If this is something you’ve been saying to yourself lately, stop. Stop it right now because it’s a load of crap. Did you know that with the exception of flaming narcissists and sociopaths, pretty much everyone out there suffers from imposter syndrome? Every single person on the planet suffers from one type of self-esteem issue or another, but few will ever admit to such.
Social media has a lot of uses, but it can also be seriously harmful to those who bask in other people’s apparent successes. Most people fail to realize that those perfect Instagram and Pinterest posts and Facebook brags are very highly curated. For every (excruciatingly) perfectly decorated cupcake shown off, there are at least a dozen that look like a score of angels vomited frosting all over them. The photo of a happy, sleeping baby was captured during a five-minute break after a week of non-stop screaming and sleepless nights.
People just don’t want to admit to their failures and frailties because we’re all trying so bloody hard to succeed at something, anything, just for a moment.
All we ever know about other people is what they choose to share, and that’s hardly a thorough representation of who they really are. The person whom you think is the most talented being you’ve ever come across may be battling a difficult illness or severe financial woes. Those whom you admire compare themselves to others as well, and have their own self-doubts and feelings of worthlessness too… so if you can, please try to step off that wheel and end that ugly cycle.
We Are All Good at Something
If you take a moment to sit in stillness and silence and really be honest with yourself, you will, without a doubt, find something awesome that you’re really good at. It might not be something that you’d snap a photograph of in order to get “likes” on some public profile or another – it could very well be a gentle talent or skill that few others might even be aware of, but it’s something only you are capable of doing.
Can you bake a perfect quiche? Do you have the ability to calm fostered animals when they’re frightened? Coax plants to grow in ruined soil? Fletch arrows? Perhaps you have a knack for languages, or can sense other people’s emotions strongly enough to show them real empathy or compassion. Be honest with yourself, and try to step outside your own body and see how others might perceive you for a moment.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
Our own minds can be our worst enemies, especially when we go through rough patches. Frustrations, personal or career setbacks, and relationship difficulties can all throw us into downward spirals of self-loathing and recrimination, but it’s at these times that we need to be the most compassionate with ourselves. Most of us have unrealistic expectations for ourselves that we would never dream of having for others, but it’s a lot easier to be compassionate and gentle towards our loved ones than it is to show that same tenderness and kindness to ourselves.
Do you know what’s really helpful during times like these? Turning to those who love you for a bit of positive reinforcement. Start a blank document and paste into it all the wonderful things your friends have said to you so you can re-read those bits of beauty and encouragement whenever you need them.
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can even go a step further and be very honest with those close to you about how you’re feeling, and ask them to let you know about something they like or appreciate about you. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised (if not downright overwhelmed and snivelly, albeit in a good way) about just how highly you’re thought of in your social circles.
The best part about doing something like this is that you can then reciprocate. Know without a doubt that other people around you feel exactly the same way that you do; reaching out to say something kind or encouraging might help draw them out of their own quagmire.
Doing What You Love is Far More Important than Perfection
If you’re not yet familiar with the concept of Wabi Sabi, check it out. It’s a Japanese concept based on the beauty that exists in imperfection and impermanence. That which we love and appreciate need not be “perfect” in order to be wonderful, beautiful, and appreciated.
You may be holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard of perfection in terms of the things you enjoy doing, and as such, lose the joy in doing them. Try to break free from this and appreciate the doing in the moment, rather than the end result.
If you love to draw, or paint, or knit, or write, it doesn’t matter whether you end up with a masterpiece that would put Caravaggio to shame, or the greatest novel ever written; what matters is that you are doing something you love, and that makes you feel happy.
Do you know what happens when you pour time and effort into something you’re passionate about? You get better at it. Any kind of practice will help you improve your skills, and that in turn will bolster your confidence in the subject. If you’ve been struggling to learn a language, try watching a film in that tongue – you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you understand more words than you may have given yourself credit for. Have you delved into carpentry and made a wonky bird feeder without a single straight angle? Hang it outside anyway, and be prepared to smile to your very core when all manner of feathered friends stop by for some food, full of appreciation that someone has cared enough to put seeds out for them.
Have an Honest Conversation with Yourself
You might wish to sit down and be very honest about what it is you’re trying to achieve, and why it is that you’re being so hard on yourself. Are you aiming to achieve a specific goal within a certain timeframe and you feel that you’re falling short of that? If so, it might be a good idea to be more realistic with what can be achieved, and spread that timeline out a bit more. Are you feeling pretty much down about absolutely everything? You may be struggling with depression or a vitamin deficiency; talking with your healthcare provider might help to sort out a solution to get you out of that funk.
Another thing to remember is that you may not have discovered what you’re really great at yet. If you’re frustrated with the various endeavors you’ve been immersed in, try going in a completely different direction and attempt something totally new. Try a cooking class, swing dancing, sculpting, gardening… whatever it is that is the polar opposite of the rut that you currently find yourself in. Sometimes the frustration of not excelling in a subject stems from ennui.
Mother Theresa had some wise words to say about greatness, and although the context might be different from what we’re discussing, the sentiment rings true:
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
If you are doing what you love, and it’s bringing joy to you (and possibly others), then it is enough.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.