Stop. What you are going to read ahead has taken me ages to write. Partly because it has been difficult and mostly because I didn’t want to. I would love to say please don’t judge me after reading this but we all know that’s not gonna happen. Judging people is our favourite hobby after all. I admit it, I indulge in it occasionally.
If you do read it, please don’t pity me. That’s not what I want. If I wanted pity, I would simply write about my sex life. Rather, try to understand instead.
I am trying to explain my behaviour because some of you do deserve this explanation. That apart, I hope some of you who also feel the same can reach out to me. I may be just one person but I make for a hell of a support group.
So here it goes.
a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.
synonyms: impersonator, masquerader, pretender, deceiver, hoaxer;
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Impostor Syndrome affects a lot of people who feel they are not good enough at what they do despite of their achievements. Let’s get this out of the way. My version of Impostor Syndrome has nothing to do with my achievements because, well, I haven’t really achieved anything of note. I have never done anything, professionally or otherwise, that no one else could have done better. So, yeah, don’t worry no issues there.
My Impostor Syndrome affects me at a far more personal level. It affects me as an individual rather than as a professional. It affects my relationship with people, unbeknown to them.
My impostor syndrome is the reason why I am reluctant to leave home. I just don’t like to go out and spend time with you lovely people, only feel like I am cheating them.
If I am invited to someone’s home and I am the only person there then I am still okay. I feel since I am the only person that they have asked to come over then they probably wanted to meet me and I feel very grateful to them. But if there is a group of people around, it kicks in.
I look around and see these beautiful, talented and amazing people and I wonder what am I doing here? What did I do that they felt obliged to invite me? What can I do to be worthy of it? Should I not have RSVP’d so maybe they could have invited someone else they probably wanted to invite, but didn’t as I took up one slot? Am I, by showing up, denying them company of someone else who would have made for a much better company and a better friend too?
And all these questions are arising in my head while I am there trying to make conversations. Everything I say or do, I am constantly analysing in my head. Am I being funny enough? Could they interpret that as rude? I don’t know if they thought it was rude but should I apologise any way? Apologise now in public or message later? Did I look at that person a tad too long or did I just look away too quickly? Either way, I creeped them out, didn’t I? Now they will wonder what kind of friends the host has. I just shouldn’t have shown up. Why did I not make an excuse this time? What can I do to be acceptable? Is it too soon to get out of here? What’s the earliest I can get out of here without making the hosts feel I didn’t want to be at their party? Or shouldI hang around till the end so they feel I had a lot of fun and will invite me again?
The list is endless.
This is why when I am invited to a party I hope they want me to cook because I think I am decent enough cook to make up for my lack of everything else. When I cook for people I feel I may have done enough to earn my place there. I am able to justify being there to myself. It also means I spend less time with people at the party, so in my head, it is lesser chance they will figure out what an impostor I am.
There could be N number of reasons for this but I can’t and don’t want to go into most of them. But I can talk about the most obvious ones. Yes, a major factor has been with the way I feel about my looks, my personality and my social skills. So much for all my being cocky on the internet and pretending to be a sort of calm and collected person. Even the calmest of the oceans have storms brewing deep inside them.
I have never liked my face and I am okay with accepting that. I can live with it. But I am beautiful on the inside (some times)! I was always skinny and now I am skinny with a belly. Hence, usually I don’t bother trying to dress up much. I have shown up to house parties and at pubs in t-shirts and cargo shorts, while sporting bathroom slippers, way too often.
But if it is an occasion, like a Christmas party or a birthday or, my personal favourite nightmare, a wedding related function I feel obliged to dress up out of respect for the host(s) and the occasion. Let’s just take the recent post-wedding party that I went for. Lovely people. I love them and yet when they invited me, I wasn’t expecting to be invited. These are very personal functions meant for family and good friends. I just wasn’t sure I had done anything to be considered a good friend.
They had people coming in from all over the country. This was too much pressure to look acceptable. I mean you could dress up a donkey all you want but when you place it among the horses it will look like a donkey only.
