Recently I was asked to join my friend, Shohreh Davoodi in her Redefining Health and Wellness podcast for an interview on my experience seeing life through the cancer lens. The episode dropped yesterday and it’s brought up so many things for me to feel and sort through, the most pertinent and searing: the dreaded imposter syndrome. (To listen, search for Shohreh’s name anywhere you get your podcasts.)
If you have never heard of imposter syndrome, here’s a great article by Megan Dalla-Camina that provides a simple, relatable overview. In the podcast, we discuss imposter syndrome a bit, but I did not convey the feeling of the weight of instinctually and unconsciously reducing one’s achievements to luck, good timing, or something completely out of one’s control. Have you experienced this? Many women and marginalized groups struggle with this daily, as I do. It’s that feeling you get when you are asked to present to your class or colleagues. It’s there when you dream about opening your own fill in the blank here business. You can feel it when you are in a room full of successful, sage experts. That fear that you don’t belong because you aren’t as fill in the blank here as the other people in the room. It almost kept me from starting my blog. It has kept me from starting one of the many ideas I have for small businesses. It has kept me from starting my own therapy practice for LGBTIQA+ youth and young adults. Here’s the kicker: you may not even know it’s happening. If we don’t know it’s happening, we have no chance to combat it.
So when I was invited to do the podcast, imposter syndrome kicked in to high gear. I have had cancer twice now, several surgeries, chemo and all the experiences that come along with that such as becoming intimately familiar with my own mortality. You might think that obviously my voice matters, but my knee-jerk reaction was that I’m not qualified to speak on this because there are so many others whose prognosis and treatment is more dire. I know people who are going through chemo and radiation at the same time. I know people who have lost limbs because of cancer. Shit, maybe those people should be interviewed instead. I debated whether or not I should actually go through with the interview because I was afraid I would sound foolish. And this is what imposter syndrome boils down to for me: fear that I’m not good enough.
Somewhere in those self deprecating thoughts, my big picture logic surfaces reminding me that I’m an expert in my own life. I CAN do hard things. I am woman, hear me roar. Hear us roar. But to be honest, it’s more like, what the hell, I’m curious to see how this goes. In these moments, I consort with the magnanimous and supportive women in my life. Usually with a little nudge from them, I can usually compartmentalize the fear enough to say fuck it, I am going to do the damn thing. And after a little encouragement from M, I took the plunge and went through with the interview for the podcast. As always, I am so happy I did it!
Imposter syndrome is so pervasive experienced by so many. This is why it’s hugely important to support other people, especially women and marginalized groups. Tell your bossy lady friends how badass you think they are. Text loved ones to remind them that they are valid and they belong. Comment on someone’s blog, Facebook, Instagram, etc. telling them that they’re seen and that their voice matters.
How has the imposter syndrome affected you? How do you tackle it?