I is for Imposter Part 3 (conclusion)
When I first learned about my shadow on my weekend in 2010, I was determined to rid myself of it forever.
If the shadow represents those aspects of myself that hide and repress, and that I sometimes project onto others, then it was clear to me that my shadow was a problem, and a problem that needed fixing.
If you have read my last few newsletters, you’ll appreciate the irony of this situation, as Ego and Shadow attempt to muscle each other out.
Shadow is whispering to me “you’re not good enough, you’re an imposter, and nothing you do will ever make any difference in this messed up world.”
And then the great fixer Ego flies in to save the day and rescue poor Dave from his bullying interior!
Talk about an internal conflict! Now one part of my mind is attacking another, and pretending it all for my own good.
Luckily I have learned over time to de-escalate this conflict, to do some interior restorative justice process, maybe even some internal community building.
I understand now that rather than try to destroy or banish my Shadow, instead I want to befriend and include it. And the same goes for my Ego.
I imagine a conversation between Ego and Shadow that looks like a dialogue between fierce political rivals, each bandying insults and lies and overstatements with emotionally manipulative language.
Ego insists there is a big problem here: Shadow is picking on Dave and messing up the program, telling me I am not measuring up, that the wheels are coming off the wagon, and that at any moment I will be exposed as the fraud I am. The spear of the attack is poison-dipped in fear and worry.
Shadow responds with a sneer: oh yeah Big Man Ego is here to fix everything and tell us all what to do, thank you for your toxic masculinity Bro! Well you can’t fix me! I am broken and unfixable, and I am the only one who can keep Dave safe from pain by keeping him small and contained: it’s for his own good!!
All this internal back and forth is exhausting, and only results in paralysis and rumination.
We need some unity here, some team work: it takes a village to raise a Dave, all voices are welcome and valued, but this is a collaborative process.
The big learning for me has been that there is no “I” that will figure this out, my consciousness is instead comprised of many voices, many perspectives.
Shadow has much to offer. He’s the one who encourages me to be careful and diligent. Even Imposter fear may provide motivation when I am slogging through transcript after transcript in preparing for my big trial. Of course there are positive motivations too, the desire to do a good job, to shine, to be of best service, but there is no doubt a bit of fear helps to keep the edge sharp.
Similarly, Ego is an essential voice: he is the one who provides structure and organization, who takes care of business. He’s the one who knows how to drive for goodness sake!
The problem arises when I get confused and suddenly I think I AM the shadow, or that I AM my ego. I lose perspective, as if my face is pressed up against the mirror.
When this happens, emotions take over, and I may become overwhelmed by the shadow’s fear or the ego’s self-righteous anger.
One thing I have learned from staffing on New Warrior Training Adventures is the power of teamwork. On the weekend, every man is critically important to the endeavor, and each has something brilliant to offer.
Where I have gotten into trouble on weekends is when I feel overwhelmed, like I am going to screw up, and the old Imposter syndrome emerges. I become afraid. I fear that I will mess up and it will be seen and I will be humiliated and maybe even kicked out. I try to figure it all out by myself, and fear telling anyone. This is a miserable way to spend a weekend!
What I have learned is that when this fear hits, it’s time to tell the truth and ask for help, and trust that the group can and will handle anything that comes up.
As I noted last time, it turns out that “I” really is for Imposter, and when I drop the I and embrace the We, so much of the fear and paralysis drops away.
Is there a place in your life where you can trade in some I for some We and get some relief?
Blessings to you all,
King Bee, Fire-Tender