I dressed up and donkey’d my way to the venue but within half an hour of being there I was sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the dapper crowd. It was a great party. Fabulous location, lovely and well dressed up people. And they all were super kind to me. But did I deserve to be there?
I tried to spend the rest of the night putting to practice a skill I have developed very well – drinking while standing strategically in way that I was close enough to appear to be a part of the group of people while being just far away enough to not be part of any pictures being clicked. But friends being friends always found me when I wandered away and gave me company.
When the party got over they were all heading to a house to celebrate further and invited me too. I really did want to go but the guilt trip was already on for a while so I made an excuse and headed home where I barely slept that night.
Now if you reverse the scenario, it doesn’t affect me that much. I mean, if I have people coming over to my house, I don’t feel like an impostor. I feel grateful because they made the effort to come to my home. All that effort means they really wanted to spend time with me right? Right?
Okay fine, sometimes it is for the food but not always. I swear some of them actually like coming home because they like me. Earlier, it used to be the cat that people would come for but now they have to settle for me.
So you see, every time you want to make plan and keep asking you to come home, I am not just being lazy (or trying to get into your pants). That is some part of it but mostly it’s just that I don’t feel confident as a person outside. I am probably funnier in public but at home I am more likely to listen better and have actual meaningful conversations because I don’t feel the need to be funny to be liked. You are at my home so you already like me enough to make this effort!
It’s not just social gatherings where the impostor syndrome makes its presence felt. Sometimes even personal relationships get affected. There is always that dread that I am not as good a friend to people as they are to me. Here is a sample.
There is a friend who I am quite close to. I have barely known them for 2 years but they have made me feel very comfortable. So comfortable that I have let my guard down and let them inside. They have seen the wall, know why there is a wall and have been on the other side of the wall too. They have known the worst of me. I can’t speak for them but for me they are a very close friend.
This friend knows what I want to do when I leave the city and has been nothing but supportive and has even played along and said they would love to do the same with me. The first time we spoke about this I was very excited and happy. But as days have passed, I only have this conversation with them for a temporary joy. Deep down, I know they are just being a friend. If they really wanted to do something why would they pick me? It just doesn’t make any sense.
They could find people far more suitable within their inner circle itself. People who would do better than I could in every possible way. But they are just too good a person to not humour my delusions. A genuinely kind hearted person. And that’s what makes me feel guilty after every conversation.
There is no dream coming to life. That was never going to happen. After every conversation about it, I feel like an impostor again. And that’s not their fault. It is simply because I am not good enough. Not good enough to be a part of their future plans. They may not admit it, but they know this is true.
I feel the longer people know me, more are the chances of the mask slipping and them seeing me for what I really am, an impostor. So if after initial enthusiastic conversations, I am not talking to you often it is not because of you. Unless I have noticed some traits that I feel strongly about. It is not that I am bored of you or don’t like you.
The biggest reason I am writing this is because it has been quite a difficult few months for me. Every few years, I have a voice in my head that tells me I should leave everything and disappear. Go away to some place where no one knows me. Last time this happened was in 2011. But it passed. However, this time the voice is much louder. And it is constantly growing at the back of my head as I am spending a lot of time alone. It’s been getting louder and louder, making very convincing arguments. Giving me innumerable reasons to just pack up and disappear. It is a battle every day to tell myself that I cannot disappear as I still have many obligations to fulfil. But for how long? It is only a matter of time. If not this year then a few years from now. I know that day will come.
Having re-read what I have written, it does feel like I am just making excuses for my poor behaviour, isn’t it? It is partly true, I am not denying that I am messed up. I have had both a very privileged life so far and plenty life altering experiences which have resulted in quite a few flaws in me. But I have been trying to be a better person. I have been trying to do the right things.
I don’t plan to just whine and take pats from you. I will get better. I plan to start therapy soon to help me work on becoming a better me. Who knows in a few months when I am being cocky at your house party, it is not because I am an impostor but because I believe that I am that amazing? Let’s see if you can tell the two apart.