It’s hard to write about feeling like a fraud.
(Freudian slip: I originally dictated “frog” up there instead of “fraud,” like I’m just sitting around, waiting to be kissed and recognized for what I truly am: a goddam prince. Maybe that’s a start.)
Frog, prince, frog, prince, frog … my voice-dictation software insists upon capitalizing “prince,” as though I must be writing about The Artist Formerly Known As and not some generic fairytale character/metaphor. Maybe I should take that as a sign as well. My computer, at least, thinks that I’m a sexy mofo.
But, frog. Fraud. Because I am struggling with a healthy case of imposter syndrome. And — especially because it involves writing, and blogging — I’m thinking that the best way to begin to move through is to write and blog about it.
I’m on a panel at the 2014 Mom 2.0 Summit. The panel, loosely, is on issue-based blogging and being a “true agent of change.” Which, at first glance, makes me feel like a deer caught in the headlights: what are my issues? What, really, have I changed? Is there any “truth” to my “agency”?
And then there are my co-panelists. My co-panelists are people who have worked directly with Hillary Clinton. They are people who have had Jeopardy questions written about their blogs. They are people who lobby Congress and speak to senators and found nonprofits. They are people with millions of readers and Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
And they are on a panel with me.
And yesterday morning, I got off a teleconference call with all of them as we plan for our panel, and they are all lovely, lovely women. And I’ve been to their blogs, and many of them write candidly and openly about their own vulnerabilities: their anxieties, their depression, their fraudulent feelings.
And yet my immediate response was still: Aren’t they all wondering why I’m on a panel with them?
Because I don’t feel like an agent of change. I don’t feel like a known voice in the blogosphere. I feel like I have some piddly little site with its few hundred Facebook fans and I haven’t cracked 1000 Twitter followers and barely anyone comments and so yes I put out a book but that was nearly five years ago and then I decided to stop writing my novel and how can someone as insignificant as me pretend to be a true agent of change?
And on what issue? Being a queer parent? This, too, feels fraudulent: I don’t queer parent all day; I parent. (And I barely parent all day —what with school and day care and working, sometimes it feels like I barely see my children.) And it’s hard to give myself credit for being an agent of change for something that I just do every day because the kids, well, they won’t parent themselves, now, will they? In any case, I write about so many other things — writing, cooking, my mom my mom my mom. Just being who I am, while a laudable goal, doesn’t really seem worthy of being set up as “an agent.”
God, sometimes I feel so Canadian.
I struggle with this sometimes. Usually I comfort myself by focusing on the quality of the writing. I’m here, I tell myself, because I’m a writer and this is my online notebook. I’m not here to make friends and cultivate fans — although it’s nice if and when that happens — but rather because what I need more than anything is a regular writing practice. I’m here primarily to hone this craft, to keep in shape, and only secondarily to win friends or influence people.
(Of course, that stance is also a convenient fallback when one doesn’t I don’t win friends or influence people to the extent that one I might wish to. And as much as I don’t want to fetishize numbers and “likes” or prioritize them ahead of craft, there’s the uncomfortable possibility that — as cockily confident as I am about the quality of my own writing — I’m doing something wrong, or that I could be doing things differently or better and gaining the recognition that I truly merit deserve other people have.
You see how this is a slippery slope.)
So I got off the conference call and I lay across my bed with my forearm covering my eyes and I told all of this to Rachel, who nodded said: “Small-scale cultural work is still real, and important for social change.”
And I texted Vikki, who said, “You are there [on that panel ] for a reason. Also because you’re queer. You have a voice and create change in your own way. Remember — we still live in a time when it is radical to be out and visible as parents. It doesn’t always feel that way to us because we are desensitized to it all but to others we appear radical and brave and are a visible representation for others. We push the dialogue about families forward!”
(And she also said, in a related discussion about WTF to wear to the conference, “You have nice cleavage and know how to use it.”)
And then I updated my “About” page and added in a bunch of stuff that I actually have achieved. It’s not so shabby.
And then the May issue of Today’s Parent arrived in the mail, with this in it:
And then I thought about all the blogs that I read and don’t comment on, and the comments and private messages I’ve received over the years, thanking me for putting my voice out there, whether it’s about grief, or parenting, or queer parenting, or something else altogether. And I thought about the way that this blog has been an online portal to some fantastic friendships and opportunities.
And you know? It helped. But I won’t pretend to be over my imposter syndrome. What I will do is continue to process it, and figure out a way to talk about it as honestly and openly as I can without trying to hide behind false modesty or exaggerated expressions of inadequacy. Or, for that matter, adequacy. (Can one exaggerate their own adequacy? That sounds super-Canadian, too: “She has an exaggerated sense of her own adequacy.”)
(God, I love words.)
So: today I am a frog. And maybe, also a Prince/prince. And holding both of those things in the same hand requires believing in two simultaneous, if somewhat contradictory, truths:
First, the only person has any real power to transform me from one to the other is me.
And second: sometimes, I yearn to be kissed.