Our upbringing commonly leads us to believe that time, education and merit deem us capable (or not) of our desired livelihood. And if by this arbitrary standard of weights and measures, we don't make the cut, we accept the livelihood that fate has destined us to. This complacency starts to drift over and enshroud us in the belief that we should just accept where the pecking order places us. It's this mindset in which we downlevel our worthiness and believe that right now is just not our time to deserve a better occupational fate, but maybe in the future, if we work hard enough, our actions will merit it.
I'm familiar with Impostor Syndrome. In my case, I was expected to slip seamlessly into a role in which quite literally, the shoes didn't feel like they would ever fit. But they did start to fit, over time. And I continue to humbly fill these shoes.
Some of the common dialogue of Impostor Syndrome is, Why me? I'm not worthy of this. I don't belong in this position. I'm probably just the last resort until they find someone better, someone more qualified.
Impostor Syndrome literally becomes enmeshed within our embodiment. It becomes an emotion that maybe we don't like wearing but we wear it because we've resigned to believing it. And it influences our way of being and way of relating to the world around us.
Feeling like we're an impostor can take us one of two directions. It takes us into this mindset of complacency. It takes the fight out of us. We think we are doomed, we become reserved. We become quiet. We wait. We're patient. We do what we think is expected of us.
Or there's a spark that ignites within. The fight we always have within–but it's quiet and weak because we may not fully trust we're strong enough to rise up.
It's a spark of creativity but it's fenced in by doubt, the pressure of expectation and the assumption that even before we've started, we're doomed for failure. Copycat Syndrome is a potential roadblock we can confront when we break free of the confines that fear of being called out as an impostor has placed on our every decision. We live in a society that values fierce independence in entrepreneurial endeavors, the wild individuality of creative pursuit and the utter sanctity or protecting our own intellectual property.
Let's give an example. I live in Boulder, Colorado–a mecca of mindfulness, wellness, spirituality and the related industries. I think it's feasible to make a conservative estimate that every fourth person you see at the grocery store has at least a semi-regular mindfulness practice and that one out of ten have taken yoga teacher training or considered it at some point in their lives. I really sat down with a local yoga studio owner and had a conversation with her about her path to entrepreneurship. The key point that stood out was how many people told her, "Are you crazy? You'll never make it in Boulder. There are already far too many yoga studios."
Receiving remarks like these when we're smack dab in the middle of nurturing the seedling of a creative goal (and hopefully building a livelihood out of it!) are raw and angst-provoking. Creativity on the entrepreneurial path is utterly vulnerable.
But she didn't let the naysayers stop her. She opened her studio. And sure, with anything in life there were growing pains and areas of leadership to grow into. Does she regret it? I didn't ask her in these exact terms but it's obvious that she's happy with her passion project and doesn't regret the vulnerability of the move forward on her path.
Another example–a local astrologer. I attended a lecture he was giving late last year. And what stood out most was this. When he first told family and friends he was moving to Boulder to pursue astrology he was met with, "Are you crazy? Do you know how many astrologers there are in Boulder?"
It's the same pretty much anywhere we go. A rare, unsaturated field where you're a trailblazer and pioneer in what you do is not easy to find from the onlooker's perspective. But for the individual who's in the thick of it, whose worries include being creative enough, innovative and launching the next best thing, it's a constant concern and Copycat Syndrome and Impostor Syndrome are a plight that can't just be shaken off.
Walking through the waters of Impostor Syndrome and Copycat Syndrome is vulnerable as hell. It means living from a place where you take risk, but more importantly you take action steps. And you live from this unfaltering place of integrity and authenticity. Sure, you get knocked off your feet 10,000 times, but the key is getting back up 10,001 times. You have to be willing to lose the safety of familiarity and comfort. When we're faced with these challenges, on some days, the most compelling option is cocooning ourselves into safety, staying frozen in time, and accepting our fate.
But we're not meant to stay stuck. We're meant to evolve and follow the path we've committed to for our time on this earth.
Walking through the doubt of Copycat Syndrome is a valid experience. In fact it's courageous. It's vulnerable. It breaks the stigma of knowledge being hierarchical and contributes to a new paradigm where we learn, we think, we develop our own contribution and we give back. And this type of paradigm is hopefully what we can collectively gravitate toward.
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man