Fake it till you make it – or till they find out!

I genuinely couldn’t work out why or how I landed the job as a Principal of a school many years ago. I felt apologetic and embarrassed when asked what I did. I called myself a ‘small p principal’ just filling in until ‘they’ (always hard to nail who ‘they’ ever was) would realise their mistake in giving me such an opportunity. replacing me with a real Principal who would do the job so much better than I ever could.

It was not the first time I’d felt this way about myself. In so many arenas of life I perceived myself as a ‘wanna be’, never the ‘real deal’; always fearing people’s closer inspection and inevitable disappointment when ‘they’ realised, I wasn’t what ‘they’ expected. This led to an unconscious strategy come pattern of self-sabotage by withdrawing before something even got off the ground such as a friendship, further study, a new venture, a job opportunity, or any risky undertaking where I might be exposed and found wanting. It also led to a pattern of cutting and running when people got too close, or challenges mounted in a situation I would perceive as potentially unmasking my outer layer of well-constructed but fake confidence and capability.

I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of anxiety in all facets of life. As a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend, student, employee and so on. I’ve always felt lacking, never enough, not quite the real deal.

I’ve described it as having one foot facing in and one foot facing out of most of my life; poised, alert, ready to run for fear of being unmasked, judged and rejected. I’ve lived with a restlessness, a wariness and weariness, always on guard, anticipating, pre-empting and proving over and over that I truly am not enough.

Some years ago, while in the midst of ‘sweating all the small stuff’ in my role as the self-titled ‘small p principal‘ in a school community, I participated in a 3-year training in the Enneagram. I experienced quite a few ‘ahhah’ moments in the quiet of the nunnery where the gifted gentle trainers taught us through reflection, meditation, oral story-telling and solitude how to recognise and hold for the first time, our true self, our wounded self, our image of God self.  I recognised the Perfectionist; the good girl who strove to measure up, meet expectations yet always seemed to miss the mark. There is much more I could say and for anyone who knows and has worked with the Enneagram, you would agree it is one of the most intimate, wholistic and helpful journeys of self-discovery.

During this time, I was finally given the skill and the courage to come face to face with my ‘inner critic’. I had been introduced to him during a prayer retreat some time ago and I’d dubbed him ‘the crow’.  I recognised him as the cawing strident ugly voice who constantly criticised, condemned, compared and crushed me. Yet seemingly he also protected me, prompted me, proved reality and truth about myself and my capacity in every situation.

He came out from the dark shadowy recesses of my mind and was exposed through the course of the sessions. I wondered why God had waited over half my lifetime to expose this nemesis hidden in my mind. He had done so much damage.

But now was the time to begin the journey, the painful hopeful letting go of this friend/foe.

It has and continues to be the ‘thorn in my side’ work for me.  God has been at work patiently teaching me to daily listen for the Shepherd, to recognise, trust and obey His voice in my life. A voice of ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ every day, every day.  As I write this blog, with niggling fear, because the ‘inner critic’ condemns every sentence, every phrase and even now wants me to hit delete, I know I am not alone in this journey of ‘unworthiness’ of which ‘imposter syndrome’ is a symptom.

Freedom, love, joy, peace and abundance have for many years been elusive. I haven’t deserved them, my ‘crow’ would say, as he reminds me of all my flaws and failings.

A friend once said in response to my ‘crow induced’ self-pity and habitual moaning about not being good enough, “Of course, Di, of course you aren’t enough, nor are you worthy. That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s what God has been saying since the beginning. We as human beings are not able to live perfect lives, please everyone, measure up, be all that every situation requires. God knows this and gave us His son Jesus to set us free, to live an abundant life now and a life with Him in eternity. It’s nothing you can earn, nothing you need to fix or do. It’s God. It’s all Him.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew this. I knew this. But in that moment, my head and heart fully embraced the truth and as for ‘the crow’, well, his voice has for the most part, despite minor skirmishes from time to time, dulled, loosing his claws of control and his harsh pecking of power to steer my course.

