Feeling stuck? Do you live with a chronic case of self-doubt like if you earned your advanced degree, it couldn’t mean much or that it was far too easy? Ironically, these feelings are experienced by highly successful people. As a result no matter what you accomplish, you feel like you don’t know enough and that you have fooled others into believing that you are competent, in short, an impostor. You need external validation and to get it you keep performing, living a hectic lifestyle accomplishing for everyone else to feel important. Your life is spinning out of control, but emotionally you are stuck with your secret unhappiness and self-imposed internal pressure.
What are the Signs?
- You are a workaholic at work, at school or at home.
- You use your charm around higher ups or people whose opinion you value to feel praised and validated, so that you can continue to produce. However, ultimately you attribute success to your charm or to luck, and not because you are good at what you do.
- You tell people what they like to hear. Even when you could potentially make an important clarification or implement change at work, you will agree with the boss’ wrong idea. This in fact, makes you feel more of a fake and confirms your opinion about your inadequacy.
- You don’t own what you do and qualify compliments you receive – after all, you feel like you don’t deserve it and do not want to increase your visibility.
Recently, an amazing woman with a PhD in nursing who practically ran the Emergency Room in a medical center shared that she felt stuck in her life and relationships; she felt that she had not accomplished enough. Moreover, she confided that often she knew a great deal more than the doctors, but held her tongue and followed their orders making humble suggestions. “I feel like I should go back to school and earn another degree. I enjoy being graded. Can you help me feel more empowered and at ease about myself?”
I advised her to use my technique of creative compensation to accomplish just for herself, not for anyone else - to move into her inner “garret.” A bit overwhelmed, she said, “I don’t know what creative activity I should do. Do you mean playing with Legos and building a Legoland?”
I guided her in the process of writing two separate lists - to let the thoughts flow freely without censorship, like a brainstorming exercise. Also, we allotted twenty minutes because the first few minutes usually reveal the superficial while the latter ten minutes get deeper into the subconscious.
Here are the two headings
1.What are you good at doing?
2.What do you love to do?
Based on her two lists, we found her “aha” creative activity: Quilting.
How did we arrive at this hobby? On list number one: “I am good at sewing people together in the ER.” On list number 2: “I used to love quilting with my grandmother, but stopped at age fifteen when she died. Because of her, I quilted the old-fashioned way sewing by hand.”
After Dr/Nurse finishes her first quilt, she will surely discover patches of her inner identity to see the much larger picture of her life. There will be no words to hide behind, only honest self-expression, the way art can reveal.
It is worthy to note that creativity in one area of the brain transfers laterally to other areas of the brain to help one get unstuck while finding personal empowerment.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, and is a stress-reduction specialist. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York, runs an educational site and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more please visit www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.