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busy busy this week and haven’t been in sobersphere as much as usual… one way I can sneak recovery stuff into my life (like dicing vegetables very finely into the kids’ bolognese sauce) is by listening to sober podcasts while running errands in the car.

above photo taken today on one such errand. the fields around us are glowing neon with oilseed rape (canola for any US readers) which lights up the greyest day. it is sown in the autumn here in the UK which is how it is in full flower so early in the year.

I’ve been listening to the latest Bubble Hour podcast repeatedly – I think today was the third time I’ve heard it. it’s an absolute corker – have you heard it?

‘Imposter Syndrome’

‘Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re a fraud—that you’re somehow less qualified, less deserving of success. There is the fear that you’ll be “found out,” which may lead you to attempt to work longer and harder than others. This can be a source of resentment, exhaustion, and a sense of impending doom. While Impostor Syndrome is not solely the domain of alcoholics, many of us report deep attachments to perfectionism and its cousin, Impostor Syndrome. Many of us drank over our feelings of resentment and fear arising from the core belief that we were frauds. Now that we are sober, we can bring these fears into the light of truth. When we think, “I’m a fraud,” instead of drinking, we ask, “Is that true?” We connect with our recovery communities and see the truth of our own self-worth reflected back at us in the faces of our sober friends. We learn to discard these old patterns of thinking and replace them with healthier, more balanced ones. In recovery, we find freedom from the tyranny of Impostor Syndrome.’

it’s hard to single out specific good things to say about this podcast from an extremely long list, but here goes:

in the introduction, the guests Elisabeth and (I think!) Clarissa make an excellent summary of the years leading up to their decision to get sober and how their drinking affected them. the feelings of isolation we have in our darkest hours can be the thing that keeps us drinking – the belief that we are alone, that no-one else understands and appreciates what we are going through. hearing others talking freely about how alcohol affected their lives in the same way it did mine – in particular, how their drinking escalated after having children – is immensely freeing for me.

the main focus of the podcast was on Impostor Syndrome, which is something I have previously heard of vaguely, but not in any detail. the explanation given on the podcast had me near-constant nodding in recognition.

I was trying to find an image to illustrate the feeling they describe, and the closest I can find is this photograph by Sue Wagstaff… a fear of being found out and surrounded by condemning others. ouch…

Wikipedia describes this as ‘being unable to internalise one’s own accomplishments’ which is SO DAMN ME it is almost laughable. to give some examples…

  • there is a part of me that believes that I have managed to stay sober for over 500 days because I ‘wasn’t really an alcoholic’.
  • when I was working before children I was put in charge of a contract tender (which I duly won) but I firmly believed I was only chosen for that role because I was a woman, as one of the key client staff was female.
  • when I ran my very first 10k I met the friends with whom I was racing at the race. driving into the car park my feelings of not belonging among ‘proper runners’ were so intense as to be almost overwhelming. (I ran the race, btw, and did not turn tail, as I felt like doing.)

if you aren’t a runner, then I’m sure you can empathise with that feeling in the last example. (if you are, then dial the race up a few notches from your usual distance. imagine how would you feel about the Mont Blanc ultra, for example.)

well, that feeling permeates, and always has done, so much of my life. my relationships, my work, my parenting, my hobbies. as Elle says in the podcast, if I thought I’d achieved something then I just raised the bar. it was never, ever enough.

and I am not alone, either. for example, who said this?

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ 

only bloody Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou.

so being Mrs Fix-it, how do we get over it? well, by recognising it, in the first place. in some ways the whole of recovery feels like discovering that I’ve been unwittingly singing the words to a pop song incorrectly for my whole BLOODY LIFE and I’m only just noticing.

this article has some good suggestions, including a really helpful Venn diagram (you know how I love my diagrams!) although I think we have to be careful about more consciously internalising external validation. that stuff can be jolly addictive, too.

here’s a (really long) article which has a great line as its conclusion:

She begins to be free of the burden of believing she is a phony and can more fully participate in the joys, zest, and power of her accomplishments.’

and a final article directed specifically at graduate students (interestingly I think there are several such among my readers and in any case I think we in recovery are all graduate students at life!)

let’s take off the mask, sober amigos. we don’t need it any more.

wishing you joy, zest and power! Prim xx

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