I’m not exactly sure why this is, but the human brain loves quantifiable, measurable, comparison. Anything that we can slap labels on and use to identify so that it’s a little less murky for our brains, we do it.
Yesterday I took an amazing webinar with Dr Lisa Orbe Austin all about imposter syndrome. It was specifically for coaches and how we help our clients move past it, hosted by the Institute of Coaching at Harvard Med at which I am a fellow. One of the moments that thrilled me the most was when she talked about using self-care and mindfulness practices such as meditation and breathing. But even more importantly she spoke about auditing those practices so that we aren’t putting the same kinds of labels and measurements on them the same way that we do when we struggle with imposter syndrome.
If we are allowing things like perfectionism and rigidity to be the foundation of our practices, then I have to wonder if they in fact stop ceasing to be self-care at all?
If when you go to your yoga mat you measure the success of the practice by how well you were able to push through a challenging moment, or if you were able to finally get that handstand, without paying any attention at all to what you were feeling emotionally or energetically during the practice, I would challenge you and ask how is this helping your overall being exist in the world? I would even take it a step further and say that if the priority of the emotional connection isn’t at the forefront, perhaps it isn’t serving a real purpose in your life other than to give you one more thing to fixate your anxiety and perfectionism on. And I don’t say that solely for the sake of keeping the actual intention of yoga in tact, I say it because the entire point of our self-care and emotional coping practices are to help us release all of the stuff that keeps us unwell and shows up in the daily minutiae of living life.
Right now I am studying Intuitive Eating as the next level of working towards Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching. What hit me so hard yesterday is that even the daily, simple and necessary self-care that is nourishing our bodies, has become fraught with this kind of comparative, rigid and obsessive analysis. Food has become yet another way for us to pick and obsess over rules that keep us swirling down the rabbit hole of trying to prove our worthiness, rather than the form of fuel and nourishment that it actually is. We have commodified diets and structures around food based on biases for what a body should look like and arbitrary measurements such as clothing size, weight, BMI and calories that have nothing to do with a person’s emotional or whole state of being. We have more or less “othered” mental health and completely disassociated from our own intuitive listening and trust. For example, rather than listening to ourselves when we are hungry, or stopping when we are full, we often instead favor adhering to diets and regimigns as dictated from a source outside of ourselves. It is quite tragic when you really consider it, that something as personal and at the same time basic as eating has become so commodified that we actually are rarely doing it from a place of real connection with ourselves.
One of the things I am committed to doing as a coach, whether my client is struggling with body image issues or is in recovery from disordered behaviours, is to help them reconnect with themselves again so that the choices they are making every single day are not actually coming from an outside pressure or costing them trust with their bodies. Instead, when we put weight aside and instead focus on what our actual relationship is with our body, our food and our practices, we can then begin to live much more authentically based on our internal gauge, rather than external measurements. This is also exactly what I try to create for anyone when they come to an eMOTION class, except rather than food being the subject, it’s movement.
What really struck me yesterday as Dr. Orbe Austin spoke on imposter syndrome was the thought that of course so many of us are struggling with it because so many of us are walking around completely disconnected from ourselves. Here we are, these beautiful and complex beings walking around in bodies that were made exactly for us, and yet the overriding tendency in our society and culture is to “make it fit” more generalized measurements and labels.
Just for fun, I looked up what some of the synonyms and antonyms of imposter are. The synonym search came up with words like: charlatan, fake, fraud, hoaxer, phony and pretender. When I look at today’s climate of influencer, diet, fitness and wellness culture, I can’t help but completely feel that all of these words fit in some way or another. What was fascinating however was that when trying to find the antonyms for Imposter, it was a more difficult search. Mirriam-Webster came up with ace, adept, authority, crackerjack, expert, maestro, master, professional, virtuoso, whiz and wizard, but only referred to these words as near antonyms. It makes me wonder if we really actually know how to cope or exist in the world without Imposter syndrome because while not having words for something doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist, it is still rather telling.
Over the next several weeks, I plan on sharing a series called Learning to Trust Yourself that will focus specifically around the principles of Intuitive Eating. However, as I said before, food and eating is just one medium in which Imposter Syndrome exists and many of these same steps can be applied to so many areas of life. I hope that you will continue to stay tuned and subscribe to the blog so you can receive updates.
And if you are ready to explore what the opposite of being an Imposter is in your own life may feel like for you, I am a coaching call away!
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is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.