If you’ve read through some of my postings, you know that I have been battling anxiety, depression, and insecurity for a long time. I try my best to mask what’s happening by using humor, because people seem to care more for the people who can make them laugh than the one who is always complaining about the things that are wrong.
Today, I thought I was doing pretty well. I woke up with a plan to do exactly two things today: post on my class discussion board and work on my query letter. I posted, and I opened the file to start my letter, but in both cases, insecurity took hold.
I’m pretty certain that what I wrote to my classmates is complete garbage. They’re the experts in higher education. I’m just someone who has worked in the field for 15 years and hasn’t paid any attention to anything other than my job.
With the query letter, it doesn’t matter that I’ve written a novel. It doesn’t matter that I have a pretty decent way with words. Lots of people can write; it doesn’t mean that they’re all good at it. And by they, I mean me.
I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome for a very long time. I know that I have done a lot of good things in my life, but my brain doesn’t always believe that I’m meant to be here. It doesn’t matter that I have two degrees and am a year and half out from my third. Nor does it matter that I’ve been writing both professionally and personally for basically my entire life. It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am today, not when I have a defective brain.
Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Know the movie Red Dawn? I was so convinced that the Soviet Union was going to invade the U.S. in the mid-eighties that I freaked out any time a plane flew overhead. I had acid reflux in kindergarten, because of my recurring nightmares about having to fight off Russians in my great-grandmother’s backyard. In retrospect, a repetitive dream in which I – a child – used a rusty machete to fight off Russians with machine guns is quite hilarious. But it’s also my reality.
As I grew older, and the USSR broke up, my anxieties shifted. In high school, as I spent winter breaks and weekends babysitting my cousin’s toddler, I would lie in bed imagining someone breaking into her house. I had an escape plan for every scenario my overly stimulated brain could imagine. As a result, the lack of sleep caught up to me, and I wound up getting physically sick.
My anxiety and imposter syndrome are best friends. They hang out together and wait until I have a decent amount of confidence before attacking. I swear, their favorite activity is destroying anything positive I have built up. Which is why I’m typing this today.
I know I am not alone when it comes to imposter syndrome and anxiety. I don’t even have a surefire way to power through when they set in. I just liken them to walking. Put one foot in front of the other and repeat until you’ve gotten to your destination. Or in this case, typing one word after another until the words form a completed narrative.
What I write doesn’t have to be great right now. The simple act of getting the words on the page will be a huge accomplishment. Then, when I’m feeling like the word FAKE is no longer hanging over my head blinking like a neon sign, I’ll worry about how good or bad things are. If not, the bad feelings win. And I can’t afford to let that happen. I know that I have fought incredibly hard to get to where I am today. I can’t let a case of imposter syndrome keep me from achieving goals I’ve had my entire life.
So, enough whinging. Time to start fighting back.