Ever feel like you are floating through life with no idea what you are doing, but you are doing it anyway? That has been my reality every day for the last seven years.
I started Southern Smash without a single clue as to what I was doing, but knowing in my gut this was what I was born to do. Not only smashing scales and the mental health stigma, but moreover sharing my story of recovery and healing.
Despite the inner conviction I felt about my life’s purpose, I also felt like a huge fraud. Each time I pulled up to college campuses, spoke on the phone with potential sponsors or took that deep breath before walking on stage, imposter gremlins thoughts ran rapidly through my mind.
“What the hell are you doing here? What wisdom do you think you have to share?”
“You do not belong. You do not have any letters behind your name. You got a degree in marketing for freak sake. What right do you have to sit next to a PhD, LCSW and MD?
“What is the point of what you are doing? you are an idiot wasting people’s time. Let the professionals do this.”
But no matter how many gremlins tried to attack, I managed to brush them away and continue to speak my truth. I talked to sponsors and passed out sledgehammers to passerby’s convincing everyone that not only did I know what I was doing, but that they needed to join the movement too. Every event I became more and more confident in my work and in my right to tell my story. The gremlins never totally disappeared, but such is our critical mind.
Four years later, I find myself starting over as an Imposter. You might wonder why I feel I am starting over. Let me explain:
As life goes, I kept hitting roadblocks in life since finding recovery: Marjorie’s early birth and cancer. Then it was scan after scan. Then a move. Then dealing with the aftermath of it all with PTSD and then the death of my best friend. I kept fumbling and limping over every bump.
During the season of Marjorie and grief, the gremlins of Southern Smash had long quieted. But I felt numb to original love of writing. I longed to feel the passion to write and share again, but I felt silenced by anxiety and new gremlins.
After almost two years of muddling through grief and settling in to a new normal once again, I finally feel the pull to write again – and it feels so damn good. But not just here on my blog, but the unfinished book sitting in my computer’s “Writing” folder for nearly four years. But every time I click open that file, I close it just as quickly as my gremlins come screaming into my frontal lobe:
“Who am I to write a book? Who am I to pretend like I have something to share that my sheros Brene and Glennon haven’t shared already? Who am I to think I am a good enough writer to have a book?”
Close. Quit. Nope. Not today, Satan.
I recently had lunch with someone special in my life. As I filled her in on life (kids, work, the merger of Southern Smash and The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness), she listened excitedly as she always does, and began asking questions about what was next up for me. My stomach immediately knotted.
I wanted to tell her the fire I have had in my gut lately to do more – write more, speak more and go more places. But my imposter gremlins took over. I felt dumb and shy saying out loud what I want to be next up in my life, but finally managed to blurt it out.
She immediately starts a line of questioning, “Well, what’s keeping you? What steps do you need to take to get there?”
I just kept fumbling over my words, just like I do in therapy sessions when this comes up.
She brought up the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Certainly not the first time I’d heard it, but something clicked in my head that day. I finally answered what I have known to be true all along – my imposter gremlins have me scared shitless.
She looked at me and said, “You just have to say it. You have to own it.”
But even as I sit here now trying to ‘own’ it, the gremlins come screaming back…
So rather than rise up and face the gremlins I have found it more conducive to simply sit in my office and continue writing thoughts on scraps of paper never to see the light of day. I’ll just keep busy with my endless to do mom/work list and avoid the one thing that is forever in the back of my mind and my ultimate dream.
Because let’s be honest – life is SO much easier when we avoid our irrational fears – can I get an AMEN! If I stay safe and in my lane, nothing and (more importantly) no one can hurt or judge me or call me an imposter.
Some days I think about what it would be like to quit it all. Buy a minivan, take up tennis and actually pick my kids up on time every day. Maybe even do crafty Pinteresty mom things with them, okay well that one might be a stretch.
But that’s not me. I have worked hard to get to this authentic place of living my life in recovery, leading with vulnerability, never shying away from challenges. If I stay in my safe lane, I would not be living my truth and listening to the one thing that has helped me to overcome so many life obstacles – my gut. My God given intuition has carried me this far – why stop now?
Never in a million years did I see myself sharing my story of recovery to audiences across the country, but here I am and nothing has felt more natural in my life.
This blog was created as a landing pad for me to call bullshit on myself and my own gremlins. So this is me – calling bullshit on my feeling like an imposter. Maybe you feel the same way sometimes?
Aren’t we all just making up this thing called life as we go? Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual and starting Southern Smash did not either. But here I am – writing, speaking and imperfectly parenting along the way.
So let’s call out our gremlins and toss them out of the proverbial bus we drive through life. Let’s feel the fear and do it anyway and keep on keeping on as we make up this roadmap called life.
Isn’t the first step to recovery admitting there is a problem?
Well, then my name is McCall Manning Dempsey. I have imposter syndrome. My mind is filled with imposter gremlins, but my heart is not. I have ‘faked’ my way through the last nine years of recovery by making things up as I went, getting knocked down and most importantly getting back up time and time again. It has worked out pretty damn well thus far. I can’t wait to see what is to come with this next leap of faith.
We are not our gremlins. I am not an imposter. I belong here…and so do you.
Dawn S LiphartOctober 20, 2019 at 9:03 pm
I love everything about this! So vulnerable, so authentic! Speaks to the depths of my soul! Thank you for telling a similar part of my journey right now. I soooo needed to hear this. ?Dawn
Donna JollyOctober 21, 2019 at 11:24 pm
Wow, what an impassioned talk. Keep that passion to kill the gremlins or at least tame them, alive and you will continue to grow. And your future will evolve. Let it be and pray for direction when you feel lost. God will be there for you. I love you Mac.