I’m learning, still very slowly and haltingly, to enjoy being loved, appreciated, thanked, praised and equally misunderstood, criticised, judged and rejected. It’s all still happening, but how I respond is gradually shifting. I’m still hesitant around risks as I perceive them, still anxious first. But I do enjoy choosing to have a go, make mistakes, develop curiosity, wonder, awe and delight in the myriad moments of ordinary life.

I seriously could write a book. (Back off inner crow! – I could!) There’s so much to be gleaned from honest and open reflection as I have come to understand in the years of living that many of us crazy making humans are blighted/gifted with the ‘inner critic’. One thing I do understand is that this voice has given me an equal and opposite desire and hunger to hear God’s voice, to pursue a faith journey, to long for a fulfilling and satisfying life that I genuinely enjoy in all it’s imperfection.

I’m a teacher, a counsellor (a listener), a writer, a friend, a wife, a mother, a woman of God and most of all I am loved, cherished and treasured. I’m OK.

Transformed Thinking

Love hopes and believes the best.

What we listen to affects

how we connect and relate

to ourselves and others.

We listen to lies about our self

Formed from frail humanity.

Freedom comes when we

Forgive, turn, face the Son

Leaving the past in the past!

We listen to lies about others;

Framed pictures of painful betrayals.

Freedom comes when fears

Are faced and we take heart

Finding both hope and healing.

For we finally understand,

We all listen to the same lies

And all will be healed

By the same truth.

“Father forgive them,

They do not know what they do.”

They live with lies, shaping a reality

Giving brittle illusions of power,

Control, protection, connection.

We reject what we most fear.

Therefore, we first reject ourselves.

The pain of deep disconnection

More than any can bear.

We become a city divided,

Defeated, destroyed.

The gate is unhinged,

Open and torn

As we, with broken hearts,

Hide in a corner dark and small

Afraid to step forward

To claim what is ours,

Our birthright

As sons and daughters of the King.

We are never alone, not ever!

What a comfort He brings

The great “I am,”

The Lover of my soul.

It’s no longer I that live,

but Christ that lives in me!

He died to set me free!

Di Priest ©C-Change 2007

Can’t say no?

Can’t say No!

Couldn’t if I tried

An alarm goes off

And I shrivel up inside

Lungs heat up

And the mind seizes

Heart skips a beat

And my belly freezes

Well worn words

Spill out to betray

“Oh, fine, alright

That’s OK!”

Self loathing foul

Creeps in to taunt

An old foe within

His familiar haunt

Messages so wrong

I always please

Saying yes to all

Isn’t fear a tease?

Am I enough?

Oh, worthless game!

Eyes ever betray

The dance of shame

Wise words said

To self be true

Yet always within

So hard to do

Dianne Priest © June 2006

You are not alone. Here at C-Change we enjoy partnering with people who want to see what life is like on the other side of anxiety, people-pleasing, boundary and self-worth issues.

A good friend once said, “We train people how to treat us.”

I’ve never forgotten those wise words.

Free initial consult – no obligation

C-Change began out of a belief that people, including myself, can change and can choose to live life well. A belief that we can learn to respond to contexts, circumstances and challenges in more helpful ways.

  • We go to a personal trainer to change our shape, fitness and health.
  • We go to a plastic surgeon to change our appearance.
  • We sign up for courses to acquire new information, learn new skills and position ourselves for new career opportunities.

The very existence of self-help books, counsellors, life coaches, spiritual directors and psychologists gives some clear indication that for the most part we do believe that with the right help we can change.

Change is all around us. Change is something we are doing whether we are aware or not.

C-Change is about helping you notice the changes, respond in helpful and skilful ways to your life challenges /opportunities and provide you with courage, confidence and compassion to continue your life journey well.

Our current unexpected worldwide circumstances are impacting every area of life for us all. A tiny organism is affecting us far beyond the immediate health concerns. 

The ramifications are already being felt in every aspect of life.

You are not alone and yes you are able to change, to respond and pivot in this season with help.

Contact C-Change on the form below for a free first consult to determine how I can help you through this challenging season and prepare for all that is ahead.