I have Imposter Syndrome.

Yesterday I stumbled into a shower-epiphany. I was attempting to multitask; shave my legs, listen to a financial management podcast, and plan my OOTD (That’s “outfit of the day” and yes I had to Google it the first time I saw the hashtag.) all while trying to keep my hair out of the spray as if it would melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

The podcast’s interviewee was explaining how she liked to think back to her 16-year-old self and remember what that starry-eyed girl dreamed her future would feel like. She then would use that feeling to direct her career and life decisions.

Naturally, I began ruminating on my own starry-eyed 16-year-old self.

Around that time in my life, I had just been introduced to the nonprofit, Invisible Children. I had stepped up as a leader in the club my high school put together to raise money for the organization. In a matter of weeks, we raised over $26, 000 and “won” a trip for two students and a teacher to go to Uganda with Invisible Children and students and teachers from other top-fundraising schools across the U.S.

I was selected to go. (Sidenote for anyone familiar with this story: yes, I did cringe typing “go” in that sentence…)

That trip and my whole experience working with Invisible Children shaped my dreams for the future.

Bear with me for a second because my shower-epiphany train of thought started jumping all over the tracks and I’m not even sure how it ended up where it went next.

After reminiscing my Ugandan adventure I started thinking about the whirlwind that followed and how amazing it all really was. Meanwhile, a familiar sensation was building in the pit of my stomach. Guilt. It bubbled and boiled and threatened to consume all of the positive vibes I had going on in my brain. My default setting is to let it. Anxiety whispers that I should feel guilty, I should be ashamed. Everyone is going to think you’re bragging about your life if you talk about your accomplishments.

Outside of the Invisible Children community, I was embarrassed to talk about my work. I was convinced others would think I was selfish and looking for praise and glory, but the reality, what my brain was able to push above the anxiety that morning in the shower was that I was chosen by my peers to go on that trip, I was asked to share my story with the void behind a camera lens, not knowing what would happen afterward. All the opportunities and promotions I received were earned because I work hard and care about what I do. Yes, I come from a place of privilege, but I have never taken that for granted.

I got out of the shower and let the epiphany pour into my journal. I wrote:

I refuse to acknowledge my talent, dedication, and all around awesomeness. Even writing that, I wanted to say I felt like a fraud. It is easier for me to say “I feel like a fraud” than “It’s difficult for me to acknowledge my awesomeness.” Essentially, they say the same thing: I struggle with Imposter Syndrome. But when framed negatively, it implies I believe I am an imposter, whereas if I frame it positively it says, “Sometimes my anxiety tries to tell me I’m an imposter and that I shouldn’t celebrate all the cool things I’ve accomplished because it comes off as self-centered.”

I shared these thoughts with my therapist and I could practically see myself through her eyes, watching all these pieces click into place, finally. She told me I’m always briefly mentioning experiences that she’s amazed by, but I rush over them. She reminded me that if you are worried you’re being narcissistic (a fear I had expressed early on) then that pretty much negates you from being one.

Women are especially susceptible to Imposter Syndrome because we are less comfortable acknowledging and celebrating how awesome we are. BUT WE ARE AWESOME AND WE SHOULD CELEBRATE THAT! We should definitely celebrate each other (#girlpower) but if we just wait around for someone else to notice us, we’re going to be waiting a very long time. What is that saying? The squeaky wheel gets the piece of cake with the big, purple, frosting rose? (I definitely wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted as a child…)

So I’m going to celebrate my accomplishments because I’ve done some pretty awesome sh*t:

2007

  • I was chosen by my peers to represent them on a trip to Uganda.
  • Filmmakers on the trip approached me because they wanted to hear more about me and my story.
  • After returning home I was interviewed by local papers and news outlets about my experience.

2008

  • I lobbied in D.C. on behalf of legislation that would fund efforts to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
  • Was followed around D.C. and interviewed by the Invisible Children (IC) film team.
  • IC flew me to L.A. to record the voiceover for their documentary about the Uganda trip and D.C. lobbying.
  • I ended up narrating 90% of the documentary.
  • Was elected senior class president, developed and implemented a participation tracking system that was still used after I graduated.

