Yearning to Belong in my Body

Navigating imposter syndrome and the yearning to belong

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Intimate Partner Violence

Two months ago, I received blessed news that I would be publishing a book with Penguin. This book is called BE NOT AFRAID OF LOVE, and I have not only been writing it for most of my life but also living it in my waking reality. Every day I wake up and embark on a repetitive daily routine, one that is committed to writing, researching, and reading for the book. All my time is dedicated to this book, and a lot of that time is spent editing, deleting, beaming, loving, adjusting, reading, panicking, and crying.

I know it might seem extremely privileged to be writing about the stresses that come with writing a published book, but I also vowed in this newsletter to write from the “I”, to write in real-time, and not to police nor judge myself for the feelings that come up with my lived experiences. I want these newsletters, and my book, to feel like I am your friend, extending my arms to you, telling you about my life. And of course, you can always respond and begin conversations with me, for one of the most beautiful parts of these newsletters is receiving responses and witnessing your own sacred relationships to the words you read. Because this newsletter will always be my baby and always remind me to illuminate my truth, not as good or bad but as it is, I am going to talk about the imposter syndrome I’ve been experiencing and the origins of those feelings.

Lately, I have been experiencing intense bouts of self-doubt. I have had intrusive thoughts, telling myself that I am not good enough to write a book and that I am not knowledgable, skilled, or linguistically gifted enough. I have made comparisons between myself and published writers that I admire, and I have been extremely punitive toward myself about my work. This is common, that taunting voice in my head, the one that polices me and makes comparisons in the name of insecurity. This has allowed me to see the oppressive forces that still live within me that require constant unlearning. It has also allowed me to see how deeply I care.

My book is about emotions and relationships and love. It will detail my personal survivor-hood and the feelings that arose during and after an abusive relationship with my on-and-off intimate partner (now ex) of three years. I am committed to writing a book that will explore the nuanced array of emotions that I experienced after and during the abuse. I have found that a lot of books, films, and television talk about abuse while centralizing the abuser and assault, and not so much elaborating on the very long, winding, and intensive emotional aftermath (except for Michaela Coel’s INCREDIBLE I May Destroy You). My own period of arduous and nuanced post-traumatic suffering caused me to doubt myself, return to my abuser, lose my confidence and ideas of self-worth, stop believing in love, crave belonging, enter new toxic relationships, or avoid relationships altogether. I am committed to this book being an exploration and re-learning of love, and a means for me to get free from the abusive notions of “love” that held me hostage in a violent partnership. What I write is bursting forth from me because I live it. I am it.

Even though it has been years since my ex and I parted, writing this book has allowed me to see the ways that I habitually use the same self-deprecating weapons that my ex used against me, against myself. This book lives with me, and it is also my companion in everyday life. I am forming a deepening relationship with this art while I am writing it. When we are devoted to our writings, our projects, the things we create and make out of love, I know that more often than not we worry that we are unworthy of creating those things.

We must identify the oppressive forces outside and inside of us, the ones that tell us that we are not worthy of telling our stories. I have felt unqualified because I am not a licensed therapist or psychology professor and I did not have a prestigious ivy-league education. I catch myself measuring my self-worth with the same standards that the state uses to measure people worthy of life, abundance, and joy. We cannot allow the state to determine our worth through classist and racist forms of credibility, and understand that what we create is intrinsically connected to our worthy, beloved, being. What we create is not separate from us, but it is also not all of us. We are deserving of love and care, whether we choose to create or not.

So as I have spent time scolding or degrading myself while writing this book, thinking thoughts that are harsh and insulting to my own character, I remember that I am writing about relationships. I contemplate with resistance and then tenderness, about my relationship with myself. This is a relationship that I was raised to often forget. Where do my insecurities come from? Why do I feel like an outsider, and where exactly will I ever feel “in”? I ask myself, “who cares enough to hear what I have to say about emotions and relationships?” which translates to “who cares enough for me?”. I remember then with clarity, that I care for me.

Imposter syndrome is insidious because it takes us away from ourselves. We determine our worth through measurements that have been taught, drilled, and disciplined into our thinking. It makes us turn away from our spirits and into the eyes of our egos. It teaches me though, a deeper lesson; a yearning for belonging in my own body. When we feel like “outsiders”, we must ask ourselves what we feel “outside” to, and whether there is something ingrained inside of us that is attempting to displace our spirits. This pressure I put on myself comes from elitist institutional standards, white supremacy, pretentious intellectuals, and intimate-partner abuse. In writing this book, I must constantly practice unlearning the forces that have hurt me and promise to not weld them to further hurt myself. The act of writing this book is honouring first, the act of being alive. I must write this book with tenderness, just as I endeavor to live my life. If there’s anything that I truly try to carry with me every day, it’s that life is deserving of softness, even when it is hard.

This light work that I am doing is sometimes not so light. It is difficult to look deep within, and can sometimes be re-traumatising to recall, and so while writing about care I am also learning what it truly means to care for myself. It means to be gentle, to be discerning, and to be cautious about when I over-extend myself and excavate too deep. I am writing a book about my life, and in the stresses and uncertainties of writing it, in all the imposter syndrome and the “not-good-enough"s, I have to remember one thing: the body of work that I produce in this lifetime is in no way more important than belonging in my body. Writing my book is not more important than my own precious life, and truly living that will allow me to write from the heart. I must be kind to myself.

Although our precious lives were always intended to be shared with each other, it is important to love ourselves beyond how we think we are being perceived or accepted. A yearning for belonging, companionship, and partnership does not equal self-destruction or neglect. We must love ourselves beyond our identities as artists, survivors, storytellers, friends, and lovers. We must love ourselves as beings on our beautiful Earth. There are no imposters here.

PROMPTS FOR YOUR REFLECTION

  1. WHEN I EXPERIENCE IMPOSTER SYNDROME, WHAT DO I FEEL AN OUTSIDER TO? AM I REALLY OUTSIDE OF A GROUP OF “BETTER” BEINGS, OR DO I FEEL LIKE I AM OUTSIDE OF MYSELF?

  2. WHEN I FEEL OUTSIDE OF MYSELF, HOW CAN I BE TENDER AND RETURN TO BELONGING IN MY PRECIOUS BEING?

  3. WHAT IS MY RELATIONSHIP TO MYSELF? HOW DO I ROMANCE, DATE, LOVE, SEE AND HOLD MYSELF?

PLAYLIST 4 U

A playlist of songs that allow me to feel present and belonging in my body. Most of them are sparkly, multidimensional, and ecstatic, which is how I feel when I love myself fully!

RESOURCES

My dear kin Natalia collaborated with Lizette and Rin to create a beautiful and resourceful website called SOLACE that compiles resources for survivors including therapy, healers, mutual aid networks, and a Q&A column that I will be responding to.

If you are looking to partake in mutual aid or are looking to re-distribute some of your wealth, here are two GoFundMes that I am avidly sharing of two of my dear friends who are in mourning:

  1. Blackbird’s Mourning Loss of Son Fund

  2. Philip’s Family’s Funeral and Medical Expenses