Making a Move: Pushing Through Imposter Syndrome

I still remember my first professional presentation. I gave a short presentation on basic Structured Query Language (SQL) for collegiate professionals using Microsoft Access. The presentation was straight-forward stuff. No heavy-duty table linking. No temporary tables. No query optimization theory. Just plain old SELECT statements with a handful of WHERE examples. I had fifty minutes time. I was nervous, and frankly scared to death. I was not used to being in front of people and trying to demonstrate things to them. Ok that’s not completely true. I had taught Introduction to Information Systems for three years prior to that moment. But this was the first time I had done this in front of a group of peers.

Well, that’s not completely true either. In the United States Air Force, I had given two briefings on command-and-control message processing structures, one in the command post I worked in, and another in an off-building near the Pentagon for an Air Force command conference. Plus, I had helped teach a course in Chemical Warfare protective equipment (how to use the stuff) to other members of my base. So, yeah, I had experience in being in front of people and doing what I was attempting on that day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plus, I have done a handful of professional presentations since then – three more presentations at regional conferences, and a presentation at a national conference in San Diego. I’ll come back to these in a few minutes.

Before I ever stepped in front of those crowds of people to present – even in my own classroom – I have developed a sense of nervousness I have never been able to explain. After a few minutes at the front of these groups of people, my nervousness would melt back into the background, and I would be able to carry on with presenting. And apparently, I’m good at it because I have heard many praises of my presentations provided to me. Not that I would agree, but that’s a different post for discussion. I have never had a name for how I felt until the past couple of years. Imposter syndrome.

Wikipedia, which is not the greatest source in the world, notes imposter syndrome as being:

…is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

The Wikipedia article goes on to describe the terminology in greater detail from the research provided by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes, which provides even more details. I am sure there is even more in-depth research and materials that can be found (as evidenced by the detailed references section of the Wikipedia article), but what is presented in the article brings about a fairly strong example of the internal issues I have each time I step up to present any material to others.

My regional presentations, including the first one that I described here, usually had no more than ten to thirty people in attendance. The first one had fifteen people to start the presentation. By the time I brought the presentation to a close, I was told I had around thirty people there. I’m glad I had no idea of the numbers. I would literally have frozen in the middle of the presentation. When I was in the classroom, I usually had an enrollment of nearly thirty-five students at the start of the class semester. By the end, it would dwindle to around twenty students that I would see on a regular basis. Thus, my expectations were always for a consistently shrinking audience. My national presentation, I was told had over 145 people. Standing room only in a room that had a capacity listed by the hotel as 130. The only way I made it through that session was to focus on the first five rows of people and ignore everyone beyond them. I was literally shaking after I finished.

After every presentation I gave, during the rest of the time at those conferences, I would receive praise from people who attended. People would thank me in the hallways, remark on some of the humor I tried to infuse into the presentation, and I even was thanked on a bus trip to an aircraft carrier museum the next evening at the San Diego conference. I have never been good at taking praise. Every single one of these encounters was extremely awkward for me. After reading the work of Clance and Imes, I am starting to understand that much of that awkwardness comes from the effects of my own internalization resulting from Imposter Syndrome.

I have been provided all kinds of advice to dealing with this, including the “Fake It Until You make It” concept. Unfortunately, that tactic does not work for me. Faking things is a measure of dishonesty, both to myself and to others, that I just cannot deal with. If anything, this tactic only buries me deeper into the Imposter Syndrome effects and magnifies the resultant behavior within me. I withdraw from everything. I place even more pressure upon myself. That starts an even deeper and darker cycle of personal self-destruction (mental, not physical). In fact, I am currently pulling myself out of just such a cycle. Trust me, its not a pretty sight…even from deep inside, where I am. I know that this concept works for other people, but it just doesn’t for me.

So, where and how does this matter to my Druidry? Well, several times over, I have been asked to present at various Pagan conferences. Several times, I have turned down such offers. I have never viewed myself as any kind of expert on any part of Paganism – other than how I, a singular individual, approach it and apply it to my daily life. The reality is not that statement – though it is factually correct. The reality is that I would have felt like a complete fraud standing up in front of a large group of people talking about my Paganism, when I struggle with all of that within my own Daily Path.

I have made no secret over my seeking mental health assistance during my most recent bout with my own Darkness. As I have started to come out of those extremely difficult times, I have realized that no matter how scared I am of getting in front of people, I will need to do it. Not just to talk about Paganism. Not to talk about Druidry. But to talk about how that gets incorporated into one’s own fucked up life. The band Icon For Hire has a lyric in their song “Somebody Make a Move” that I feel is relevant here.

