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  • Writer's pictureTamara S. Graham

Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

I have always loved silhouettes and images without personal descriptive faces. Perhaps, since my intuition can read someone better than looking at their faces. Blank faces can be non-descript mirrors for me to reflect or project my inner feelings, and maybe they are a way that I can stay impersonal, detached. At times there is comfort for me - a kind of sweetness - in the neutrality. I experience a calmness when I don't have to process the idiosyncrasies of a face's emotion. The many faces of humans can be quite perplexing.

If we stay "true to ourselves" does that mean we are locked into one persona? Aren't we all just a collage of our experiences? I have almost 57 years on this planet this time around and I am still discovering parts of myself, or finally allowing them to be expressed freely. Authenticity can also mean that you are ever-changing, improving, growing and still the "real" you on any given day.

The "imposter syndrome" is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. I think for me, it was clear early on that I knew there was a part of me I was not willing to share and therefore, who I was presenting to the world was inauthentic - an imposter.

I also felt like I wasn't like everyone else, so therefore something must be wrong with me. I often didn't recognize the girl looking back at me in the mirror. She had a secret that was buried deep in her psyche. This made me feel incomplete, like a piece of me was missing. For years I was searching outside of myself for the part of me that was actually hidden inside.

When I look at some of my childhood photos, it seems like I am looking at someone else. I had a professional photographer ask to take a few photos of me as a kid and it still feels like they are flat photographs. A snapshot of time in my life where I was just presenting a shell of myself. (Ironically, these photos were taken at a psychiatrist's home and I think his daughter's boyfriend took them for a future psychology book.)

Growing up, I had always heard how pretty I was and for a while I thought I may end up modeling some day. I think these superficial compliments just exaggerated the fact that I only allowed people to see the outside of me. I kept the "inside me" very well hidden.

Playing alone in my room I “knew” that I was part of something bigger. This “small” life that was so hard was not who I was, and I was determined to change it. I wanted desperately to grow out of it. I felt like God was in my heart, although I had never heard anyone ever speak those words. It was as if my higher self was connecting assuring me that there was so much more to life and love.

Before the age of 10, my concept of family and personal identity was shaken to the core from newly discovered family secrets. I had suddenly learned that my brother and I had different fathers - only disclosed because he needed his birth certificate for T-ball.

Around the same time, I abruptly found out that my mother and her sister had really been raised and adopted by their grandparents. So the man I had lovingly been calling "Uncle Bill" was actually my genetic grandfather. Sadly, even after that disclosure, I was never allowed to call him Grandpa Bill.

As a result, I began to question the "truth" of anyone's identity and wondered what else could be revealed later. It's like I was always expecting another "shoe to drop". I secretly wondered - actually fantasized - if I had perhaps had a twin that my parents didn't tell me about. I had always been obsessed with twins and that could explain it. Or, maybe, I just wanted to find someone identical to me.

I also think my having an innate awareness of previous lives has made this one feel a bit imposter-like. I always felt like I didn’t belong or was not good enough in comparison to classmates and other people in my hometown. I often wished and thought that I was supposed to have been born Jewish. I later discovered that this may have been because I believe I had a past life being a Jewish boy. At an early age I was very good at being tomboyish and morphing myself into someone my dad would be proud of - a dirt bike riding, clever girl that could keep up with most boys. I also identified greatly with the feminine side and learned what pleased my mother's expectations. I learned that I was all of this and more. I got really good at being what other's expected me to be.

I feel like my childhood life of poverty, along with subsequent financial struggles was NOT what I came here for and is NOT me. I felt like I connected more to upper class families with money and nice things, but of course without the snobbery. I feel like perhaps in a past life I was previously a down-to-earth rich woman that lived amongst the masses and treated everyone well and did good deeds with her money. I still yearn to win the lottery and do anonymous random acts of kindness with my money and I know that would bring me such joy.

I think I identify most with my sixteen-year-old self who got a taste of freedom driving a car and had the whole world to explore... she is still in there. This painting that I drew in high school was supposed to be my self portrait, but my dream was to escape from the flatlands of Illinois and head toward the mountains - so that is where I wanted to see myself. I guess it was my first "vision board" because although it took me over 50 years to return to my birth state, I now live in California. I enjoy living near the same exact mountain that I envisioned at age sixteen, without ever having seen it!

This lifetime has not been an easy one, but it has made me who I am so I have to be grateful for that. I've gone from surviving to thriving and beyond.

I think my soul has lived so many lives that this one has been a bit of a compilation of deeply imbedded memories and knowledge. Sometimes that means I don't feel congruent with my surroundings or stages of life. I still resonate with having God in my heart and I dream of a better world.

My inner child is forever an advocate of helping other children to adjust to a new life here on Earth - all the old souls that remember... and land here thinking "who am I this time?" When I have reached my goal of getting my children's books out to these kids, then perhaps I won't feel like an imposter any longer because I will have truly become who I was meant to be - this time around!

"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tami is grateful for all of her Highly Sensitive Person traits because they have made her who she is today: an optimistic, nurturing soul, full of great compassion. Being a mother has been her hardest and most rewarding job since her unique and sensitive children have been her greatest inspiration and teachers. She is currently writing a series of children’s books for HSP families, The Sunshine Books. Follow the links in this blog for more of her heartfelt ponderings for and about highly sensitive people.

{Copyright 2019 - 2021 - Most photos are the property of Tamara S. Graham unless noted otherwise}

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