If there’s one factor I’ve discovered over the previous couple of months, it’s that if I’m feeling one thing, another person has virtually actually skilled that very same feeling.
Our present state of the world has served as a reminder that we’re all on this collectively, and one factor I’m grateful for is the area to honor self reflection. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had the capability to ask myself some actually arduous questions and truly assume concerning the solutions. What’s really essential in my life? Who do I need to be in 5 years, ten years? What has held me again up to now and the way do I embrace alternative with open arms transferring ahead? Why have I felt like I’m not sufficient?
It’s that final one that may really feel acquainted to a lot of you. After some digging, a number of journaling, and FaceTimes with my trusted circle, what I spotted was that plenty of what I used to be experiencing and holding onto was this sense of being caught. Being caught between two cultures, between two worlds, and two selves.
The extra I continued to dig, the extra I began to seek out tales of attempting to reconcile identities between worlds. For me, it was about resolving the sentiments I had of attempting to hold on the tradition my dad and mom introduced from India whereas additionally simply wanting to slot in to the American tradition round me. It was the battle of by no means being sufficient once I was at school or rising up with my buddies, whereas additionally by no means feeling Indian sufficient once we went to temple or had been round our Indian household buddies. Now this sense manifests much less as attempting to slot in with the world I used to need, and as an alternative attempting to make up for misplaced time and attempt to match into the tradition that I attempted to distance from rising up. It was, and now nonetheless is, being caught on this no-man’s land and questioning if that is simply how it’s: by no means being fairly sufficient for both world.
image via This Time Tomorrow
This episode from The Code Switch Podcast landed in my lap during my research and it hit me hard. What stuck out to me on this episode of “racial imposter syndrome” as they refer to it, was this quote from listener Kristina Ogilvie, that said, “‘living at the intersection of different identities and cultures’ was like ‘stumbling around in a forest in the dark.’’ Her follow up question was, “Do you hear from other listeners who feel like fakes?”, and the answer was yes. The quotes from the podcast and excerpts from the letters that influenced the episode were especially eye-opening — it was written proof that I wasn’t alone in figuring out my identity and what was actually mine to claim without feeling like a fake in my own culture. While the episode focused its lens on multi-racial experiences, one takeaway that can be broadly applied is that we’re not alone in the forest of not feeling enough of anything. Regardless of how we identify, there’s a resounding comfort in knowing that the struggle to accept our identity is not a lone venture. I’m getting better at acknowledging the feeling, but what I’m still working on is accepting and moving past it.
About a month ago, I came across this post from one of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram, and the words stuck with me for days and weeks after. Sometimes I think the universe is listening extra closely, and as I worked through the words about reframing what it means to be “stuck” between two worlds, I also met a new Instagram friend.
image by Claire Huntsberger
Dr. Saumya Dave, a psychiatrist and co-founder of This Is For Her, is also the author of one of my favorite reads of the summer, Well Behaved Indian Women, which in so many ways, perfectly encapsulated this idea of not being enough, and constantly working to prove to yourself that you’re worth it. We connected through social, and over a good old fashioned zoom call, I spoke with her about the idea of imposter syndrome and more specifically, how it can influence identity in relation to cultures.
“Having multiple cultures is hard.” Dr. Saumya told me as we were speaking. “Everyone’s fusion of their cultures is different, and everyone’s expectation of what the right way to be between those two is different. But the idea of not being enough is one of the most common things that I hear. It comes from a deeper place, and it’s about understanding where that feeling is coming from. It takes a long time to work through because the feeling has deep roots in identity, family history, and who we want to be, with so many influences at play. A lot of us are driven by a lot of guilt and pressure, and those can end up being the compass a lot of times for us.”
image via Josie Derrick
I realized that the guilt of pushing part of my identity to the side for so long contributes to my imposter syndrome; as though I don’t deserve to claim my heritage now since I ignored it for so long. And the pressure to try and make up for lost time adds an extra layer of stress. I’ve heard acquaintances in my community talk about how ‘’American’ us second gen kids are, and then I think, “But wait, I thought I was one of you?” And likewise, there have been times growing up in the US when I certainly felt “too Indian.”
What I realized most from my conversation with Dr. Saumya was that the only person who can and needs to accept our identity is in fact, ourselves. Everyone’s expectations are different, and we often let others influence and control that expectation. But when we move past what other people expect from us, we can accept and grow in our identity rather than trying to fit into a check marked box.
Richard Montañez, the inventor of Hot Cheetos (stick with me, and if you haven’t already, look up his story because it’s incredible), recently spoke at a diversity event at my work. And the quote I wrote down from his keynote speech was that “none of us are created to “fit in,” and there’s freedom in accepting that.” We’re created to not only share our differences but to celebrate our identities for exactly who we are. But when we are stuck in feeling like we’re not enough, how can we move past that?
“Self compassion is the most important place to start, being easy and forgiving on yourself, and figuring it out in your own way.” Dr. Saumya told me in our conversation. “Imposter syndrome can present differently in different people, and the origins will vary, but the idea of not belonging is at the core. There isn’t necessarily a clear before and after [sorry, no lightbulb moment!], and it takes time to manage those thoughts.”
Awareness and reframing of thoughts was the technique that resonated most with me. Becoming aware of not only the thoughts that cross our minds when we feel like we’re not enough, but our reactions to those thoughts. There’s a strategy that Jay Shetty mentions in his book that works very similarly: the Spot, Stop, and Swap method.
Spot a feeling or issue.
Stop to understand what it is.
Swap in a new way of processing.
In this reframing, like the example above from @browngirltherapy, there are ways to capture experiences and reframe them to reflect the intrinsic motivation to get there. Dave emphasizes the power in writing these thoughts down to process them. Write down your feelings and shift the vantage point. Accept and honor the feeling, but work on reframing it so you can grow and move past it. The exercise has worked in helping me dig deeper into my thoughts and continue on this identity journey. Now when I feel stuck and need an extra hand to process the thought of not feeling enough for either world I occupy, I reframe:
I’m grateful I have the option to move between differing cultures and communities and choose the values that serve me.
This is my own experience of accepting and celebrating my identity while moving past the feeling of not being enough. I know that for everyone, it will manifest differently. There’s of course more to this story — how representation, mentorship, and advocacy can play a role in helping to alleviate this feeling, which is a conversation I’d love to have on another day – but this small reframe has made me realize how we can collectively work to accept ourselves for exactly who we are. And that single step can make a world of difference.