D’Agostino: Dear Imposter Syndrome . . .

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I remember when we first met.

It wasn’t over the span of a day or a week or a month; I’d felt your presence long before I’d even say we truly came face-to-face. However, you decided to step out from that mere essence of existence and took the spotlight during the most significant period of my life — and I want to talk to you about that.

Let’s take it back a bit.

I didn’t look forward to welcoming unfamiliarity into my life. It wasn’t her reputation that turned me off. In fact, people had nothing but great things to say about her. Every book and poem and speech that mentions her urges even the most reluctant among us to drop our guard and welcome her into our lives in exchange for some of the most wonderful things we yearn for in life: adventure, success and peace.

Regardless of the potential payoff of an encounter with her, something about it made me feel uneasy.

After much deliberation, I decided to meet her. After all, in sterquiliniis invenitur.

Before the occasion, I bid farewell to my old, stale ambitions. I looked them in the eye, like a partner at the end of a toxic relationship, and asked, “Who are you?” 

Was I asking that of them? Of myself? I didn’t know. But what I did know for certain was that these were never my ambitions. These were the manifestations of decisions I made based upon a collection of external interpretations of my essence, rather than decisions made based upon my own desired becoming.

I’ll never forget finally meeting unfamiliarity. Ironically, the closer I got to her, the more familiar she became. Like a whiff of a nostalgic aroma in passing, her presence triggered a feeling of closeness that I couldn’t quite put a finger on.

In the absence of external influence, this feeling of closeness made all the more sense.

Now that I had ditched the superficial, externally-constructed version of who I was made to be, I was a stranger to myself. In fact, I always had been, and that’s where unfamiliarity lurked for all those years. And instead of facing her, I ignored her.

That’s where you come in, imposter syndrome.

In her solitude, it was you who provided unfamiliarity with comfort. It was then that you both made a deal to stick together.

If the carcass being steered by the influence of others ever decided to introduce himself to the tabula rasa of his own conscience, the resulting inevitability of unfamiliarity’s presence would be accompanied by you—imposter syndrome.

You hijacked my truest becoming.

I made the conscious decision to alter the course of my education—the first time I changed majors. Then I started to look around the classrooms. I wondered how hard these people worked to get here, how long they’d been wanting it and thought of all the others who wanted to be here, but, for whatever reason,couldn’t be.

Then you whispered in my ear, making your debut.

“You don’t belong here.”

Three majors later, here I am: not belonging there.

You didn’t stop there, though.

In my journey towards a more aware conscience, I wanted to be a better son, brother and friend. I constructed an archetype for each based on my perception of reality. For the first time in my life, I had aspired to become something on my own terms.

You weaseled your way into that too. You told me I didn’t deserve those people, and that regardless of how hard I tried to embody my vision of who I wanted to become, I would never be worthy.

You convinced me that I wasn’t—at least, I thought you had.

Somehow and some way, I realized you’re just as real as you are a figment of my imagination. Under your wrath, it felt that my imagination was the only place I could be, and that’s where I found you—face-to-face and no longer the Oz behind unfamiliarity.

Your claws dug into my conscience, surrounded by the corpses of the many external influences I’d come to reject in pursuit of what you now deemed to possess: me.

In our encounter, I’d expected a duel like no other, but that wasn’t the case. As if to make Goliath look like a ferocious gladiator, you vanished the moment I laid eyes on you. 

You were an imaginary dragon left to dwell and grow in my psyche for too long, but you were not real— or at least not real enough to do some real damage.

I’m one of the privileged. Had I not recognized that it is only in filth where the most meaningful aspects in life are found, I wouldn’t have met with unfamiliarity. Had I not met unfamiliarity, you would have continued to dwell in the cave of my conscience—a dragon growing more and more real day after day.

Then, one of two things would have happened: (1) I would’ve continued to live a life directed by external influences, siphoning the control of my psyche off to others instead of you, or (2) I would’ve become aware of your existence later down the road, when you’d be more than a mere figment of my imagination; you’d have been a full-grown serpent so close to real that it’d take a village to put you down. Both of these scenarios would have been tragic.

Luckily, I caught you early, but I know many others don’t. Some live the rest of their lives a minion of their external influences, and others spend every waking moment fighting you in your most true and realest form. In the latter case, your wrath can be fatal.

But your time is up, imposter syndrome.

There will be more stories of your demise, and every single one is further proof that you were made to be conquered.

You’re nothing but a natural barrier in every individual’s pursuit of their truest being. It’s true that not many people even bother taking the path to self-discovery, but the number is growing. And as the number grows, one of two things will happen: you’ll grow stronger or we will.

What do you think? Are the odds in your favor? Or am I just the same old, non-credentialed brat ranting about something he has no business talking about that you knew (or more precisely, were) from before?

I guess we’ll find out.

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