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Stoicism and Imposter Syndrome

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional"

-Haruki Murakami.

For many of humans walking the Earth, their self perception is that which does not match reality. In fact, it falls short of the external perception of the world at large. Why is this? It's a plaguing question and often one with no answer at all. This becomes fuel for Imposter Syndrome where an individual feels like he or she is not worthy of a certain group or status. This predicament eats away at the psyche of the individual and promotes an internal dialogue of negativity that corrodes the individual's confidence.

To relinquish this feeling, the individual must either purge themselves of the group or status by exiting or halting their activity (i.e. run away) or rise to the challenge and become the image of themselves they want to be.

The Stoic could choose either. He or she would recognize what they want and decide rationally. If the Imposter Syndrome is too much and the fruit too little, it is entirely rational to stop what one is doing. Stoicism is about choosing your reaction to something actively and not passively. If one is honest to his or herself and can't bear the weight of Imposter Syndrome, removing that pressure makes sense.

However, there's the other side of the coin. It is one where the individual recognizes where he or she lies and where the destination is. Perhaps it's very far away. Perhaps it will take years to get there and thousands of hours of work. If they truly want to feel accomplished and stand proud on the new land they see from afar now, forward action is required.

I identify with the latter. I was promoted to brown belt the other week. I had received my purple belt less than two years ago. It seems like a blip. I remember feeling that I was advanced from blue to purple too quickly. I wanted more time to mature and settle in to the expectations of the belt. I felt like a JV high schooler playing with the big varsity boys for the first time. And just as I was settling into purple belt, boom! I was promoted to brown. I am experiencing imposter syndrome. I know there are brown belts who would humiliate me on the mat. There are purple belts that would destroy me. Shit, there is some 17-year-old, blue belt prodigy who would tap me to tears. However, I can't focus on those aspects.

Why? Because their belts are not my own. Their paths are not my own. I own the path I am on and decide where it goes. For that, I am grateful. Scared, but grateful. I have been forced to shoulder a responsibility and expectation I did not ask for, but eventually wanted. If I was not capable of handling this weight, I would not have received the belt from my coach. I used to train under black belt, Jason McAtee. He was my coach during my latter white belt years. Through a system of changes, Wellington Brito became my (new and current) coach and gave me my blue belt. I had the same undeserving feeling at the time. Jason pulled me aside after the promotion and said that "if a guy like Wellington gives you a belt, you deserve it." Those words stick with me today.

The least we can do in a setting of imposter syndrome is to accept our situation, but view it rationally. From there, we must press on and become worthy of what we feel we're not. Anything short will only sharpen the blade that is driving itself into your self image.

Oss and onward.


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