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Cultural Butterfly


Living the Lie of the “Imposter Syndrome”, part 2

Recently I discovered that for most of my life I’ve been living the belief and the lie of the “Imposter Syndrome.” Recognizing this has been a necessary part of my personal transformation of metaphorically going through the chrysalis from the caterpillar to the butterfly. This is the same journey I believe we must make collectively in our culture if we are going to have the world that so many people say they want.

The “Imposter Syndrome” is a deep down belief that you’re a phony, a fake, and a fraud, even with plenty of evidence to the contrary. It’s a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or of being an inadequate and incompetent failure in the face of evidence indicating that you’re skilled and quite successful. It is a fundamental, persistent fear of being found out or unmasked. It often affects individuals who appear successful and smart.

Achievers can feel like so far they’ve made it under wraps, but the day will come when their cover is blown and they will be revealed as a fake. Often they feel that they don’t deserve their job and accomplishments, or they discount their achievements as not being “real” or attribute them to luck or hard work.

Does this resonate or fit with any of your experience?

Even though in school I was a “high achiever” and then had career success as an adult, for most of my life I felt like a phony and a fake. In my mind, those accomplishments that were so valued by society didn’t count for anything that really mattered to me, so they weren’t “real”. They were “phony and fake.” Because of that, they (and I) would never be “good enough.”

In one way that was accurate. I resisted the cultural messages that those achievements were “me” and defined who I was. At some level I sensed the lie in the message that my “doings” were more important than my “being.” Now I realize that most of my life I’ve been run by, and running from, the feeling of believing and living that lie. The good news is that the “imposter syndrome” actually served me by poking a hole in my ego’s balloon and letting the air out. It wouldn’t let me settle for what was phony or fake and kept pushing me to find real, authentic ground.

That’s the good news. The other side is the dark night of the soul I’ve gone through as I’ve worked to free myself from the feeling and experience of being trapped by this cultural lie. Not knowing what else to do, I tried to “quit the game.” I was afraid that if I was achieving things, my worth and identity would always be dependent on those measures, so I started refusing to achieve things so I wouldn’t be defined by those measures any more. I thought if I wasn’t achieving things, then I could find and be valued for the “real me.”

Nope. Trying to not accomplish things has not worked, either. I’ve learned that resisting accomplishing things just shuts down my creative flow and my well-being on all levels. On top of that, it’s simply not true that I don’t have anything worthwhile or “real” to contribute. Now it looks like this belief is just another side of the “imposter syndrome” and is also phony and fake. Sneaky, right?

So I realized that most of my life I have been living the lie of believing that I’m an imposter. This discovery has come from an intensive quest for more than 20 years to “find myself”. As I’ve learned how to accomplish and contribute from my authenticity, I have made progress with this, and I’m not finished yet!

Our culture increasingly expresses messages that being a phony, fake, and fraud is normal and expected. That’s a pervasive story and a lie. It’s the water we’re all swimming in and that we often accept as being “just the way it is,” yet it is still a lie.

I see our culture beginning to transform as a result of individuals making this journey. In my experience with living through this, it is not a pretty picture or an easy process, and yet it is absolutely the most life-giving, worthwhile thing we can do.

If any of these experiences seem familiar or strike a chord with you, please contact me. It would be my joy to support you with clarity and empowerment to make the shift, live more authentically and alive, and be the change you want to see in the world.

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