Practicing Your Way Through Imposter Syndrome

Woke up this morning a complete fraud.

I mean, just the way I woke up was fraudulent: I’m big on having healthy sleep habits, and even have clients I coach on the subject. But I woke up at 5:45am, a full fifteen minutes before my alarm would have gone off if I’d bothered to set it, though I forgot because I was up much later than my intended 10pm bedtime due to a combination of TV, social media, and a new book on my Kindle.

wince. There’s so much wrong with that last sentence.

After I woke, it didn’t get much better. Everybody knows that you’re supposed to do your morning routine before you check social media. That’s because if you check it, then you might hypothetically waste a full nineteen minutes of your morning reading twitter where you see many of your friends raving about a convention they went to last weekend…a convention you didn’t go to because you’re busy planning another convention that couldn’t possibly measure up to the experience they had at that one.

Hypothetically, of course, you might.

That’s what Morning Routines are for, though, right? They’re there to snap you out of your distracted self-immolation and into some kind of pattern that is familiar. Yoga is great for that — focus on the breathing, focus on the asanas, lay out the mat, sun-salutation, down to all fours, cat-cow arching of the back, now lift the hips up into downward dog, feel the stretch in your (ow my ankle) hamstrings as you (dammit, it’s still not healed enough to) breath into the (bet the pedaling is going to be even worse) stretch as you pedal your feet up and down (what’s the point of a 48-year old man doing yoga anyway? Just gonna fall apart faster).

It’s not namaste. It’s namasnope.

Having proven my complete inadequacy at achieving nirvana through physical means, it was time for my sitting meditation. No frakkin’ way. I flipped on the TV, planning to circumvent actual meditation with the Yin Yoga routine that I knew would be much easier…

Remember, if you don’t have time to meditate for 15 minutes, then the solution is to meditate for 30 minutes instead. — Some Zen Guy I Read Once

I growled. I picked up my phone. I set the timer for 15 minutes, and I sat there, staring at a wall. My thoughts were not serene, I couldn’t even sit in lotus due to my ankle. My brain instigated, participated in, and closed arguments that would never happen. It tried to fix budgets that I wasn’t even looking at. It looked back at my life, at my history of wasted privilege that had led me over forty-eight years to existential anxiety over nothing much at all. Real men don’t have this kind of self-doubt was the consensus.

The timer bell went ding. Journaling next. Oh, that’s gonna be fun.

The Brain Weasels Keep Digging

I did write the page in the journal — complete with a bitter profanity at the end directed at myself for making myself write in it. Then I took my calendar and planned out every hour of the day, slotting in all the things I needed, including the breaks that a real self-employed entrepreneur would use to learn a new language or write a novel but that I would probably spend reading comic books.

About then Natasha was up, and I sighed, knowing that I was going to have to reveal my weakness to her. Normal guys would keep it hidden inside — well, let’s be honest, Real Men don’t have to communicate this kind of stuff to their partners because they don’t have these kinds of hangups.

But I’m me, instead, and with Natasha we have promised to tell each other when our particular brain weasels attack. I told her that I was having a full-on imposter syndrome , reassured her that it was not anything to do with her or our relationship, but all about things like career and projects and my own self-worth. She smiled and offered to get me more coffee. She probably was too sleepy to really register how much I had failed in my duty as a man to have control of my feelings, and I was thankful for the small blessings that since we work at home together she probably wouldn’t be quite as quick to find a replacement for me. Less opportunity for comparison, right?

As she made breakfast, she asked if I wanted mine before or after I took the car to the mechanic. It’s really amazing the series of things that went through my head:

  • Wow, you didn’t remember that? The hood latch broke yesterday, when were you going to get it fixed?
  • Well, that whole “plan your day” thing really went right down the crapper, didn’t it? And you supposedly are a personal development blogger? Ha!
  • If you were half the man your father and grandfather were, you’d have been able to fix it yourself.
  • Then again, if you had a Real Job you might have a better car that wouldn’t actually break down at random intervals.

Gotta love my brain weasels, they are inventive little varmints.

The Structure That Holds It Together

The car errand did mean that I got to my desk to start writing my blog post four minutes late, and I’m breaking one of my rules by eating that breakfast Natasha made for me while I’m writing this.

The point is, there are days when I love my morning practices. There are days when I don’t really care about them. There are days when I can’t wait to get them out of the way because I’m so excited to start my day.

And then there are days like today, when they are the only thing that keeps me from just sitting in the corner of the couch trying to make the world go away with Netflix and whiskey.

That’s why we practice. Because it becomes the support that holds us together when things get rough. It’s like the framing of a house — if it’s cared for, if it’s built with intention and foresight, you can decorate it with pretty things for when the weather is nice, and when the inner hurricane-winds of self-doubt come around, it holds you together.

I’m grateful for my practice. I’m even grateful for my Imposter Syndrome, because I’m told that it’s a common affliction among successful people, from Maya Angelou to Tina Fey to Marcus Aurelius. If I’m feeling this fraudulent, I must be the real thing, right?

Hold fast to your practice, and your practice will hold you fast, too.

If you know someone who suffers from imposter syndrome, I wouldn’t send them this article, because it’s nowhere near as good as some of the others out there which are written by Real Bloggers and Smart People. But if it’s been entertaining at all, I’d really appreciate a like or even a comment or two. You can always reach me via my Patreon page, as well.