Avoidance is fear- when we're afraid of fear, we avoid situations that trigger it.
I need to get my dissertation done, like yesterday. I have always told myself I would get my PhD by the time I was 30, and by the grace of God i'm on track for that. But lately I've been in pause mode on my studies. I haven't been doing any school work or finishing anything, in really any part of my life. Why you ask? Well my therapist thinks it's because I'm afraid of being successful, I'm afraid that if get all these things done, my dissertation, relationships, blog posts, then I'll have made it, but maybe people will figure out that I'm not all I'm cracked up to be. And well that would be devastating right? Right? No.
The fear of being figured out is too much for me to bare, so I'm avoiding situations that would trigger that fear. The more I type it out, the more ridiculous it sounds, but it's real. Clance and Imes (1978) call this the Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome, which was first believed to only affect women, is defined as "internal experience of intellectual phoniness" (Clance, 1985). I had a 4.0 for undergraduate and masters, and I am a research fellow now in my doctoral program, yet I still feel unqualified to be around the intellectuals. I feel as if no matter what my qualifications are, I have someway snuck my way into this elite circle, and the deeper I get into it the harder I will fall when "I'm found out."
Alright, but let's not dwell on it right? Right. I've been doing some things to help me cope.
1. Balance I have been balancing my life with equal parts academics and SOULcial stimulating activities. I feel comfortable in my SOULcial circle. It feeds my soul. They make me feel comfortable, happy and confident. Balancing this and academia, where I feel the least confident is adequate allows me not to drown in the anxiety of being "found out." It's a way to cope, not a cure, but I'll take it.
2. Journaling I have been bullet journaling for the past few months. Typically my stacks include; Future Log, Habit Tracker, Accountability Log; Monthly Log, Weekly Log and a Reality Log. The Habit Tracker is a great way to track the good things you do and the things you wish you didn't do as much. I use a grid, but there are tons of different ways to track it. Check out the link above. The Reality log helps me identify and clarify what is really happening. I write down the successful things I'm doing and then I quickly jot down, what I have done to get myself there. The process of identifying the successes; Doctoral Program->High GPA + Degrees + Experience in the Field + Networking; or something more simple like Friendships -> Support + Kind + Intellectual Capital + Innovative + Honesty + Loyalty. It's a nice tool to go back to and remind myself of what I've done to get myself to where I am at. A concrete reminder
3. Therapy Yeah, therapy. In January, I realized that I didn't have it all together, and that I could use some help. I started to take advantage of the free health services at the University. That is by far the best decision I've ever made. It really allows me to unpack some of these detrimental thoughts and confusion I have, in a safe place. A place that is meant exclusively for my self care. I love my friends and family, don't get me wrong. I vent to them all the time, but they shouldn't have to carry that burden.
4. Diversifying my Feed I know how powerful it is to have powerful people around you. My circle is filled with amazing people, but I was still missing something. At the University where I was spending most of my time, and where I felt the most like an imposter, where I was the most fearful, there wasn't anyone that looked like me, so I started searching for other black and brown scholars. I started following @blackwomenphd on instagram and a plethora of other groups geared towards people like me. I was able to connect with a group of mentors, and that experience has been invaluable.
This topic spoke to me, because I'm tired of procrastinating and avoiding things. It's draining living in this space of constant fear of being figured out; whether it is in work, academia or relationships. I would love to hear about your experiences, thoughts and suggestions. Please feel free to comment below.