The Great Pretender…

Forgive me this post, but I’ve had a bit of a week and a few days of intense soul-searching.  For so long I’ve battled something in my brain that I haven’t been able to really figure out.

I’ve always, always just said to people “It’s BDD”.  And yes, I do suffer with BDD.  But that’s not the root cause.  It’s one of the side effects.  I’ve never really gotten to the root cause.

Now, I know I could talk to any psychologist or “hobby” psychologist as I like to call certain people in my life, and they’ll tell me that it probably all stems back to my childhood and that I was surrounded by women who were on a different diet every month and made comments about their bodies, each others bodies and my body.  I know that.  Many of those people have told me so.  But I feel that dredging that all up probably won’t do me any favours and will achieve very little other than find somewhere to lay the blame.  And one thing I’ve learnt in my life is that blame is not helpful or healthy.  It has a tendency to become an excuse for something else.  “I do this because of this…because they made me do it because of what they said to me”

That’s all very well, but the blame isn’t really important, what’s important is understanding  why you react how you do and what you do to change that behaviour.

I’m the first to admit that I have insecureties, I’m pretty damn sure that most of us do if we’re absolutely honest.  Until the recently I hadn’t realised what my insecurities actually are – my weight and body are an obvious place to stop.   I didn’t know until the other day that there was a “syndrome” that my thoughts and behaviours possibly come from.   I admit that, having read all the evidence, this is a self-diagnosis.  But the evidence is strong.  I’m a massive cynic when it comes to reading most things as I always feel that it’s easy to find bits that are relevant to oneself and suddenly you have something to place your faith in.  I’ve never read anything before where every sentence, across several sources, repeats back to me the words that constantly go through my own mind.

I still have these thoughts and they’ve getting worse, more magnified,  over the past few months.  Until a few days ago I was beginning to feel swamped and lost in a world that I felt I didn’t really belong.

The conversation that brought this all about is neither here nor there, but it resulted in me essentially blurting out the truth about what I was feeling, and that only happened because I was under pressure.  The person admitted it could have gone horribly wrong, but they wanted to try a new tactic with me, which was to relentlessly push me in order to get me to say what it is.  Yes, it could have gone horribly wrong and I might have clammed up even more and become even more defensive.  But I didn’t.  They did the right thing.

So here it is.

And it might sound ridiculous, as often these things do when you say them out loud.  But trust me, it’s a scary thing to face.  And it does actually sound ridiculous when I say it out, I feel like a fraud saying it.

Over the years I have had many jobs and careers, jobs and careers I have loved.  From trainier, actor, photographer, marketing, chef and one could say I had some success in each of them.  Apart from me.  I fail to see my success in any of them.

I am surrounded by amazing family, friends and have a beautiful husband I adore, and yet I feel like I don’t deserve to have any of them in my life.

I have spent a lot of my life saying things like “I’m scared some day they’re going to realise I’m not a very nice person”  or “Some day they’re going to realise I’m no good at what I do”.  There will be a day someone finds out that I’m not the expert, or the kind soul they think I am, and that one day my life will fall apart around me, all because someone found out the truth about me, the truth that only I know.  That I’m just not good enough.

Imposter Syndrome 2

Success to some is what they strive for, for me I strive to just to do what I do, success belongs to others, and if it does come my way it’s not because I’ve earnt it it’s because of luck, or lack of judgement, or because there wasn’t any other choice.

Now, all this might seem like I’m a right miserable ass, but I’m not.  I don’t spend my whole time putting myself down, not consciously at least. Most of the time I happily get on with what it is I’m doing.   But when something good happens, it isn’t because of anything I did and therefore I dismiss it after the initial “well done” type of conversation.  When I’m put in the spotlight of recognition I go in to a blind internal panic.  All eyes are now scrutinising me and one of them will see it, one of them will see that this was a one off – it was a fluke that I managed to pull something together that warranted this temporary praise.

I’ve always strived for perfection.  I’ve learnt that’s a dangerous thing.  My line manager often tells me off for using the word “perfect” when it comes to my work.  They tell me they don’t want perfect.  So I’ve been working on that part.  It’s not been easy.  I have to fight the thoughts that what I’m producing just isn’t up to standard.  A standard set by me.  The problem with this is, that if I produce something that isn’t up to their standard, my inner thoughts turned to “They’ve caught you out”.  And so the spiral begins again and the panic and worry sets in.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when this all started.  I don’t remember it as a teenager, and even though when my anorexia was at it’s worst in my late teens and early twenties I don’t remember having these thoughts.  But if I really think that through, the reason I stopped feeding myself is because my body wasn’t up to scratch compared to others.  I was the flabby one, the blob, not the perfect physique.

It’s important to say that I don’t think I’m bad at everything I do, I just think that there’s someone who can do it better than me, who is more deserving than me, who should be getting the credit instead of me.

What I hadn’t realised it quite what effect this has had on me, and now, many years later, the deep-seated damage it has done to how I view myself and my place in this world.  When you start doubting that you don’t deserve the people around you, your family, friends and husband.  When you think they deserve better than you.  These little nagging doubts creep in from time to time and before you know it they’ve spiralled in to what I can only describe as a paranoia.

So why didn’t I say anything sooner?  Well – imagine if your worst fear is actually true.

Imposter Syndrome 1

I’m on the beginning of my journey right now.  A journey to learn more about it and more importantly, how to deal with it.   Having someone tell you you’re good at your job, or that you’re a kind-hearted guy, or they think you’re intelligent – it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t believe it.

So, my first question?  How do I start believing?  What do I need to do to start making a change?  I want to change.  I want to stop.  Nobody wants to live with these thoughts.  I can look back now and see the damage these thoughts have done – how many people have I pushed away from me because I thought it would be better for them if I weren’t in their lives any more?  Too many.

I’m glad there’s a name for this.  I’m glad I discovered Imposter Syndrome – although even saying it out loud makes me feel like a fraud. Maybe I am, maybe I don’t have it.  As I said earlier this is a self-diagnosis based on reading several sources – I can’t find anything as yet to make me think it’s wrong.  I don’t however know if I believe it or not yet.  But it’s a start, and it feels like it might help.  So, here we go.  Time to take my life back.  Time be a more open person.  Time to start liking myself.  Maybe one day it’ll be love, but I’ll make do with like for now.

Even writing this down has helped a little.  Makes me believe I will do something.

And even if it’s not Imposter Syndrome, even if this is something my brain has latched on to, just giving it a name has helped as it’s given me something I feel I can beat.  It’s no longer the unamed demon lurking in the background, it has a name and a form and it can now be beaten.

Every journey starts somewhere.  This particular journey for me starts here.

I’ve lost a lot of my life to these thoughts.  No more.

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