Retiring My Impostor Syndrome

“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.”
― Meister Eckhart

Sitting down to make my first SoulCollage® card, I wished to step into an experience of myself as creative, powerful, beautiful, or perhaps mysterious.  But all of the beautiful, inspirational images I had torn from magazines refused to come together into a coherent card.  Through this intuitive process of collaging one’s inner world, I intended to represent my Artist, or Goddess, or maybe the Archetype of Joy.  In other words, I wanted to make visible a beautiful aspect of myself I could feel proud of.   Repeatedly, however, my attention was drawn to an image of a disheveled, faceless man hunched and chained in a chair.  It was he that was calling to me, and the card that emerged was an image of myself that I most certainly did not wish to step into.  I was disappointed and frustrated, but put the card on my alter anyway, trusting the process to reveal what was most needed in the moment. 

In the morning, I woke with a knot in my stomach, and realized it was due to the important budget meeting I had that day with my boss.  I would review my program planning for the year and make a case for an increase in my budget.  The prospect of doing this terrified me for reasons I didn’t understand.  I knew my information was solid, my program successful and the request justified.  And yet a voice inside me screamed a warning I couldn’t name.

I looked at the card I had made the night before and suddenly it spoke to me, revealing its name and character:  

"I am your Impostor Syndrome.  I am one who believes I am not worthy, who hides chained and immobilized in the corner for fear of being discovered as a fraud.  I am one who protects you from the pain of failure by preventing you from taking action."

I sat there for a moment stunned, then gently picked up the card, seeing it in new light and humbly understanding why this was exactly the right card to make.  I thanked it for revealing itself.  I assured it that I was capable of protecting myself from failure while still taking action, and promised that we would work together to heal what was broken.  I then respectfully requested that my Impostor Syndrome stay home and not accompany me to my budget meeting, for which I would need to believe in myself.  The knot in my stomach dissolved and the meeting went very well.  That night, with journal in hand, Impostor Syndrome and I dug into my memories, finding the experiences in childhood that had caused me to form the belief that the only way to protect myself from failure is to avoid action.  The adult I am today no longer needs this form of protection, and yet like the Lone Soldier, my Impostor Syndrome has stood guard over my heart for decades.  It was time to release it, with gratitude for its dedicated service.  This is an on-going process.

I began my practice of SoulCollage® wishing to image the sides of myself that I like showing the world; but what came out was a part of me I have hidden (and hidden from) for years.  It was time to pay it respect and to learn what it needed to teach me.  Now, over 80 cards later, my SoulCollage® deck carries many images of my inner world, each of them delivering to me profound insight that I could not have accessed through thinking alone.  Impostor Syndrome is still one of the most significant cards to me, for how timely and appropriate its appearance was.  It was a powerful experience to come face to face with a part of me I was unaware of, and yet was blocking me from standing in my power and brilliance.  That experience convinced me SoulCollage® would become an important means for healing and growth in my life and, through me, in the lives of others.  Guiding people into and through their dis-owned parts is the greatest blessing of my work.

Do you have a story of confronting a part of yourself you had previously hidden?  What was it there to teach you?