2009

  • Was awarded a scholarship based on my involvement with IC
  • Was awarded a full-ride leadership based scholarship to a university (I ended up turning it down)

2010

  • IC asked me to intern for a semester, that involved traveling across the country and sharing my story with schools, churches, and universities.
  • Was promoted to a supervisor position at a coffee shop after only six months
  • My coffee shop boss asked me to take on a bigger, marketing role in addition to my supervisor duties

2011

  • Spent a couple weeks on my own in the U.K. after a university-led trip to Germany and Austria wrapped up.
  • Took on a double major in PR and Anthropology in addition to working close to 30 hours a week.

2012

  • My anthropology professors encouraged me to apply for a TA position, which I got.
  • Said “yes” to a lot of social events where I met new, lifelong friends (this is really hard to do for introverts!)

2013

  • I was elected president of my university’s communications honor society, Lambda Pi Eta.
  • I was an active member of my university’s anthropology honor society
  • Graduated magna cum laude
  • My internship at a hospital was turned into a contract position because I was asked to run the hospital’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
  • Got a job in Cambodia, moved to Cambodia by myself, not knowing ANYONE
  • Visited an active “red zone” (aka tourists were strongly encouraged not to go because of possible war…) with a girl I had met the night before
  • Survived a head-on collision with a motorcycle, had surgery on my broken thumb, spent three days in the hospital, and decided to stay in Cambodia after only having been there for two months.

2014

  • Traveled to Bali with a friend and pretty much “winged-it”
  • My company asked me to extend my six-month contract to a year
  • I was asked to be a tour leader for one of our trips (I worked for a travel company)

2015

  • Stayed in Cambodia despite no longer having a job (my previous company downsized) and only having $300 to my name.
  • Found a bartending job, and scraped together some decent freelance projects.
  • Got a part-time job as a content creator for a coworking space.
  • My previous employer hired me to work on marketing/communications projects.
  • I developed a digital marketing campaign for gratitude journals and coordinated shipping logistics, which, if you’ve lived in SE Asia you know is no small feat.
  • Traveled to Phnom Penh on my own to get extra pages in my passport and spent the day exploring by myself despite my “big city anxiety”
  • Listened to my gut and made the decision to leave Cambodia

2016

  • Persevered through months and months of unemployment and job application rejections until I finally got a job that is perfect for where I am in life right now
  • Took an active role in dealing with my mental health struggles
  • Survived 2016, in general (we should all get a gold star for this, tbh)

2017

Woohoo! The present! I am in such a good place right now. It’s definitely not perfect, slowly but surely I am smashing down the anxious voice that constantly tries to derail me. I have been actively trying to improve myself and be open as a resource for those around me who need an understanding ear in regards to mental health and wellbeing.

Another accomplishment: publishing this post without breaking out in hives! (Yet…)

What are your amazing, awesome accomplishments? Celebrate them in the comments!

 

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A Farewell to Armoires

I’ve been obsessed with minimalism for the past year or so and now that I finally, FINALLY have my own place (apartment tour, coming soon) I’ve been tearing through my belongings like a child on Christmas morning.

That’s a lie. I’m actually very organized and methodical.

I’ve turned into the polar opposite of that person who just can’t get enough. I just can’t get rid of enough! But one element always stops me in my tracks: sentimentality. One minute I’m KondoMari-ing the sh*t out of my closet and the next I stumble across a t-shirt I wore once and acknowledged it just doesn’t work for me but I just can’t let it go because that one time I did wear it I met someone really cool and if I get rid of it then, obviously, that memory will also disappear.

I’m fairly rational and I know this way of thinking is illogical and could very well lead to a feature on Hoarders, so I’ve come up with a solution. Rather than take photos of the items in question, (honestly, what would I do with a photo of a pair of leggings?) I wrote them obituaries of sorts, before sending them off to find new, loving homes.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dearest dancing-cartoon-cat leggings,

I stumbled upon you while killing time at Aeon Mall in Phnom Penh. I had just watched the Minions movie by myself and was feeling a little emotionally vulnerable until you came along. I just had to have you, and your glorious tutu-clad kitty illustrations. Yes, you barely stretched over my thighs despite being size XXL, but I never felt cooler than when I paired you with my knock-off Docs and knit grandma-shawl. I may never be able to say, “I’ll be the girl wearing cartoon-cat leggings,” again, but I’d rather remember our fond times together than my fears of you splitting across my bicycling-enhanced backside. Farewell.

