This isn’t a post to try to make you feel sorry for me, but I believe that if someone is dealing with something in their own life, you should put it out there to encourage and lift up other people going through the same thing. So this is a post about myself and to encourage others who are dealing with the same thing.
In my teenage years I always had low self confidence. Growing up, I didn’t care what other people thought of me and would always just do what I wanted without a worry in the world. I was the “skater chick” and would always hangout with my older brother and his friends skating. Low self esteem wasn’t even a thing for me.
When I was a pre-teen, my family and I moved to a super small town where everyone knew each other. I was also a preacher’s kid, so I had to make sure I was living up to the “preacher’s kid standards.” As I got older, my self confidence began to take a hit. All of the sudden I went from doing what I wanted to growing up around people who would be sure to let me know their thoughts on who I was hanging out with, where I was hanging out at, etc.
People would say “does your dad know you’re hanging out there? Does your dad know who you’re hanging out with?” Of course my family always knew where I was and who I was with and it wasn’t a big deal to them. Then I realized that I had to be careful about how I acted in such a small town being the preacher’s kid. It constantly felt like I was living in a fish bowl and everyone was looking in.
I was different and didn’t like the same things that the other kids in the town liked. I didn’t go hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, or horse back riding. I hung out with my brothers and other skaters I met and enjoyed performing with the local theatre. Apparently that was “weird.” Being raised in a small town where everyone voiced their opinions about you, but behind your back, I realized that I began to start feeling self conscience. I always had to make sure I was acting and dressing like a preacher’s kid would. I was getting less and less confident and was feeling that everyone was talking about me.
Since we didn’t live in a neighborhood anymore, I gained weight and stopped skating as much. I was thinking that if I weighed less again, then I would get at least some of my confidence back. When I was 14, I decided to go on a strict diet where I would eat at most 300 calories a day and would workout throughout the night instead of sleep. In 3 months, I went from around 150 pounds to 72 pounds.
Even then, I didn’t have confidence. I felt drained and I was always tired and weak, but I couldn’t tell I had a problem and wanted to keep losing weight. Once I went to the doctor for a checkup, they told me that I needed to at least weigh 100 pounds or I would have to be sent to a hospital to deal with anorexia. When I was listening to possible side effects of anorexia and what it would do to my body in the future, I knew I needed to get back to a healthy weight.
Throughout the years of growing up in the small town, I was becoming unhappy and less confident. I knew I wanted out of a small town and wanted to travel where no one would know me and I could do what I wanted without anyone talking about me. That’s when I decided that I wanted to go to college for Broadcast Journalism. I was going to make it happen no matter what.
While waiting to go off to college, I graduated high school at the age of 16, took courses online through various community colleges, and then enrolled at William Peace University for Broadcast Journalism in 2016, where I currently am a junior. I thought that once I moved out of the small town where everyone knew me and started working towards my dream, it would give me more confidence.
But I still had a lack of confidence compared to everyone else. Losing weight didn’t help me, moving away helped, but not with my confidence, and it felt like I was still having to prove myself. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get my confidence back… until now.
I was talking with a therapist about how it’s weird that at 21 years old I am still having this problem when I shouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. She asked me how I do theatre and get on stage feeling this way. I told her that being on stage is a different feeling. It puts me in a different place and it feels like I’m out of reality for that time I’m on stage. It’s hard for me to describe.
I started to think of what I usually feel on a daily basis. Here are some of the things I jotted down: I always second guess myself and overthink, it feels like I’m still having to prove myself, I fear failing so I won’t do what I think I might have a chance of failing at, when I receive a compliment I feel like that person who is saying it to me just has to say it, it feels like I have to “fake it ’til I make it,” work harder than other people, and then when I accomplish things I just tell myself “it was just luck. I’m not really that smart.”
For example, this past semester I had eight classes. Out of eight classes, I made seven A’s and one C. Because I made a low grade in that one class, I didn’t think about the classes I made an A in. I just thought about how I am failing college because of that one low grade. I’m not even failing or close to failing, but that’s how I feel. I have also started feeling bitter.
My therapist told me that it sounds like I have developed Impostor Syndrome. I had never heard of it before, so she was telling me more about it. Then I began to listen to Ted Talks about it and research it. I had realized that this is exactly what I have. There are different types and degrees, but I knew immediately this is what I am still continuing to deal with. No wonder my confidence couldn’t come back no matter how hard I tried or how much weight I lost. This is a cognitive disorder that I have to work on.
I don’t know enough about it to write what it is myself, so I copied some articles that are spot on explaining the types I have.
1. THE PERFECTIONIST
Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand. Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, feeling like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.
Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It strikes smart, successful individuals. It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment, like admission to a prestigious university, public acclaim, winning an award, or earning a promotion. Impostor Syndrome doesn’t discriminate: people of every demographic suffer from feeling like a fraud, though minorities and women are hardest-hit.
Type #2: “I got lucky.”
The second flavor of Impostor Syndrome attributes achievements to luck. A twist on this is “I’m not smart/talented/gifted. I just work hard.”
Take Gerald as an example. He is an investigative reporter for one of the last-standing well-regarded city newspapers. He has cracked several national stories and numerous awards hang on the wall of his office. Yet he says, “Every time a feature story goes to print, I’m convinced it will be the end of my career. I got my other stories—and these honors—through sheer luck. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Type #3: “Oh, this old thing?”
In Impostor Syndrome, sufferers truly can’t take a compliment. In the last variation of Impostor Syndrome, the receiver of an award or recognition discounts or downplays the honor. “I only got an A because the class was easy.” “That race I won wasn’t really important.” “I must have been the only one who applied.” “I’m not pretty; he’s just saying that.”
Impostorism causes us to overthink and second-guess. It makes us fixate on how we think others are judging us (in these fixations, we’re usually wrong), then fixate some more on how those judgments might poison our interactions. We’re scattered—worrying that we underprepared, obsessing about what we should be doing, mentally reviewing what we said five seconds earlier, fretting about what people think of us and what that will mean for us tomorrow.
Impostorism steals our power and suffocates our presence. If even you don’t believe you should be here, how will you convince anybody else?
Where do I go from here?
In talking to my therapist, this disorder started developing from growing up feeling like I had to be a certain way to please people because in a small town, everyone was watching. I had to act a certain way and look a certain way being a preacher’s kid. I grew up that way for over 10 years, which has made me lose myself, have low confidence, and become bitter. I have to find myself again and start loving life more.
Now that I know what I’m dealing with and it isn’t just a lack of confidence and is actually a disorder, I’m not going to let this get the best of me anymore. Everyday, I’m going to work towards this disorder and overcome it. Finally. No matter how long it takes. Even if that means something as little as posting a picture of myself on my insta to make a step towards overcoming self doubt and comparing myself to other Instagrammers.
Have you heard of Imposter Syndrome before? Do you suffer from self confidence or self doubt? Are you someone who has overcome this? I would love to connect with you! Leave a comment or Instagram message me!
Until next time,