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“I am as good as my today’s performance. Don’t count the past ones!
I often hear myself saying this to my family, every time I was preparing to deliver a new webinar, talk or a training session. Despite their best efforts to remind me that I have been consistent in my performance, I would easily forget how happy I was with my last session. The celebrations would last momentarily and I would be back to the the whirlwind of – it’s nothing great. I would minimize my happiness. It felt as if I was afraid to acknowledge that celebrations could last and I can be consistent in my delivery. My core belief, which was screaming aloud through my behavior was – I cannot be happy for too long. What if this success was a fluke? May be I got lucky this time. What if people get to know I am not really that great ?
While as psychotherapist- I know about the Imposter syndrome and I help my clients regulate themselves and navigate through this syndrome, however, I was totally blind-sighted to the fact that I was doing the same to myself every time I had to speak at a public forum until one day my husband pointed it out to me – ‘you seem to forget all your past achievements and are very hard on yourself!’ Believe me, this realization struck me like a hammer.
On a closer look at my pattern of behavior, I realized that at the height of my success, I could be in my flow and experience feelings of achievement and even greatness. Nevertheless, the sense of emptiness and futility, even of shame and anger could return the next morning. It seemed, I was allowing myself to momentarily enjoy the fruits of my labor and randomly pull the breaks on it.
I realized that the happiness I experienced was not only due to doing my job well but was rooted in some substitute satisfaction for my unmet childhood needs. Old unmet needs for mirroring, unconditional acceptance, love, emotional nurturance, being seen, heard, understood and supported. Thus, the happiness lasted momentarily because it was an unsuccessful substitute attempt to deny my childhood frustrations.
Thinking about the little girl who felt that parental love is conditional on her scores. Not that it was explicitly laid out to me or there is anything wrong in motivating a child to get good marks. Subtle shifts in my emotional environment were very noticeable to me and I took on the responsibility of the caregiver’s happiness. The little mind wanted mummy and daddy to be happy with me, love me and if I could have received unlimited access to love, attention and care through this, I wanted it. I want to work hard so that i can get it every single time.
I am absolutely grateful for my parents. They did more than the best they could, to raise me. Conditional approval was in my best interest (according to their conditioning), so that I did well academically. However, it shaped me and my beliefs about self, others and the world at large. The hamster-wheel kept rolling faster and faster and so did I. Accomplishments in one grade would not automatically translate into good grades in the next grade. There was no time to rest or celebrate. I had to get back to the grind right after a brief celebration.
This huge realization didn’t automatically translate into my healing or me stopping my conditioned response of grading myself with each presentation. But it did help me by reminding myself that I am allowed to be both a masterpiece as well as a work in progress, at the same time. Self-work never ends and my vulnerabilities are the portal to my healing.
Being a successful therapist doesn’t insulate me from being human.
Heading to my therapist to rewrite my life-script and unlearn the conditioned responses that are not serving me anymore…