If you’ve never seen it, Amanda Palmer’s commencement speech, “The Fraud Police,” is a wonderful talk about imposter syndrome and the feeling that whatever you’re doing, you haven’t actually done anything to deserve it. They say one of the most powerful and pleasurable feelings humanity experiences is earned success…the sensation that your effort was what has landed you in favorable circumstances.
I think it is really interesting that to be happy with where we are in life, we have to feel like we’ve earned it. When we get the sense that we’ve been given what we have, it loses value. That makes sense, right? You don’t want to feel like luck got you where you are or your life style is supported by someone else, even abstractly. Sometimes I wonder if all the celebrities that get embroiled in drug problems or battle with depression are thrown into that doubt because they can’t wrap their minds around the idea that they really are funny/talented/interesting enough to have earned their fame. The guy who coined the term “earned success” had a lot of thoughts about it’s political ramifications, but I think the bottom line is it is why some people like capitalism so much and why talking about privilege can be an uncomfortable conversation.
The funny thing is, all you really need is the feeling of achievement. As with anything, there are elements of luck and privilege as well as hard work and perseverance. Last week my mood was oscillating a lot between extremes, and with it my perception of my achievements. When I feel great, I also have the sense that I’m moving quickly forward because of the effort I have poured into my writing. When I’m down in the dumps, so is my self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. These past few days have all been up though, so I’m feeling like I might have finally turned an emotional corner after a rugged month 😄
Moving forward, I would like to think of a way to emotionally safe-guard my self-esteem…because I feel like when that gets questioned, my sense of earned success also goes out the window. A depressive headspace is like an auto-immune disease…suddenly my brain thinks its best chance for survival is to attack my self-worth. WHY? When I’m feeling well, I have to actively and consciously keep my ego bound up and stuffed in the closet (why yes, I did land my first traditional book deal at 22…)
This past year, I’ve done a really good job of teaching my emotional expression to find a middle ground, and grow myself in a less dramatic emotional direction. Maybe the next step is figuring out how to keep my ego at a happy average. Who knew the more you grew up, the harder growing up would be? I feel like all the suffering and awkward emotional maturing of my teenage years should have been enough work on self-growth to last me a lifetime. The older I get, the more potent my interest in Peter Pan gets. I wonder if this is going to peak sometime in the next few years, or if I’m not going to stop hoping he’ll show up until I have kids of my own he’d threaten to steal.