You and I, we share the same disease
Cover up, compromise what we grieve
I’ve let more than my share of revivals die
This isn’t pretty but it’s who I am tonight

My life is hardly pretty. But perhaps my struggle can be someone’s inspiration. I have my own inspirations. They struggle as well. They create as well. They set themselves to one degree or another as an example of what can be done if we decide to make a move. Right now, our world has everything locked down for COVID, and rightly so. But in the future, we will see our Pagan gatherings and conferences come back. I look forward to that day because I don’t have to be isolated from people that I love and care about so deeply. And who knows? You might even catch me giving a presentation…. well, more like a talk. Because I don’t want to be the only with something to say. I’d prefer we inspired each other to make a move.

–T /|\

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Blog Stew

It is Friday, and yes I am aware that I am a day late getting this out. No, I am not changing the blog schedule. Posts will still happen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and once on the weekend…or as close as I can stay to that schedule. Life will still, sometimes, get in the way.

So, this morning, I am drinking my cup of coffee, and trying to figure out what to write. I am still working my way through my Gwers lessons. I am still putting my Druidry back together into something that fits better to me. At this moment, nothing is different from what I have explained to this point. So, there’s nothing new to add or share here. With Druidry being a mystery school, there are some things that I just cannot, should not, and would not share. Sharing certain aspects would remove the individual experiences for others…and I would not want to rob anyone of that.

For me, that leaves a handful of smaller topics that I just cannot write full essays on, and many of which are not truly Pagan in nature. So, I guess I can write some of these into some form of a blog stew – so to speak.

These last days of President Trump’s four years in the White House have become some of the zaniest stuff I have ever seen. I don’t talk much about politics for a single, simple reason: my opinion is my own, and should hold sway over no one but myself. But the last ten-plus days have just been incredible stuff. I never, not even in my most incredible nightmares, believed I would see a mob swarm the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Nor would I have ever believed that those people would be trying to stop the electoral process, or even attempt to hold members of Congress hostage (this has been alleged in the news through several sources). Yet, here we are – a little more than a week since that moment. There is nothing that I can say that will change the minds of people who cheered on what happened. For me, it was a repugnant moment in our collective American history. Those who defaced, destroyed, and defiled property should be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. Many of them were heard on video telling Capitol Police Officers that the Capitol building was “their property”. I agree with them. But it is also my property as well. Like them, I pay taxes. My taxes help to manage the upkeep of the property, pay the salaries of those that are there, and serves as a symbol of my government. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to destroy windows, doors, and artwork there. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to assault Police Officers or to make violent threats against the politicians that are there to conduct business on behalf of every citizen of this country. I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions that get made there, but becoming a violent hooligan is just flat out wrong. So enough on that from me…

I don’t watch much American football. The fact is that I find the sport to be boring. However, my family’s roots are from the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky corner of the United States. My love of my ragged Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, comes directly from that. So, when I saw that the Cleveland Browns had made the playoffs and would be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round…well, I had to watch. In the three some odd hours of the game, I kept looking up from the crossword puzzles I was working on. It was nice to see the Browns win. This coming weekend, they play the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that tends to be stated as “the best” football team in this current season. So, apparently the Browns don’t stand a chance. That was also said about the Browns/Steelers game – that the Browns had no chance. There’s always a chance. Right?

I have written about my struggles with my own mental health issues. Primarily, the focus has been on my decision-making processes. However, another area that I have been working with my therapist on is my self-image. This is rather hard to type. I have a lot of problems seeing myself as someone worthy of anything. I run from success. If you read enough of the blog, you will find areas where I self-denigrate and utilize self-deprecating humor. But in all of that, I did not realize that I had an unbalanced sense of myself between my work-self and my personal-self. Much of my sense of worth comes from the work that I have done for a living. This unbalanced aspect of me is not the easiest thing to realize, much less try to re-balance within myself. I write about stuff like this, in the hopes that someone else reads this and realizes that my issues are like theirs. So that they know that what they are feeling is not something unique to them, and that it can be worked on. People talk about the aspect of self-love, which is important. However, one of the first steps – in my opinion – is to determine where and how self-loathing is appearing in your life. Identification, again my opinion, is necessary to figure out what to do. That’s where I am. Yes, I will blog a bit more about it going into the future.

Last, let me finish this up with some fun stuff. Reading. I have been asked what I plan to read going into this year. My answer? I have no idea. In the past, I have set down a list of books that I was going to try and read through the year. All that really did was ramp up my anxiety, and made reading feel more like a chore, rather than a fun and informative experience. This year…I have no idea what I am going to read, much less how many books I plan to read. However, I will write mini reviews over on GoodReads on what I work my way through. I am not the world’s fastest reader either. So, don’t expect a ton of stuff to start pouring out of me there. The way I look at this now, if I read one book this year – I accomplished something.🙂 Reading should be fun, not some chore I need to tackle.

So that’s it. Nothing much more than that. I could talk about the Major League Baseball off-season, but that could be three or four posts in length, and this is not s sports blog. Posts like this…few and far between.🙂

One last thought….this came via my Facebook Memories from 2012 on this day (15Jan). ” The faery-dust of magick comes from your own belief that the impossible is possible.” In my mind, it certainly is.

–T /|\

Photo by Timur Saglambilek on