Sweet, sweet gray, off-the-shoulder top,

I know in reality you are merely a cheap, off-season H&M shirt but I found you at Lucky Mall and you became somewhat of a security blanket to me. If I ever felt overly-exposed on a bartending shift, I’d just throw you over my dress. You added comfort to literally every outfit and featured prominently in my first illustrations. I’m honestly having a really hard time letting you go, but our dalliances have grown few and far between because the holes in your shoulder make me nostalgic and you tend to stretch out rather quickly. And you really weren’t meant to be an off-the-shoulder top. I have a narrow upper-body and you are two sizes too big. As I’m writing this I’m realizing you have a lot more cons than pros so I probably shouldn’t be having such a hard time letting you go. Au revoir.

My darling Google/IO t-shirt,

You didn’t really belong to me so by holding on to you I’ve been subconsciously holding on to an ex. You understand why I have to let you go, right? Even though I feel really cool and tech-y when I wear you I didn’t actually go to that conference, so I also tend to feel a tad fraudulent. I just can’t have that type of negatively in my life. Ta.

Beautiful, flowy green dress from Bali,

Let’s be honest, you do not properly cover my bum. While this may have helped with tips back at the bar, in my day-to-day life it’s a bit inappropriate and leaves me feeling exposed. I’m an anxious person and don’t want to add to that anxiety by wearing you. Also, you somehow developed a hole in what little fabric did cover my backside and I’m too lazy to mend it. It seems like yesterday that I snatched you up in Ubud. We had some marvelous times during that week in Bali before you shrunk. I’ll never forget how you enhanced my photos in front of the terraced rice fields. We do have quite a few pictures together. I’ll cherish them the way I cherished you. Go with love.

 

Dating with Depression: The Unwanted Third Wheel

The following is a piece I wrote for The Mighty, a website that features stories from people overcoming mental illnesses, disabilities, and chronic illnesses. I wanted to highlight what it is like trying to date while keeping your ever-present anxiety and depression in check. You can check out the article here, or read it below.

Hi there,

If you’re reading this, it means I like you. We’ve probably been on a few dates during which I questioned you about your hopes and dreams and your views on cats. You patiently listened to my awkward ramblings and may have even found it adorable. I enjoy spending time with you and would like to continue getting to know you, so I think it’s necessary to disclose I come as a package deal. Anxiety and Depression like to tag along from time to time.

Anxiety likes to stop me mid-story to proclaim I’m being weird and no one really cares about the books I find inspiring or that time I jumped out of a plane. She’ll point out that I’m not interesting on my own and tells me I should order another cocktail, even if I think I’ve had enough. Sometimes Anxiety waits for me to get home then grills me about our date. She likes to hear the play-by-play, making me explain the details. All the while she becomes certain I messed everything up and describes what I should have done instead. Anxiety insists on seeing all of your text messages and makes me rewrite my responses so as not to scare you away by seeming overly eager. She positively can’t understand why you wanted to see me again.

Depression is a bit quieter. He doesn’t particularly like following me around and instead begs me to blow off our plans. Depression doesn’t see the point. He thinks I’m just going to let you down eventually so why lead you on? He can be pretty convincing. His favorite tactic — bringing up all of my failed relationships to prove that I’m really no good at this. Sometimes he will drag himself out of the house but he’s never on time. He’ll show up late, usually while the party is in full swing and just linger in the corner letting his presence dampen the mood. No matter what you suggest, Depression won’t want to do it. He likes to whisper in my ear, telling me you haven’t contacted me today because you think I’m boring.

Sometimes Anxiety and Depression work together. While Depression insists you aren’t interested in me Anxiety rattles of all the worst-case-scenarios. No matter how many possibilities Anxiety makes me consider, Depression always chimes in with the same response, “Why even bother?” Anxiety will wake me up with a bucket of ice water, screaming I’m wasting my life away while Depression sits on my chest, refusing to let me up.

I’m telling you this because even though they are a part of my life they don’t define who I am. I’ve gotten better at standing up for myself and they know they aren’t welcome. But they are persistent. I know, deep down that I’m the same, fun-loving girl who showed up on our first date but occasionally they do get under my skin. I won’t let them scare you away, I’ve gotten pretty good at showing them who’s boss. But still, they do like to show up now and then.