What Is The Impostor Syndrome, How To Spot It, And How To Get Over It — At Least Wardrobe-Wise
There's no better time to fall into a tailspin of identity crisis and insecurities over your style than when you are standing in the quiet of a curtained changing room. Something about that combination of mirrors and the rustling of price tags brings out those junior-high insecurities of being an imposter, and the fallout is never pretty. Even I'm not immune to the feeling.
I was in the quiet safety of the dressing room, but I still looked over my shoulder as if someone would bust in on me and catch me.
That someone would bust in and catch me with my most favorite-slash embarrassing secret.
I tilted my head, listening to hear if someone was coming. The girl next door to me debated with her friend if the mini she was trying on was too mini and, nervously tucking the hair behind my ear, I turned to the mirror. Satisfied that the coast was clear, I was ready.
Feeling a rush of excitement, I rose to my toes and took the dress from the hanger, and humming with pure female approval, I ran a hand down the flowery tumble of skirt. I zipped it at its side and smoothing down the flouncy petticoat, I admired the Grace Kelly feel of its sweet tea length. Throwing one more cautious look over my shoulder, I quickly took the lipstick out of my purse and swiped on the red. Stepping back, I reached for the sassy little cage net hat and linked my hands together.
And sighed so happily. I looked a picture, like every inch of a '50s dame. Trying out the character, I stuck a hand out daintily at my side, pretending I was one of the models alongside Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire. All I needed was my hair to be set in flouncy curls that seem to be impossible to recreate on your own and a sassy umbrella to twirl and I'd be set. Smiling, I let myself play.
This was me four years ago, just out of college and beginning my sweet love affair with vintage. I loved it nearly desperately — from all the delicate flowers to the tea-time skirts — but wasn't quite ready to bring the relationship out into the light of day. To bring it out into a place where everyone could see the both of us together.
Why? Because I felt like an impostor in it. No matter how much pleasure I got buttoning fur collars and smoothing down gingham wiggle dresses, I just wasn't one of those girls. Those fun, confident, rockabilly types that coaxed their bangs into victory curls and crossed the street in their polka dot sweetheart dresses like it wasn't a thang. That was their world, not mine. Mine was a world full of leggings and flip flop sandals, where I could walk through the city and quietly blend in with the rest.
No, that kind of fun bravery wasn't for me. I would always be the one looking in, with her nose pressed to the glass.
So I let myself play in the dressing rooms, trying on a world I wasn't courageous enough to make mine.
And that's always the case, isn't it?
We assume everyone will be able to spot us out and see that we're trying to be something that we're not. That we're trying to be something bigger than we actually are.
And it embarrasses us. We're rattled even though inside we know that it's not true; no one really is thinking that. But the doubts are stronger than the reason. That's the way insecurities work.
While many of us know that to be true, let me ask you this: What if this imposter feeling is part of something bigger than an insecurity? What if it's actually a part of a constant cycle of selling yourself short?
You feel like others will sense you trying to be something different than who you are maybe because you don't think you deserve to be that vibrant, colorful, interesting woman that you want to channel. You might not believe you have the right to be someone that takes up so much space — that you can be a too-much-woman and proud of it — and so you project that belief onto others. You seek that confirmation in the double glances of train-goers and the long (most likely admiring) looks from latte-sippers in coffee shops. You're creating that scenario because you believe it to be true.
In reality, no one thinks you're an imposter but you. So now it's more of a question of coming to realize that you not only deserve to be that type of woman, but you already are her.
Now just let yourself be her out loud.
Images: The CW; Marlen Komar; Giphy