The Delights of Distraction No.32: 3 Ways to End Imposter Syndrome

It's been one of those weeks; team members leaving, a tenuous pipeline of products, imminent cost and rent upswings as we are told that the pandemic scourge and its effects have supposedly ended.

When you're faced with a pile-up of what seem like failures, while steering a company into your vision of success - it's easy to feel like you're flailing in the dark thinking to yourself - Do I know what I'm doing? Do I even deserve to be here? This is called, imposter syndrome and it's a universal feeling, especially for entrepreneurs, artists, producers or anyone who has to show up in the world without a playbook. It's that queasy feeling of chronic self-doubt and intellectual fraudulence - think building your plane as you fly it: you could perhaps crash and burn - but you learn, tweak, lick your wounds, pick yourself up and fly again.

Some days, we admit, we don't know what we are doing. Yet somehow - things continue to move forward. Here are some strategies that have helped with combating our own variants of Imposter Syndrome:

1. Stop comparing others' Insta-worthy outsides to your insides

The numerous 30 under 30 lists, breakout unicorn companies, tweet storms of twenty-something CEOs that have coded their way to billionaire-stardom, articles on a new company in the same industry as you whose profits hit the stratosphere this year - are seductive vortexes that feed your hungry feelings for inadequacy. They are PR-driven exercises that follow someone's ultimate successes, and looking under the hood might tell a different story. Unfortunately, the gram and mainstream media don't detail one's inner monologues of self-doubt. So we try not to compare someone else's highlight reel with our inner bloopers.

2. Recognise that beautiful things can grow out of nothing 

In the words of legendary producer-musician Brian Eno:

"Beautiful things grow out of shit. Nobody ever believes that. Everyone thinks that Beethoven had his string quartets completely in his head—they somehow appeared there and formed in his head—and all he had to do was write them down and they would be manifest to the world. But what I think is so interesting, and would really be a lesson that everybody should learn, is that things come out of nothing. Things evolve out of nothing. You know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest. And then the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. I think this would be important for people to understand, because it gives people confidence in their own lives to know that’s how things work."

Perhaps we need to disabuse ourselves of the idea that there are some people who are so gifted—they have these wonderful things in their head but that you’re not one of them, you’re just sort of a normal person, you could never do anything like that. Instead, the more likely version of reality is this:  Things come from nothing very much. They start from unpromising beginnings -  we were an unpromising beginning (we have photos to prove this - a dear friend sent some of them this morning as a reminder to get perspective), and yet we started something.

3. Accept that we are all imposters, one way or another

 What if we told you everyone was just winging it? There is no playbook: to being a decent parent, managing a company during a pandemic, making a marriage work. Life is a messy mash-up of seat-of-our-pants learnings of building and flying this jet plane into a land we can call success, or peace or home.  And just because you feel insecure or self-conscious and are all-too-aware-of-your-flaws – doesn't mean you don't have as much to contribute to the world as anyone else. .

The health and happiness reporter Oliver Burkeman says that humanity is divided into two groups, "On the one hand, those who are improvising their way through life, patching solutions together and putting out fires as they go, but deluding themselves otherwise; and on the other, those doing exactly the same, except that they know it."

So finally, yes - it's okay to say you don't know - that you feel like an imposter. You only need to enact one small spark of the future today to prove that it’s possible tomorrow. Like an unwritten sentence, your life is calling to you from the future, just out of your grasp. You may hear the music, but you still don't get the lyrics. That’s fine -  just work to the rhythm. And one day, you'll finally hear the words to the song, and they'll replace the inner chanting that says you're a fraud. 

“We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.”

 - Fredrik Backman


And now:  some of our faves of the week we recommend you check out:

To Read: We have two reads: this first is a poignant, heart-splitting narration from a son's eye view of his parents love story; and like most love stories, they endure a messy, rocky, shattering ending, even though they poured their whole heart into it. It's a story that will stay with you for a while. 

Changing gears, the next is a great long-read about how we ended up with all the productivity BS that fills app stores and book shelves and makes us all feel like we’re never doing enough. “One of the sneakier pitfalls of an efficiency-based attitude to time is that we start to feel pressured to use our leisure time ‘productively’, too – an attitude which implies that enjoying leisure for its own sake, which you might have assumed was the whole point of leisure, is somehow not quite enough.”

To Check Out: If you're suffering from list fatigue, head over to The Book Concierge, by NPR - an annual, interactive, year-end reading guide, of the best books from 2013 to 2020. The visual display of books using filters allows for discovery,  helping you find your next great read — the mystery you can’t put down, the memoir you recommend to all your friends. The Taxonomy with which you can filter your book results extend from the functional ( Biography & Memoir, Short Reads, Funny or Kids’ Books) to the esoteric ( It’s All Geek To Me and Let’s Talk About Sex). It's a fun and practical way to find books for yourself or someone you love. 

To Subscribe: Our DOD newsletter is meant to be the opposite of news - meant as a diversion from the relentless passage of events that are shaping the world around us. Sometimes, we want to be ostriches, to save our mental health from the feeling of impending doom. But being in-the-know and well-versed in current events is a way to participate in the world that can eventually turn into something meaningful. But if the swirl of media TV and newspapers gets too much, might we suggest you subscribe to this newsletter  The India Cable; that gives you a run down and explainer of the events you need to know about, Monday to Friday. 

To Listen: We chanced upon this most delightful audio treasure called Spinning the 78s Arctic Outpost Radio, a local AM station in Alaska. Apparently most Alaskan grocers, restaurants and petrol stations play these dreamy tunes. The music ranges from big band, to jazz and blues and are perfect for cooking, reading, and any other indoor activities. It's fascinating how an alternate universe across the world can echo a sweet nostalgia for us folk here. 

To Joy Scroll: The Smithsonian in Washington DC digitised 40,000 items of Asian art - among this collection is a set of postcards depicting India of the 1930s, made by Japanese artist Yoshida Hiroshi in his country's woodblock print style, expressly for Western audiences. Now 90 years old, the postcards portray the country's canonical monuments: the Taj Mahal, the Madurai Meenakshi temple and the Ellora caves, awash in ethereal pastel colours.

To Watch: This is 50 minutes of fly-in-the-wall deep-dive into the complex, emotionally-fraught world of sex and intimacy. This video is a compelling and rare glimpse into a world of loneliness and the fragility of human relationships, seen through the lens of therapy (by actual patients, in animated form to protect their identity) with due nuance and care. It is touching and revealing and perhaps a more compassionate way to look at our own relational failings. 

To Cook: In a past newsletter we referred to the growing trend of bakery and hipster mithai-shops contemporizing Indian sweets, morphing them into modern desserts with the familiarity of French baking textures alongside desi spices. While this trend throws up more misses than hits (Yes to apple jalebi, a hard NO to coffee-flavoured rasmalai) we think this one, by Hetal Vasadava (Masterchef US season 6 contestant) is a resounding hit; soft cardamom flavoured sponge cake drizzled with Gulab jamun aromatic syrup. One of those party hits, especially if you can rustle up rose petals to sprinkle on top. 

As we have one month of 2020 left, we can acknowledge that this year and life, in general, hasn't been a cakewalk, (Cake-eating maybe!).  So we try and scour the web and the world to link you to what might make your day a little better. We'd love to know what you'd like to see more (or less) of. And, more than anything, we'd simply love to connect with you and know how you're doing. Please hit reply and let us know.

See you next Friday, until then shine like the whole universe is your light,

Viv & Ami

(P.S. We are suckers for beautiful gift wrapping and are loving all the gift wrap supplies filling our stores. Explore here)

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