Today, the cloud was angry in Bauchi. First, she fumed and sulked in the morning, throwing tantrums; threatening us with thunder and lightning. When I chose to ignore her and get much needed air outside — after being cooped up in my apartment — she bristled at my pertinence and wept. She must have needed it because she calmed after her teary outburst and I sneaked out of the cover I had taken: an abandoned filling station, and continued my walk.
I’ve tried to put a name to the scent that fills the air when it rains. I haven’t succeeded but I’ve quickly realized it varies by location. In Shadawanka Barracks, it smells like a fusion of Old tree scents. In Gwalameji, where I live, it smells like earth mixed with cow-dung generously littered by the herds that come to feed on the fields close to my apartment.
Being outside after the rain had washed the earth granted me new insights. Flowers that bloomed yesterday, seemed to have cowered. I’m curious to see if it will spread it’s leaves when/if the sun comes out tomorrow. I got inquisitive stares too from people who were running to get home and probably wondered why the girl with the grey hair same color with the cloud kept walking at a leisurely pace.
I was thinking.
I was pondering over my severe unease with compliments. And my urge to hide anytime I do something people consider remarkable. Hiding includes changing my profile picture to memes, quotes or a picture with my face hidden. The same fear that grips me when someone asks “Are you a Writer?” I am afraid of that tag. I glory in being called a Teacher( maybe because I feel my years in University studying Education validates it) but feel like a fraud when called a Writer.
TJ Benson, my instructor at his just concluded online workshop sent a link to the group which helped me put a name to this problem of mine: The impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or 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”. ( Source: Wikipedia)
Another site defines it as when people believe themselves to be intellectual frauds due to an inability to internalise their successes. (Source:Theskillcollective.com)
This is experienced by most successful people. It is most likely that a person who is a perfectionist will experience this. I have. I spent many years talking about how much I wanted to write but never put pen to paper because I felt my punctuations will be misplaced.
The first story I put out, I won the Storied Monthly Contest Award (July,2016). I was asked to become a contributor. I called my best friend and danced over the news but when the call ended. I started to ask “Why me?” “it’s just luck” “it shouldn’t have been me” These doubts swarmed my mind and soon I burned out. I contributed two stories (which I still cringe at) and begged to be let off. I just couldn’t. No idea was good enough in my head and I feared that all who praised my win would soon realise that I was Jane Snow; knower of nothing.
I often cried to my friend, Zeke of my inability to write and he would say “You are writing on Facebook.” I wanted to write fiction and see it published on reputable sites. Fiction was what I considered Writing not my updates on happenings around my world and feminism.
Tj Benson’s workshop (where I wrote my first fiction in a year) , communication with positive people and identifying what this is has made it easier to manage. These are what I’ve learned over time:
- Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. If not managed, it will kill your desire before you start. Instead of helping you create excellence, you may have nothing to show. Chanel it wisely.
- Laugh at your mistakes. Embrace them. This may be cliché but it will do you a lot of good. Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Trust your process. Trust your beginning. The mistakes, rejections are all part of growth.
- In this world of many voices, learn your voice. Get acquainted with who you are. Understand the gift of solitude. Use it.
- Know that you are not alone. Fiona Buckland in theguardian.com estimates that upto 70% of successful people experience this syndrome. Some of them are Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep, Albert Einstein. They pulled through, why won’t you?
- Finally, own your success. Remind yourself every day of the steps you took to arrive where you are. Say it: I deserve to be here. At the top.