacking with me.

Mel
Mel
8 years ago

I’m dealing with Imposter Syndrome too. Knowing about it helps a great deal, but so does this (terrifying, awful, but also kinda funny) article: http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-today-the-day-they-find-out-youre-a-fraud,35133/

Mel
Mel
8 years ago

*Ugh, Impostor.

Katherine
Katherine
8 years ago

+1 on The Untethered Soul.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1572245379/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Tolle was too woo woo for me, but TUS really worked for me. And the interesting thing that happened was I felt like I needed to read it at a cellular level–like I needed to read it over and over again while doing something physical so the message could get in past my thinking, controlling mind to a deeper place that is the essence of me. For a while it was my bible and I read it while on my elliptical. Highly recommend it and love the direction you’re going with this.

Anne
Anne
8 years ago

Hey wow! It’s me, famous wise Anne! And apparently I offered some good words so now I have to go absorb that and accept that bringing that up was good, for real. I just went back and read all the comments on the last post – wow! I wish I had read them a few weeks ago, because, while I don’t love that others are going through it, it is a comfort to hear from person after person after person that it’s really just a Thing. I FOR SURE need that encouragement that I have to keep fighting my image of a sloppy, lazy person, just grifting off my employer while holding my breath until my kids (who are only 7 and 3) get old enough to one day, which may be soon, realize I’ve been phoning it in on raising them. I love the excerpt from Eckhart Tolle regarding “there must be two of us in here” – ! I have one of his books but haven’t finished it (and it’s not because anyone in my family has died! must be because I’m lazy!) and hadn’t read about that part of thinking in his work. I will definitely pull that out and devote some more study to him and other writers/thinkers/humans that fellow commenters have mentioned.

Jenna
Jenna
8 years ago

I highly recommend The Inner Matrix by Joey Klein. I’ve been working with him for 8months now and my life is completely different already.
http://www.amazon.com/Inner-Matrix-Transforming-Awakening-Spirit-ebook/dp/B00JCRPBME/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413922677&sr=8-1&keywords=the+inner+matrix+a+guide+to+transforming+your+life+and+awakening+your+spirit

Katharine
8 years ago

One of my favorite things in the world is the last minute or so of this Ze Frank video. (The video itself is wonderful, but not relevant to this post.) Stefan Bucher draws the solution to this dude’s problem, this dude who’s suffering from impostor syndrome, and the solution is “YOU DIDN’T TRICK THEM!” I think of that about seventy times a week.

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

omg. Okay. Two things:

1. I am going through this. I didn’t know it had a name, but Eckhart is too out there for me. I just stared reading Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown. My therapist recommended it a month ago and suddenly, she is everywhere. Oprah, TED talks. She’s really helping me with all this stuff and knowing you, I think you would get her better. Some of it I’m like, wha? But it’s mostly helpful. Check out a TED talk. It’s not long and you’ll get the gist.

2. I shared some wise words that you shared with me after I had one of my million miscarriages. My friend’s kid has severe autism. He smashed his head through his bedroom window tonight. I told him, “Autism shits the bed”. Best phrase while going thru a truly shirt situation ever. That wasn’t from imposter you. That was from you you.

JL
JL
8 years ago

Jeez.. a little warning I was about to watch murder would have been cool.

Shawna
Shawna
8 years ago

So the good me is me, but the bad me is “a manifestation of the negative self-critical voice in [my] own head”? I’m not buying it. I own both mes.

Having once trained as a biologist, my take on it is that the “bad” me is really just what happens when the less evolved part of my brain takes over. For millions of years, survival meant scrambling for food/shelter/etc., but when you got those things the best thing you could do was sit on your ass and conserve energy. Even better would be to consume energy (the more calorie-rich the better) and store it up.

Our instincts haven’t caught up with our lifestyles today in the developed world, where we have all our basic needs met and society now values thinness, fitness, business, etc.

Love CompassionateLee
8 years ago

I love this post, and I’m happy that you have intuitive readers who you listen to with an open heart. Happy Wednesday, Linda :)
https://lovecompassionatelee.squarespace.com/thinkoutloud/2014/10/17/101714

Shawna
Shawna
8 years ago

Also, I agree Imposter Syndrome is totally a real thing and that feeling that you’re a fraud when people acknowledge the good things you do is something many, many people experience, and it’s important to try to overcome that mindset. I suspect almost everyone experiences this to some degree, but maybe that’s because I know I’ve felt like that too and I’m projecting.

