I wrote about this six weeks ago which if you missed it, you can find it here. So why am I revisiting this again? Well, I had an attack once again last night. To solve a problem, you first have to identify the problem completely. I don’t think I did that then. Back to the first step. This is going to be a long post, buckle in and prepare yourself.
One way to approach this is to do the who, what, when, why and how process. The who and what I’ve already nailed down as myself and imposter syndrome. I get panic stricken about writing. I don’t think that I’m a real writer and I’m fooling myself thinking I can do this. I doubt that my writing is clear, informative or entertaining for anybody but myself.
If I stop there in this investigative series, I would use the maxim “Fake it until you make it”. In other words, act like a writer until I feel like I’m a writer. The problem with that approach is that I’ll be continually facing periods of time where I am deep into Imposter Syndrome. Each time has the potential for me to abandon this whole writing gig. It’s wearing on the soul. Case in point, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote for 19 days straight, struggling more and more as time went on. Looking back, I let my fear inhibit my writing and my word counts kept dropping each day. Eventually, I abandoned writing daily on the project and in fact have not written a single word since on the novel.
When have I felt this way? The easy answer is the most recent times. However, I believe I need to delve into the past to see if I’ve had a form of this before. This requires a lot of introspection. The first time that I can recall in my adult life is when I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and was appointed LPO (Leading Petty Officer). That put me in charge of 15 men and I answered only to the Chief and Division Officer. In civilian terms, I was the manager. For the first year I was continually beset by the feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing and was failing miserably. I made mistakes that I magnified in my mind that were job killers and was constantly in fear of being demoted. Somewhere along the line, I finally felt comfortable.
Due to my drive for excellence, I was tapped for a prestigious school that would have opened up a strong pathway for success, not only in my naval career but beyond. Only the top 0.1% of First Class Petty Officers were offered this school in my rating. This six month class started with 20 men. If we made it past the 5th month, we were guaranteed to pass. I struggled mightily and doubted myself. By the final test at the end of the 5th month, we were down to 12. Nine passed and three failed. I was one of the three. We that had failed the test were dropped from the class. Looking back, I see that my insecurities held me back and I self-sabotaged by drinking instead of studying.
Six long years later, I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Again, the imposter syndrome struck. For the first year, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being a Chief. The Navy believed in me, but I did not. That changed one day when a fellow Chief on the ship basically threw me under the bus. I was aghast! I confronted him as to why he had done so. After a long conversation it came out that he thought I was a threat to him. This confused me as I wasn’t even up for promotion for another two years. How could I be a threat? Turns out it was all about the yearly evaluations. The top 50% of the Chiefs on board (16 of us), got personal evaluations by the Commanding Officer, the bottom 50% were evaluated by the Executive Officer (2nd in command). The Commanding Officer would rank each of the Chiefs he evaluated. The higher your rank, the more likely you would be promoted to Senior Chief. I was ranked 5th that year. For a first year Chief, that was pretty much unheard of to be ranked that high. Three of the four ranked ahead of me all made Senior Chief that year including the one that had sabotaged me. I bear him no ill will and understand that at this level, politics does come into play. He became my biggest supporter after he was promoted.
After I retired from the Navy, still a Chief even though I was up for promotion, I went back to my family’s farm. While rehabbing the houses and structures, I discovered I had a talent for carpentry and woodworking. My wife and mother arranged for me to interview at the School District Maintenance facility for a carpentry job. I felt like I faked my way throughout the interview and somehow got hired. Again, the imposter syndrome was active for the first year or so. I constantly doubted myself. Once again, I doubled down on working hard at perfecting my craft. In case you are interested, I did an online album of some, but not all of my work while at the Maintenance facility and at home. You can see it here. Due to the encouragement of not only my family but also many teachers, I started a side business of custom woodworking. Guess what reared its ugly head? Yep, imposter syndrome. I blamed the failure of my side business on the fact that I hated sales and marketing. Truth is, I doubted myself and again self-sabotaged.
Why am I continually beset by this problem? Everything I have done in my life, I either succeeded wildly or crashed and burned horribly. I sought the help of a therapist and saw her for about a year. Through a lot of painful sessions, I realized that my insecurities about myself were from childhood. We worked through quite a bit of them and helped me understand why I did the things I did. Did that cure me of my insecurities? Obviously not or I wouldn’t be writing this post. One aspect that I had not considered but we had touched upon during the sessions is that my insecurities had propelled me to excellence. By doubting myself, I had worked extra hard on being the best I can be. So the insecurities were not necessarily a bad thing. But more often than not, my insecurities had held me back by not taking opportunities that I could have. This now leads us to the final part.
How do I harness my insecurities to be the best I can be and not just chuck this whole writing thing out the window? My therapist pushed me during our sessions to write a journal. I tried a few times, but didn’t follow through. The idea stuck with me and I started this blog to write daily six months after my sessions with her came to a close. It has been a tremendous help in my writing skills and habits of writing. I need to harness my insecurities to double down on writing and tell the voice in my head that I will overcome the negative aspects of my feeling like I’m not good enough. From my prior experience, this will lead to me being the best I can be at writing.
In summary, just by writing this post exploring my Imposter Syndrome in depth, I feel rejuvenated and more confident. I thank you for following me along this journey and welcome any tips that I may have not considered. Now to decide which of the four or five projects I am currently working on to focus on first. I’ll update with another post tonight.