Today’s Short Lesson – Imposter Syndrome

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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I have just learned that my fear of “being found out” and letting the world know that my knowledge, skills, and abilities are not as good as others seem to believe has a name. Imposter Syndrome.

I read that most people, men and women, struggle with this issue to some degree. As sad as it may seem, I feel a little better knowing this. More important, I walked away from today’s lesson with a sense of calm and contentment because I obtained information that will help me cope. For this, I am thankful. I do love accidental information.

Throughout my schooling and my professional career, I have always felt like a fraud. Not always at the most extreme but the feeling is always there. I have felt that my GPA, completed tasks, positive feedback, and even my degrees are overinflating my true capabilities. I continue to perform at a high-level because that is my personality. Yes, I also have perfectionist tendencies. However, at the end of the day, I always question, “Did I really do well?” “Someone is going to find something wrong with my work.” “Everyone is going to figure out that I am on the lower rung of the ladder.”

piranhas-123287_640To give you a better idea, In 2010, I completed my dissertation and received my PhD. To date, I have NEVER read my dissertation from start to finish because I have a genuine fear that I am going to find a mistake. Every single time that I have started to read it, I literally begin to feel as though I cannot breathe and I put it away.

Another example is that during my graduate studies, I consistently received high marks on required writing assignments from one of my professors. I thought, this guy is incompetent. Finally, I could not take it anymore and I sent him an email stressing my concern that he was not doing his job but simply giving high grades as long as the assignment was submitted on time. Well, as you might imagine, his response centered around, “If you think that I am not doing my job, you are free to drop my class.” So, I decided, maybe I should read one of my papers. Sitting on my front porch, I was about a page in and I found myself thinking, “This paper is really good.” I wrote this??? ” I apologized to the professor.  What I can do and what my internal self tells me are two very different things and often, the internal rules. These experiences have not quieted my internal Imposter voice.

shadow-198682_640I think what makes my Imposter voice so strong is that when I look around my professional world, I do not see another person who looks like me, acts like me, or truly understands who I am. Perhaps, I do not feel that I truly deserve to be where I am. (You just got a true glimpse of my internal Imposter voice).

After learning that Imposter Syndrome is real, I have gained the knowledge that I believe will help me deal with my professional fears one at a time instead of as an all-encompassing, life sucking monster.

As I approach each new task in my professional life, I plan to approach the task, not the all-encompassing fear that “this task” is going to be the pivotal one that is going to reveal that I am a fraud.

I am going to work to move to a place where I am comfortable with what others believe, Professionally, I am good enough.

Stick with me, this is going to be an interesting journey but I am always grateful for the knowledge and growth that comes when I open up.

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Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? What do you do to move forward?

Life in Pieces of a Clear Path

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“He who goes questing for what he wants may discover, along the way, what he needs.”

map-309928_640Many years ago, I was on vacation in Ecuador and had some time in the evenings to read. I had brought along “The Hour I First Believed” by Wally Lamb and finished the book near the end of the vacation. To this day, I honestly cannot tell you what the book was about without refreshing my memory but I have always remembered the line above.

That line stopped me in my tracks because it was exactly how the vacation had turned out.

I expected the tour to be like any other vacation but by the end, I was changed. I was happier, freer, and more at peace with myself that I could ever recall feeling. And to think, this had been accomplished in a foreign country with a group of strangers and no preparation for change on my part. During this vacation, I found so many emotional/internal things that I was lacking and needing. None of them had I quested for but all of them changed me in such positives way. More than 10 years later, I still feel melancholy when I think of that vacation. When I see pictures, I am immediately returned to that time and feelings.

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As I have mentioned in previous posts (A New Journey and Me On Pause), I have not been in the best frame of mind since March 2017. In addition to the content of those posts, I have struggled with the question “What’s next?” In the past, my “next” has always been another degree or a new job based on the previous degree.  At this point, thinking about “next” made me place focus on the fact that, at 49, I am in the final phase of my professional career. The phase where there are no more degrees, no more small job changes. My next “next” has to take all that I have learned and mastered and turn it into my own professional endeavor.

life-940427_640With this realization, the “What ifs” started. They were strong, loud, and painful. For a confident and determined person, the “What ifs” were debilitating. The loudest and most forceful “What If” became, “What if I do not know as much as I think I do?”  What if I do go out into the business world on my own and someone asks me a question and I do not know the answer?

