We all deal with it: negative self-talk that comes out of the fear if we’re doing things right; if we know/are enough (what some people call ‘The Imposter Syndrome’ or ‘Comparison-itis’); Basically, putting yourself down when you could be building yourself up. This post is about my experience with this debilitating practice and how my friends call me on it.
Sitting in the Dudok café in my hometown Rotterdam, enjoying a nice cup of fresh mint tea, the sun shining outside just after the rain (bear with me – I’m setting the scene here), my friend asked me how I was doing.
Hey girl, so how are you doing?
Such a seemingly simple question, which a lot of us just blow off with: “Yeah, I’m fine.” If you do that, I’m calling you out, because you know you aren’t fine. Yes, girl, I see you awkwardly laughing behind the computer. You might be fine-looking, but as to your emotional well being “being fine” won’t cut it.
“Really, I’m Fine.”
With good friends, I don’t want to just blow them off with a general non-answer like that. The thing is, I don’t really know how to formulate an answer to that question right now. Everything is so unknown. I’m standing in front of a blue screen – but the picture still has to be filled in. So, I answered something along the lines of:
“Yeah, uh, I’m doing okay. I have good days and bad” – at least for my friend I don’t have to pretend that I’m doing absolutely f*cking fabulous because that’d be a lie. I told her that I liked working on the blog. My writing is OK. I don’t really know what I’m doing. So we’ll see how it goes. ….
Honestly, I was still giving her the elaborate version of a “yeah, I’m fine answer”, and my friend called me on it
She listened and said: “Okay. Can you say that again, except now confidently say that you write well? Own it. Can you say that you feel that you do a good job? Say that you write interesting blogs? Because I really like your blogs and you look at things with a fresh perspective.”
My Inner Meany (whose so good at this Negative Self-Talk) reared-up and tried to slap me
Huh. Flabbergasted. Just blown away. My first thought is: She can’t mean that. She’s just saying that to me to be supportive. (Hello, inner Meany – she ain’t no innocent girl, that inner voice of mine. The negative self-talk by my inner Meany ran much deeper and meaner than this, but I won’t scare you with the intricacies this time). So I sat there at the table, feeling super awkward. At her comment, I laughed (the unsmiling, constricted kind of laugh) and blushed.
I knew she was right. What I really wanted to do, at that moment, was to be able to own my talents and say: “I’m doing very well. Of course, I have my ups and downs, but it’s exciting to find out that I have a talent for writing and languages and am figuring out how I can pursue this in the form of my own business.”
Unf*ckwithable. Unapologetic. Owning it.
Instead, I sat there feeling uncomfortable – basically looking anywhere but at her. I just couldn’t get that REALITY out of my mouth. When I started saying it, but only an awkward *croak* came out. I felt totally constricted. My stomach started cramping a little bit at the idea of saying something positive about myself and my talents. I felt it sounded arrogant and maybe even untrue to say that I was good at something. After the awkward laugh, and realising she was so totally right, I was finally able to say that I was working hard to get there. Still too apologetic for my own comfort, but I am getting there.
Oh sh*t, you’ve got it: the IMPOSTER Syndrome
We all have it, the imposter syndrome – where you’re just too scared to say that you might be an expert at something for fear of being found out and corrected, or fearing that it might turn out not to be true. Like there are actually people out there waiting around the corner of a building with a camera to jump out at you and shout BUSTED.
I know I’m definitely not alone in this. My friends and I have had this conversation before. They suffer from the same imposter syndrome, as well as an affliction called comparison-itis. Unfortunately, as women, we sooner belittle our accomplishments, saying we have a little business (in Dutch “bedrijfje”), or that we did an okay/ reasonable job. We constantly compare our accomplishments to others and find ourselves lacking. If we don’t fit that job we want for almost the full 100%, we often don’t even apply for it! *gah*
I mean, arrogant? An imposter?
Let’s be real. Is it really so arrogant to state that you are good at something? No girl, you can’t say yes to this question. It was rhetorical. No, it’s not arrogant – most of the time. If you sit there saying that you are THE BOMB DOT COM, well… Just kidding.
But why is it so hard to stop the negative self-talk and say, “I am damn good at what I do?”
Really, why can’t we just say, “I’m proud of myself. I want to pursue this. And do it MY way (Even if I don’t know yet exactly what that will be).”
For sure, I don’t have all the answers. From feminism and psychology, we’ve learned that this type of thinking is something which has been conditioned into women for a long time. It’s become so much ingrained in who we are, that we don’t even notice. But that is the science of it all, and it doesn’t help me undo this personally.
What helps me is open conversations like these with the people who love me, my family, girlfriends and boyfriend, who support me in going for my dreams, and who call me out when I’m putting myself down. In return, I try to be there for them, offering the same – making them feel appreciated.
Change the negative Self-Talk
In the end, I believe change begins with you. To change this behaviour of belittling myself, I need to be conscious of doing it. Change the inner commentary. If I can do it, feeling really unsure of myself, but knowing deep down that like any other person in this world I am unique and talented – than so can you.
We might not always be sure where to start, and I am definitely not saying that it’s all easy breezy done with a snap of a finger. I stumble along inching towards unf*ckwithability one tiny step at a time. But the next time a friend asks me, how I am doing, I will try to own up to myself, and my talents, and not sell myself short by listening to all the negative self-talk.
Let’s see if we can shall we? Let’s do this together.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ –Eleanor Roosevelt
I’d love to hear how you deal with negative self-talk, IMPOSTER syndrome and comparison-itis. Do you have a way to say *FU* to that inner Meany of yours?
Let’s rock this together babe!