Feeling like a Fraud–or Not

Last weekend I carpooled to a center in Wisconsin to attend a retreat (at a place where I led a writing retreat last February, where I’ve felt capable and respected, and where there’s space for me to grow) and had the peculiar experience of walking through the front entrance into a wall of self-doubt: Who are YOU to think you should be here? To pose as a seeker?! What a fraud.

The messages were so bizarre they caught my breath. Of course I’ve heard such critical voices thousands of times, but never so palpably or at such a ludicrous moment. Although I didn’t know this going in, the retreat’s focus was the superego, that voice of criticism and self-attack whose sole purpose is to maintain the status quo. The superego had met me at the door—with force.

In the three days since returning, I’ve been bowled over by how many people have shared with me (with no prompting on my part) that they feel like frauds. It plagues artists, for whom there’s always some level of public recognition to strive for that might finally affirm our worth; it plagues leaders, who must stand in front of people who will inevitably question their authority; it plagues parents, who feel they should know what they’re doing and don’t. Is there anyone who doesn’t at some point feel fraudulent?! (more…)