My recent experience overcoming shame, imposter syndrome, and feeling like I’m “not enough”
“I’ve noticed that you often seem to act based on what other people might think of you.”
A friend told me this recently and it hit me hard — probably because I don’t like the part of me that cares too much about what others think, and now, here is this person exposing that part.
Another reason why this hurt so much was that most parts of me believe that I’m a strong and confident person, and this new revelation seems to contradict that perceived identity.
So the words lingered in my awareness for days, eating at me and triggering a process of questioning and rediscovering my identity:
“Who am I if not the person I thought I was?”
“Who am I beyond what others see in me?”
“What does it mean to be authentic? Is there even such a thing?”
This made me become hyperaware of some of my specific behaviors, and I started noticing things I hadn’t noticed before.
For example, how I tend to focus on my flaws and get dragged down by them when meeting someone that I perceive as being more evolved in certain areas.
Or how much I edit and re-edit before posting something on Twitter or anywhere online, and how often I get vulnerability hangovers after sharing even the most trivial things.
Or how I measure my words, movements, and replies when I hang out with my closest friends, always afraid they’ll put me in some sort of box I don’t like, trying to live up to the “strong and confident” identity I’ve created for myself and to maintain the role in the group.
One night shortly after this talk with my friend, I was sorting through some of my old videos and blog posts, and a huge surge of shame came over me. Everything made me cringe. I felt naked, ridiculous, just wanting to hide.
It also dawned on me that this shame is present quite consistently in my life, in different degrees of intensity, and a big part of it stems from an irrational fear of not being accepted, of not being loved, of not being able to belong.
But that night something else became apparent to me: No matter how much I edit myself, I’ll never meet my everchanging standards. Therefore, the way forward has to be to just acknowledge the shame and then put myself out there anyway, if possible even more boldly than before.
When I made that commitment to myself, something inside me shifted. I still need to remind myself to do this and resist the conditioned response of holding back and shrinking myself, but I’ve become much better at noticing the shame come up and then choosing to do things anyway.
I feel that I’m still at the very beginning of this journey, but I have already learned some things that I think will be helpful to keep in mind as I continue:
- Being ashamed of my old content is not necessarily a bad sign: It can be an indicator of growth. I can celebrate instead.
- Comparing myself to others is pointless because not only will I never be like someone else, but I also don’t want to be. It’s better to notice the qualities/skills I want to emulate and then work on that, without seeing my current place as inferior.
- Other people don’t think about me or notice me as much as I think they do. Most of the time they are too focused on their own problems to even notice that I exist, let alone take time to ponder whether I am stupid or wise or both.
- I have a deeply ingrained unhealthy need to be liked by everyone. This need will never be met.
- I am usually much more ridiculous and cringe more in my own mind than in other people’s opinions.
- Shame is often a good indicator that I should probably do or show the thing that causes it.
I’m still not great at this. I still measure my words, spend hours editing myself and reviewing conversations in my head, and adapt my speech to fit in with groups I want to be a part of. And that’s fine. For now, I’m happy to catch myself and change the pattern 5% of the time.
One of the best things that have come out of this journey so far has been to connect with other people who feel the same and have discussions about it. Feel the shared humanity in this. Encourage each other to just go wild and “be ourselves,” whatever that means.
So if you struggle with this too, I just want to say that you’re doing great. Whoever you feel that you are deep down, you’re beautiful. There’s no need to hide. Ask the question, publish the video, and then if you feel embarrassed, try to see the humor in it.
And then do it again.