Just a numbers game! Feeling just the same.
~Roseanne Cash, Black Cadillac album
Have you ever asked yourself: Am I an imposter or the “real deal”? So many of my high-flying clients have asked just that question.
Telling the truth is a hard thing to do. So sometimes we don’t. instead, we push things out of our view, under the carpet. It’s especially easy, (even a sanity-saver,) in environments that do not support our well-being, much less our Signature Greatness. But the universe is fast giving us evidence that when we fail to tell-the-truth as fast as we can, breakdown results. It’s quite apparent in today’s headlines—continuing proof of process breakdown and an impending system implosion. Like our recent U.S. presidential post-election “fake-news” claims, the unraveling of un-truth-telling is igniting continuous chaos all of which demonstrates breaking down. Nature, Positive Psychology, Neuroscience, and all the great religions tell us that only self-correction towards the center will lead us to our next evolutionary and transformative breakthrough. Otherwise, its total breakdown…dissipating into the ethers.
Alice, a 37yr old described how she felt like a total fraud. I immediately recognized what I call the Sham Syndrome taking over her world view. Having done all the right things to get ahead, she wanted to hide out, disappear into the woodwork. Now that she was promoted to a Senior Partner at a world-renowned firm, Alice was sure the roof would fall in! She’d finally be found out!
Then there’s Teresa, a gypsy soul, almost 50 yrs.old, who had struggled for her own truth for so long. Once a high-powered globe-trotting marketing executive, she had stayed in a marriage that just didn’t work anymore to protect the kids. Her marriage was so broken it could not be fixed. Finally, she struck out on her own. Good fortune has shined on her.
Bill, a long-time leader in his field, just didn’t know what he wanted to do next. Having had his fill of corporate life on the road, he wanted to shift gears so that he could be close to home base, do what he loves and still be in the game. He worried that he couldn’t make a late mid-career change. Who would hire him at his age? He’d worry. He was afraid he’d be found out, and not considered.
But life is too fleeting for feeding this dragon. Like the mythical heroes and goddesses of old, Ulysses and Inanna before us, we have come to a crossroads in our lives, our way of life, and in our time. If we are to transform the dragon, we must first tame it with honesty and truth telling as fast as we can.
If our own home fires fan deceit and denial, how can we expect to find the truth elsewhere? No wonder so many of us are unhappy about what we do and whom we’re with or not with. To live the life we are meant to live, to be the change we want to see, we have to take a reality check to be sure we are telling ourselves the truth about our personal lives, our workplace, our business, our economy, social mores, our politics, and our globe.
The “truth” is that when we are out of sync anywhere in our life and work, e.g., not being truthful with ourselves, we go out of whack. Our soul starves. Thirsty for more, we drive ourselves to succeed over the top, only to find the bucket at the end of the rainbow doesn’t fill us. There are others of us, who still don’t believe we deserve our success. So instead, we do everything in our power to self-sabotage. We choose not to start telling the truth, but to live by rules that aren’t our own, always trying to live somebody else’s truth.
Sooner or later, the signs of breakdown start to show up. Can’t focus. Moving so fast you don’t’ get a chance to feel. Like any addiction, craving the stimulation. Never enough. Yet the message you are getting is that you are losing the verve, your edge seems to be dulling. Nothing gets you going anymore.
The Sham Syndrome is especially common for all of us high achievers…especially for women who were raised with high expectations for their achievement and/or who are enmeshed in a patriarchal external reward system, eg. becoming a partner. A sure burn-out scenario in the making!
Picture the mid ‘70’s. I’m the prototypical corporate wife sitting on a park bench. I spend most of my time watching my wonderful kids circle around again for another try at the slide or walking the beam. I love being a mom…being their mom. I know my greatest gifts to the world are these wondrous beings I am stewarding through life. Both so alive and bursting with their Signature Brand of Greatness.
But I sure miss the action of my old life. I wonder if there’s something wrong with me for wanting both. Am I an imposter? I find myself frequently drifting back to my days of leading educational breakthroughs, turning around a California school district, remembering great kids who triumphed over tough odds.
There were those moments when I thought I’d be found out for wanting a double life. But I knew this couldn’t be all it would be for the next couple of decades for me. I wanted more: a chance to make my mark in the larger world and still be the best mom I could be. I wanted to be Super Mom in all her glory. I bought that archetype–hook, line, and sinker! I went for it big time. But it wasn’t so easy to achieve, as many of you know.
As you can imagine, I had to “own” my truth by myself back then. Sitting on the bench, now nearing my 30th birthday, I knew that if I didn’t tell the truth as fast as I could to myself, I would be no role model for either of my kids (a girl & a boy). I knew that I was already everything I could be as a mom, it was my core reason for being. What I didn’t know was what I wanted to do next. Nor how to get there. I was yearning for Soul food. I knew I wasn’t alone.
To avoid going brain-dead or going on hold status for too long, I founded and led a fast-growing Adult Center for Growth & Development in the corporate suburbs. I led and facilitated C.R. groups, career counseling, leadership & stewardship coaching, business and life planning, and so much more. The Center’s services and events were met with great demand. We had a waiting list for membership. Why? Because we created a safe haven for truth telling, birthing conscious capitalism, and igniting sacred activism.
It was perfect timing: Women came first. Then their men followed. Something very important was happening: transformation in progress.
Tune in next Sunday for Part 2!
Karen Sands, leading GeroFuturist, is the author of 11 books including “The Ageless Way” and recently released, “The Greatness Challenge.”