But, I also think people need to stop thinking that certain behaviours make them “bad” people – especially food-related behaviours. Sure, deliberately or neglectfully hurting other people is bad. But eating an extra slice of pie or an entire tub of Haagen Dazs while sitting on the couch for a Walking Dead marathon does not make one a bad person, and I wish more women would recognize this.

(I’m saying this more because I hear this all the time at the gym, and this thread is related and seems like an appropriate opportunity to put this out there into the world – not because you, Linda, are all “I’m a terrible person” every time you eat a cookie. Hope I’m not thread-jacking!)

(“Jacking”. Heh.)

perl
perl
8 years ago

Wow – I’m totally going to check out The Untethered Soul. I took an MSBR class last fall and it was life-changing and mind-blowing. I have a healthcare background and am very suspicious of any woo-woo activity and…for reals…this class just blew me out of the water. Anyway, TUS sounds like it has a lot of the same ideas and principles as MSBR.

I remembered that the MSBR instructor did a class in Eugene (mine was in Corvallis) – this was last spring but maybe it will come around again. http://calendar.uoregon.edu/event/mindfulness-based_stress_reductionfacultystaffcommunity_sessions_4755#.VEfrsr6YU20

cindy w
8 years ago

Totally comment-jacking here, but I learned a couple of years ago that the term Impostor Syndrome was coined by a couple of psychologists, one of whom is my kooky new age lesbian aunt’s girlfriend. So whenever someone mentions it, I’m all, “Hey, I know one of the people who INVENTED THAT!”

And yes, it is totally a real thing, and I feel it often (moreso at my job than at home, but… yes). And I also second what someone else said about it being hormone related. I started tracking my cycles on the iPeriod app just so I could figure out where my Crazy Days fall in my cycle. Turns out, it’s worst when I’m PMSing and also when I ovulate. Go figure.

Molly
Molly
8 years ago

I’ve been thinking about your post from September – I’m like that, too. And thankfully I seem to be moving out of a barely-getting-things done phase and back into right-on-top-of-things. This follow up really resonates with me, too. I already have these books next to my bed – looks like I better get reading!
So glad for your blog, thank you.

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[…] been searching for information about the idea of “impostor syndrome.” Today one of my favorite bloggers wrote a beautiful piece about the subject. It’s like when you learn a new word and the next day that word organically pops up in […]

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

It is a powerful corner to turn, that realization that the dark side of you is impossible to escape, but when you turn to make peace with her, she quiets down.

While Tolle CAN come across as woo-woo, but the essence of his message is spot on in countless ways.

Ess. Gee.
Ess. Gee.
8 years ago

I’m reading ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown right now too. And by “reading”, I mean “got through a couple chapters and crapped out.” But I feel REALLY bad right now. REALLY. BAD. Depression and anxiety are kicking hard, combined with ex husband shitbombs and bad news for a family member…..I’m on the floor. Time to pick up the book again. What you wrote in September really resonated with me, and again today. I’m searching for something to help me find peace again. While I’m no stranger to working hard on myself, I’m very frustrated that it’s so hard TO work on myself. We’re all a work in progress, but aren’t there plateaus of rest and peaceful existence? Right now for me the answer is “no. There aren’t.”

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Amy
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8 years ago

I am working through this stuff with my counselor too. A lot of what I think in my head about me stems from things that originated in my family of origin so it’s really been an effort. If it’s not just the voice in your head but a voice from the past that perhaps planted those thoughts there to begin with…well the bad stuff feels more true to me. Thank you to you and to the people commenting above. Lots to check out and read. My counselor will thank you too.

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8 years ago

A friend of mine sent me this article this morning and I immediately thought of your blog post: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/how-women-can-overcome-the-imposter-syndrome/

I have a close circle of friends, all of us attorneys, who often discuss this exact issue, both in our personal and our professional lives- although, I hadn’t heard of the name “imposter syndrome” until your blog post(s) and this article.

NancyB
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8 years ago

I am always amazed that so many other people feel the way I do!
That whole “I can’t live with myself any longer” made total sense and I’m definitely going to look him up along with the other book mentioned – Feeling Good.
I go through life day by day just existing – I want to actually feel and be aware of myself and ME.

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南一

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