How a recurring dream helped me overcome impostor syndrome
I’m what you’d call a woman of science. I like things that can be explained using rules and logic and order. I’ve always approached dreams the same way. Dreams, I reasoned (see, logic!), were merely the result of the electrical activity of the brain — the normal firing of neurons back and forth.
That’s all. Dreams come and go, but certainly don’t mean anything. I mean, it’s not like I’d ever spend the afternoon in the self-help section of Barnes & Noble flipping through books about decoding your dreams or seeking out the expertise of a tarot card reader.
The idea that our dreams are like a crystal ball into our psyche? That just wasn’t me.
At least, it wasn’t until I started having the same recurring dream over and over — a dream that’s left me with more questions than answers, wondering, “Am I really as self-assured as I think I am?”
It all started a few months ago. Quite randomly, actually. I dreamed that I suddenly found myself back in college after getting a call from an administrator who told me I needed to finish some classes. Immediately.
I woke up the next morning mildly perplexed by my midnight movie. Strange, I thought, but that’s about as far as my wondering and introspection went.
Like I said, I’ve never been one for deep dream analysis.
But when the dream began repeating itself week after week, I started to question the coincidence of it all. The plot played out the same in every single dream.
I’d get a call from my Alma mater:
“Hello, Ms. Blake. Our records indicate that you failed to complete all of the graduation requirements for your major.”
“Well, there must be some sort of mistake,” I tell them. “I already have my degree; I graduated 11 years ago.”
The banter goes back and forth for some time until I’m told, in a matter-of-fact, authoritative voice, that no mistake has been made. In fact, I would need to come back to college and finish those classes if I wanted to formally receive my diploma.
And the tone on the other end of that phone? It was utterly condescending, as if I were an errant child who had just been caught stealing. It made me feel ashamed and small.
I’d eventually wake up, my heart pounding in my chest and tiny beads of sweat forming on my brow. I couldn’t seem to escape this dream no matter how hard I tried to push it out of my mind — pun intended.
What could my unconscious be trying to tell me? Here I was, literally tossing and turning in my bed while my brain was busy tossing and turning all these weighty issues that I was, apparently, attempting to work through.
And then the pieces slowly began to fall into place: I’d recently started trying to up my freelance writing game after having put it on the back burner to focus on building my blog.
I hated to admit it, but maybe I was suffering from a case of Impostor Syndrome, that phenomenon that fills our heads with all kinds of anxiety and doubts about our abilities.
The insecurities grow increasingly palpable until we’re questioning our very worth.
The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t deny that my insecurities were getting the best of me. I felt like a complete fraud as I saw other writers getting published in the same magazines I’d been trying to break into for years; they made it look so easy. What was I doing wrong? Maybe I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing — but the scarier thought? Maybe I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer.
Our minds have a strange way of showing us the light during the darkest hours of the night. It’ll show us things we can’t see in the morning, and, maybe more importantly, it’ll show us those deep fears that we can’t admit — both to other people and to ourselves.
I’m starting to realize that we’re most vulnerable when we’re in dreamland, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I haven’t had that dream in several weeks now, so I think I’ll go to bed tonight and see what else that crystal ball has to tell me. After all, I figure it can’t hurt.