I’ve seen a lot of posts, panels, classes, even specific counseling practices focused on imposter syndrome, but I didn’t look it up until tonight. Until lately, I’ve not felt I had issues with this, but I do. I always feel like I’ve got an aspect of something wrong, or that I’m not qualified enough to speak about something. Sometimes I feel like no matter what I say or do, it’s wrong.
A lot of people struggle with this. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many educational seminars around it. And while I’d love to just blame my childhood and being afraid to say certain things, the reality is that my childhood is only part of the problem. Humans tend to listen to those that scream the loudest. And I’ve always been the quiet type. Not shouting things or using my *big booming voice*, though I do have one.
I realized that part of the issue is that when we speak loudly–whether by our word choices being full of power or just being vocally loud–we get attention. To many of us, this level of attention can be debilitating. And why wouldn’t it be? Focus on us means attacks to come. Every time I post something that brings up politics or an idea that opposes that of the mainstream, I’m attacked. I’m not the only one either.
This is the norm.
I’m no stranger to death threats. I used to get them daily when I ran another forum. But I did it all anonymously. This blog is different. I have no avatar to hide behind. This is me. All exposed. All real. So while I still don’t intimidate easily, there’s a level of vulnerability here that my previous project didn’t possess.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the bullying aspect of this after watching a movie about a teenage girl that committed suicide after being bullied for six months. Teachers saw it, other students saw it, and no one intervened. The movie made me think back to when I was young. I saw a lot of bullying. Even got accused of it because I realized that if I was friends with a bully, then it didn’t get aimed at me. But that put me in a level of ‘guilty by association’ that I’d never do now.
The reason no one stepped in? It’s the same reason I befriended people that would aim their bullying elsewhere… It’s because no one wants someone’s abuse aimed at them. If you stand up to someone, it means you are the next target.
While this isn’t the whole side of imposter syndrome, as there are many things that make that up, it does affect a lot of people. They’ll speak out, have an opinion, share their truth, and the moment someone argues or aims a nasty comment, the person will question themselves and backtrack. Often times this will lead to a deleted post, tweet, blog, and so forth.
I too have been guilty of wanting to delete something I’ve posted. Just because someone had a nasty response or belittled me in some way. Yet their response has nothing to do with me. In fact, every time this has happened, I’ve reached out to the people that care about me and they keep me strong. They tell me, “No! Don’t delete it!” So I keep it up, and each time it’s been the best thing for me to do because it’s these posts that a few attack, that end up being so important to the majority. I get private messages telling me about it. Not usually public comments, but I’m pleased with private messages too. They far outweigh the number of insults and threats I receive.
What this tells me is that a huge factor in us questioning ourselves is that we fear being bullied. Whether in person or online. We fear being questioned. We feel we need to ‘prove’ ourselves worthy of saying what we say. When the reality is that we are worthy already.
If you’re not a scientist, don’t claim to be. Give your opinion. But give it nonetheless. Those that breed toxicity aren’t afraid to speak. They yell, belittle, bully, manipulate, and do anything to be heard over you. Why would any of us give in to this?
I don’t think I’d have even connected this to imposter syndrome except I told someone earlier that I didn’t feel qualified to speak on certain topics. Despite many people telling me I should. Even asking me to. And telling me that when I do speak out on these things, I do it well. Yet all I could think was, but I’m not qualified.
But we are all qualified to have feelings. To have opinions. To share our observations. And just because we aren’t a professional psychologist or researcher at a university monitoring mass shootings and suicide rates, doesn’t mean we don’t have valid things to say. It doesn’t mean that our words carry any less weight or that they won’t reach into the farthest depths and help someone.
Sometimes the most profound things come from children. There’s a reason why. Young kids say it like it is. They aren’t brainwashed and overloaded with filters and oppression and fear yet. They call people out. They question mixed messages in the simplest manners.
I don’t know when we learn to silence ourselves. I suppose it’s different for all of us. Sometimes we’re worried we’ll offend someone. Or make ourselves look a fool. It might be that we’re female and were taught to be passive, that our opinions aren’t as important as a man’s. Maybe we’re marginalized in some other way due to race, who we choose to love, age, social status, and so forth, so we feel we can’t speak up. All leading to the feeling that we aren’t qualified.
I came to the understanding tonight that it’s far better to use my voice than to silence myself.
Feeling ‘unqualified’ is where my particular imposter syndrome comes from. I feel like to say it I need some sort of degree behind me. But if I had that, then I’d want ten years of field research too. It’d keep going and I’d always need more proof that what I said was valid. I even have a degree in media. I’m very fortunate that I knew some amazingly smart and well-connected people early on in my career, so there are things I know that even others in my degree didn’t and may still not know. These are provable things. Facts. Yet I still question myself if someone uses a condescending voice or attacks me in some way.
I question myself when bullied.
I worry about being harassed. Not badly, but it’s there. With already being used to death threats and having a damn thick skin, I can’t imagine what others feel when they don’t have these things. I imagine it’d be a lot harder to speak out or up.
So while imposter syndrome is not an easy or small thing to deal with, and it might mean something slightly different for everyone, for me it’s about fear.
Fear of being attacked.
Fear of being a fraud.
Fear that I’m not qualified enough.
The list could go on for too long and there’s no need to list it all. The point is that I know what I do in the face of fear, and that’s face it. So that’s what I’ll do again. Face this, and keep using my voice. Because for every one that’s nasty, ten more are appreciative and grateful.
There will always be people that criticize and attack. But I won’t let them stop me.
Going forward, I’ll keep using my voice, but not just on here or in my writing. I will stand up for people in person and online that are being bullied. I will not censor myself in the face of ignorance. Because I have. I’ve allowed out of control people to intimidate me. And it’s led me down a path of fear and questioning myself. But no more!
I ask that you all join me in this venture. Don’t be afraid to use your voice. But don’t use it to attack. The reality is that if someone is using threats or yelling to get their point across, their point is already invalid. So use good words, right words, words that inspire and educate.