Knowing that continuing on my current professional path is not moving me forward and this overwhelming feeling of fear was overwhelming. I simply stopped doing anything. I let the negative voices in my head rule me and for this and other reasons, I just cried, felt sad, and surely made others around me sad too.

Then, I started taking Black Cohosh (I am not recommended that anyone else do this) and my head has cleared. The negative thoughts have become so much more controllable. They start, I cut them off with reality in less than a second. Now, maybe it was the Black Cohosh or maybe, I had just allowed myself to get caught up in the negative thinking.

Regardless of the reason, I have come to a crossroad that requires me to get out of my own way.  It is time for me to stop each negative thought and immediately replace it with what I know to be true. Of course, I won’t know every answer. Who the hell does? Am I capable of finding an answer? Why yes, I know a lot of very intelligent people and I know how to manipulate Google so that it gives me the information that I am seeking.

In short, fear keeps me stuck in my head and that is not going to do my any good in the long-term. Thinking about my fear of not knowing the answer not only reminds me of my kindergarten experience but also this story.

When I graduated with a Master’s degree, I was a power plant operator and there was no link between the degree and my current job. Few of the guys at the plant had a degree of any kind and even fewer had ever attempted college. One of the “attempted college” guys had attended Penn State and felt he was quite intelligent. The moment he knew I had a Master’s degree, every time he saw me, he would pose some obscure question on any topic that he selected. Each time he asked me a question and I could not answer it, I simply felt stupid. I would walk away wondering why I could not answer his questions. This “game” continued for about a week. Then, one day, he asked me a question and I replied, “Randy, I did not get a degree in Everything in the World. I have a degree in Instructional and Human Performance Technology and if you would like to ask me questions in those areas, I am happy to answer them. He never quizzed me again.

It took me getting out of my own way (the self-pity and negative feelings) and looking at the situation from a realistic perspective. There was no reason for me to feel small or like a failure because someone decided to ask me a question.

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Like then, I have realized that it is time for me to step aside and once again become present in my life. This is the same presence that I have exhibited for the preceding 18+ years.

The quest of sadness and ‘What If”, menopause, and, just generally realizing that, I must look forward to the final phase of my professional life and face the reality of all that I have worked towards since I was 16 has resulted in me being able to say loud and clear, “Carolyn, you must get out of your own way!”

I have made it this far and I am going to handle the next phase as well as I handled all the others. I was not seeking this awareness. I just wanted to be scared and sad, maintain the status quo, and pretend that I would push the mark at some later date even though I knew, if I turned away from this major professional change, I would never come back to it. I will say it, I clearly wanted to be a victim.

Since March, I have not actually sought a solution to my sadness, I have simply let it happen to me. I have let it control me and keep me from doing anything. Maybe, I needed a break from always solving my problems, always being in control, always doing the right thing no matter how bad I felt.

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My quest of sadness has brought me around to being stronger than I ever thought I could be and more tuned into my life than I ever imagined. I have found that when I think I cannot do more, be more, or want more, there is always more.

How do you get out of your own way or do you give up?

Me On Pause (Not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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My current state seems to be “me on pause”, Actually, the truth of the matter is that the arrival of menopause has done more than cause me to pause, it has knocked me flat on my ass! One day, I was feeling great, happy, and hopeful about life. The next day, I turned one year older and could not stop crying. No seriously, for the last three months, if I have not been crying, I have felt as though I was going to cry at any moment.

thinker-1294493_640My question is this, where is the menopause ad or the easy to find information that would have given me a clue that this could happen? Current ads are generic, high-level, and certainly do not do justice to the realities of what menopause can be.

More important to me, why do women not talk about this as much as we talk about TV shows and where we had dinner? I have never understood why sex is such a taboo topic. For goodness sake, most everyone is doing it or has done it but yeah, that is not something we can talk about. The same with menopause. Everyone talks about the hot flashes and night sweats but I have not heard from anyone how quickly the hormones can shift; like I said, my shift was drastic and immediate.

black-and-white-1283234_640I know that everyone is different and no two people experience identical symptoms. However, I can, with confidence say, surely I know one person who has gone through a similar drastic emotional collapse due to menopausal hormones.

