Impostor: a fight with myself
I didn’t know how to begin writing this piece. That’s the case for a lot of my pieces, actually. I get an idea, I start furiously writing down bullet points… and then it sits there, untouched, waiting for execution. Or it’ll be half-done, in my drafts, waiting for closure.
I’m bad at finishing things. I’m also bad at realizing when I should trust myself to start them.
It’s been this way for the past few years. The idea of FINISHING a piece, a project, something that didn’t already have someone else’s directions written all over it, has been an issue with me since my senior year of college. Part of it was a bit of laziness. Part was a sheer feeling of being overwhelmed — the, “You want to trust MEEE to do all of THIS?!” that I’m sure has befallen many a young person already laden with classes, work hours, and more responsibility than they ever told you you’d have when you were in high school. And another part, connected to the second part, was my own insecurity about what I can really, truly do.
I’m still struggling with that today. It took me 15 minutes to find the right words to begin this story. I have pitches to big-name websites sitting patiently in my Gmail outbox, half-baked blog posts drowning in cyber-dust in the Drafts section of this website. I don’t trust myself to find just the right words to give the topics justice. Any time an idea bubbles from the cauldron of words and pictures in my mind, up to the surface, it’s immediately stifled by an undertow of fears and self-doubt — you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t have the range or the experience to talk about this, you don’t even know where to begin, no one will ever trust you with something this big, just quit while you’re ahead of the game.
Impostor syndrome isn’t an uncommon thing. There are pages of Google results, trend pieces, even entire research papers dedicated to the topic, particularly in how it affects women (and more recently, how it affects millenials). It’s true I’ve never felt good enough for anything offered to me, and it’s true I’ve told myself any of my opportunities — my gig at SB Nation’s The Ice Garden, my feature opportunities with The Victory Press — were afforded me because the people in charge were my friends.
I have never believed enough in my own writing to find myself worthy of its publication, which is probably why I’ve gotten nowhere three years after graduating from college summa cum laude.
I’ve been the rocks in my shoes stopping me in my own tracks. I’ve been the sidetrack to my own success. And that hurts more than anything else to realize.
The truth is, I feel like I know nothing. I don’t know anything about the topics I choose to cover. I can’t speak intelligently about hockey, or feminism, or gender, or sexuality. People are daft for taking any cues from my scatterbrained tweets on acronyms or ally cookies. I’ve spent 26 years floating in an ether of my own self-doubt, casting myself away from recognition before I’ve even attempted to earn any. When people DM me on Twitter to stop being hard on myself after I share a piece and say, “This isn’t very good, but read it anyway,” I know it’s a problem.
But how do I stop?
It’s easy to tell myself to just stop doing it — just take pride in the time it took to research, to interview, to find the right words and pare them down so the sentences hit home. It’s easy to write a list of things I’ve accomplished in even the three years since graduating and look at them as I imagine a mother would look at her child doing something in public for the first time. It is somewhat harder for me to hold that feeling of accomplishment, that happiness that nearly drives you to tears at how great everything has turned out, and do something with it.
But I have to try. If not, I’ll be stuck here three years later, bitching about the same damn thing.
So here goes.