Walking into her living room, I take my bag from my back, unpack my two yoga mats, blocks, strap, speaker, essential oils, and notebook. I say ‘yes please’ when she asks me if I’d like a herbal tea and, as I start to set up for our session, from her point of view, I’m sure I look calm, collected and like I know exactly what I am doing. And whilst I do know what I am doing, for sure, the calm and collected side of things is a whole other kettle of fish (I have this talent of looking nonchalant even when I am screaming on the inside, or when I am happy… sad… some call it resting bitch face, I call it the British stiff upper lip). Inside, the reality is that my heart is beating out of my chest, and I have thoughts of failure flying at me left, right and centre. My brain launching words like ‘fraud’ and ‘fake’ non-stop into my cerebral cavity.
This is a familiar occurrence even with my regular private yoga clients, that I am a fraud, that I am not qualified for the job. And of course I am qualified. Not just in terms of certification, but in terms of experience, having been a full time yoga teacher in London for almost a year and a half, with regular and consistent private clients, I know what I am doing, and I do a damn good job. But as with all mental illnesses and syndromes, there’s no rhyme or reason or valid explanation as to why I feel the way that I feel, and in pretty much every single facet of my working life, I feel like I am faking it. Whether it’s yoga, PT, translation or social media management, some days I simply feel like I am constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the yoga/PT/translation/social media police to come up to me, sirens blaring, and say ‘Miss Cluley? Yeah, you’re going to have to come with us, we’re onto you’.
It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a real thing, and I felt such an overwhelming sense of utter relief when I was told about it by a friend who’s also a psychologist about 6 months ago. There’s a reason I feel like I’m a fraud, and it’s all in my head, okay thank the Lord. Just like with any other condition or illness, being able to put a name to it doesn’t lessen the blow or the impact, but it certainly makes you feel a little better, and like it’s not all in your head (although I suppose it kinda is), and to be able to read other people’s accounts of it, and to know you’re not alone in this big ole’ world, is soothing to say the least. It also gives you a place to start in terms of treatment. And just as when the diagnosis of my depression led me to receive treatment, having a name to put to those thought patterns of ‘you are not qualified to do this Hannah, even though you have a Master’s degree in it’, put me on the path to recovery.
I am still on that path, and as with everything it’s not linear and it has been a slow one to heal, but it certainly helps. Especially since making the move to Bali, where for my yoga and PT, I am having to really start again from scratch, and find a new way to earn money in a new world, make new connections and fully leave behind those I made in London, it is helpful to have an arsenal of positivity and factual evidence to rebut any ‘you’re not good enough’ thoughts that my ego decides to produce.
If you yourself have suffered or are suffering from the same thing, you are certainly not alone, there is evidence to suggest that up to 70% of Western people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and that it manifests in many different ways and thought patterns. For me it tends to be that I am not qualified or not skilled enough for the job, or that I got there by luck (if you asked me 6 months ago how I got over 60,000 followers on Instagram, I would have said “I got lucky” – no Hannah mate, you are actually pretty fucking cool, that’s how), but for you, it could be that nothing you do is ever going to be good enough, or that you take on too much work in order to avoid living up to your true potential. Whatever it may be, the key is to correct those thoughts where possible, but never to berate yourself for feeling a certain way. Remember it’s a journey to recovery, but it’s worth it.
Have you ever had any of these feelings? I’d love to know, so leave a comment!