Experts weigh in on four things you mistake yourself as alone in experiencing–from feeling like you need to get rid of the ‘negative feelings,’ to sleepless, pillow-punching nights when you’re convinced you’re going crazy. Some walk around with a host of their problems, troubles, etched in wearied lines across their faces, while others keep it tight, bottled up, and ready to blow. You’ll be reassured to find there are others just like you out there living, wrestling, and conquering all manners of alienating obstacles.
Ever happen upon a job opportunity, a career advancement, a gargantuan break with a guy or gal 10,000 leagues out your own, and go on to think that everyone around you will eventually figure you out for the walking, talking fluke that you are? This is a totally normal occurrence known as “imposter syndrome,” and I’ll have you know that many of the proven, time tested, legendary greats of the world—past and present—have been afflicted firsthand by the syndrome. Consider this quote from Albert Einstein, recorded just days before his passing: “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
Feeling like you’re crazy
Let’s kick it off by addressing what might be the most negatively and prejudiced stereotype: you think you’ve evolved into the very person you used to fear or pity or question. A particular psychiatrist weighed in on this Reddit thread to provide a professional-backed answer of great reassurance, and that’s that those that really do need help, will “argue indignantly, vigorously and tirelessly that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are not crazy, that they do not need any kind of psychiatric help, etc.” If you’re sane enough to even think you’re going crazy, then the likelihood is that you’re just fine.
The Spotlight Effect
This one hits home for me. As a gangly, rosy cheeked, pale skinned, outcast of a redheaded boy I remember telling my Ma time and time again that it just felt like all the kids at school were staring, laughing, and talking about me behind my back. I was and always will be something of a blatant physical oddity. A young Frankenstein, if you will. You can’t stand 6’5 with a head of flaming hair, ghostly blue eyes, vampire pale skin, and not draw a little attention—good or bad, mind you. But my Ma would always reassure me that those kids were too busy worrying about themselves, whether their clothes, hairstyles, etc. were in check. She was right. Any psychiatrist worth their weight in spiral-bound notebooks will reassure you most folks out there are too preoccupied by the concerns of their personal lives to pay any mind to whatever little awkward slip up you might’ve put on.
When you’re half awake and see/hear things
Again, I can personally attest to the half waking horror show this experience is. I’ve endured long and feverish nights where I’m half asleep, paralyzed with shock, and convinced there’s some sort of yellow-eyed, devil-faced beast chilling across the room, perched upon my desk, eying me like I’m the goddamn main course for the night. Messed up right? Totally. A symptom of schizophrenia? Nope. Usually you’ll hear something, not wake fully, and perhaps turn over in bed to mistake something across your room as a person, beast, or object. You’ll proceed to wake up—terrified—or will yourself back to sleep, eager to forget whatever trick your brain played on you. These auditory and visual hallucinations don’t reflect the onset of schizophrenia, you’re merely in an in-between dream state.
Call off the rescue squad. Take a deep breath like all the yoga pant-clad soldiers do in that hot yoga class you’ll never actually sign up for. Our brains are terribly complex. There are too many very real things to fret over, like, is McDonald’s all day breakfast menu just a phase? Real talk: did Chris Hemsworth get lost at sea for an extended duration, or was that shit actually method? See what I’m getting at? It’s a great big and bad world out there, and if we spend too much time inside our own heads, we’ll have a way of missing it—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.