No one has told me this! I mentioned it in my previous post (A New Journey), is it because the worse we feel, the less we want to talk about what’s going on? Did someone tell me and I was too busy to listen. Maybe but i doubt it

The next thing that “me on pause” has caused is a “V” that has gone from being nice and hydrated for as long as I need it to be to a “V” that seems to run out of hydration within a few seconds. Yes, I have read that things do stop moisturizing.  But OVERNIGHT? Nope, I did not see that coming. Again, as women, why aren’t we talking about this. I know that others knew! Why are we keeping these secrets. Oh yes, this is too close to the uncomfortable conversation that is sex.

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As confident and strong as I am, this lack of hydration pushed me into thoughts that I never imagined I would have. The first thought, “He is going to think that I am not turned on but I am totally turned on.”  “Where is the hydration????”  Each time that the hydration did not remain and over-the-counter assistance was required, I sank even lower. Now, know this, he was not bothered and likely never thought what I was thinking but the more it happened, the more those thoughts played in my head and the more I cried.

Why did I not know that my “V” would go from rain forest to desert overnight?

Finally, I did have to “Ask Google” for assistance. I quickly learned that there are methods to correct this problem but why did it have to happen for me to find out. If women just talked, I could have been proactive as opposed to reactive.

Just so you know, I bought Replens, moisturized it for a few weeks, and my “V” is hydrating like I knew it could. Will I have to use Replens again in the future? Likely yes.

Do I feel that this is something I should be talking about? Absolutely!!

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Over the years, I have questioned whether I chose an appropriate name for this blog. Then periodically, I write a post that proves the blog name is more than appropriate. This post is one.

It is my hope to inspire conversations about the thoughts, feelings, and questions that we have (or don’t know we have) about sex and menopause.

I want women, everyone, to stop being afraid or too shy to talk about sex and menopause. and well, anything related to our bodies.

Experiencing discomfort, pleasure, pain, sadness, uncertainty, or fear are all part of who we are and cannot be avoided. If we have open, frank, candid discussions about what we are feeling and experiencing we can make life a little less scary and these conversations can help another person get through a situation or at least be prepared for what they may experience in the future.

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A New Journey

Reading Time: 2 minutes

gift-548293_640In March, I turned 49 and to my surprise, it was the worst birthday that I have ever experienced. Turning 49, not only made me focus on my professional future but also on my life in general. In addition, I have spent the last several months feeling stressed, overwhelmed, simply unable to firmly grasp how to manage a variety of life transitions that I must face. The more these thoughts consumed me the harder it became to write.

My head filled with so many incomplete thoughts that when I considered writing, nothing seemed worthy of more than a sentence, if that. Not enough for a blog post. I had no idea where to begin.holzfigur-980784_640

I find it interesting that for me, as long as things are going well, I can write. However, as my thoughts become chaotic, writing becomes impossible. Maybe this goes back to English class and the requirement for an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.

How can I write a blog post when there is no conclusion? All that I have had for months are fragmented thoughts that sometimes could not even be compiled into a meaningful sentence. These fragments endlessly spinning in my head. Before I get to the end of one, there is another to negate it or a thought that is unrelated, demanding my attention.

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With each fragmented thought, the stress, uncertainty, and emotional instability are unbearable.

This is not me. This is not how I handle things. I am have always had a conclusion even before the problem is fully presented.  Now, for months, there are only fragments, which I try to solve but later, moments, hours, those thoughts are back again insisting on a resolution. Round and round it goes, day after day.

As the months since my birthday have passed, I have also experienced some physiological changes that were unexpected and not easy for me to accept. In short, I believe that what women are told will happen as we age is not at all the full reality. Yes, our bodies change but the onset can be immediate, shocking, and unsettling. I will save this conversation for another post. Ladies, stay tuned, men too if you want to be enlightened.

I will say this, for the first time in my life, being a woman is much harder than I ever thought it would be.

Although, I still have mostly fragments and remain far from any conclusions, I am writing again because today, I finally feel in control of my thoughts.  and I want to share what is going on.

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Hopefully, I will be able to keep writing so we can take this journey together.