We all know what this is--the feeling that, deep down, you don't deserve any good fortune, that sooner or later people are going to see past this lovely veneer of accomplishment you've managed to construct to find the Truly Inadequate Person within. Groucho Marx even made a famous joke about it: "I'd never belong to a club which would have me as a member." I don't know if Groucho suffered from depression; I don't know if depression is a prerequiste for this feeling. All I know is that I've had a bad case of The Impostor Syndrome lately.
The occasion for this is the publication of my new book, The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression, which debuted Aug. 8 and which has been getting raves in the mom-blog world ever since. All of which has induced in me an uneasy sense that the other shoe is about to drop--the somebody out there will sneeringly point out that my research is worthless, or that I'm a whiner/slacker mom, or that the book just plain sucks. And perhaps, soon, somebody will.
Or I could, as my friend Andi Buchanan (of Literary Mama fame) suggests, consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I've written a good book. And while I was digesting this idea, I got an e-mail from from oldest friend in the world, an e-mail containing some serious Buddhist-inspired wisdom. Meghan Caughey and I go back to Mrs. Hendry's Kindergarten on Highway 29 in College Park, Georgia. Today she is an accomplished artist, and a person who has walked through the hellhole of schizophrenia--a place darker and scarier by far than anything depression has to offer--and emerged on the other side. She lives in Oregon, we haven't seen each other in decades, but the spiritual connection between us is profound. Meghan, I hope you don't mind the quote, but it was so great I had to share:
"You are a vehicle, a vessel, the messenger. I know the compliments go against the self-critic in your head, so I can see why it is maybe hard to take it all in. But you wrote something that was genuine and about the truth. The self-critic hates the truth and wants you to feel bad. But people recognize your work as valuable and want to communicate their experience of this to you and to others. The self-critic must be over-ridden and the truth must prevail. The small ego is wrapped up with the self-critic. The deeper essential self knows the truth and recognizes the value of one's work and is gracious when recognized."
The small ego is wrapped up with the self-critic. Ooooh, that's tough, which is why I like it. It gets at the essential truth of the Impostor Syndrome, which is that it is itself an impostor: it is a form of arrogance masquerading as Poor Little Me. It's a way of saying that you, and only you, can be the arbiter of what's really good and what's not--and that your friends and admirers are either a) too dumb to know the difference between good and mediocre or that b) they are sucking up to you (which is a fairly unflattering view, to say the least). Deep down, the Impostor Syndrome is about Pride, which they don't count as one of the seven deadly sins for nothin'.
So: I'm giving it up. The Impostor Syndrome, that is. Which is not that hard to do, because the alternative is not raging egomania ("Me! Me! Me!") but simply the recognition that you've been given a gift and that this time you've used it well. You have not obstructed the cosmos; you have not impeded The Flow. Now, that, I gotta say, is a nice feeling, and one I'll take any day.
Meanwhile, I'd like to give a great big thank you to all the reviewers out there who have read the book and have their own penetrating insights to offer. For those of you who haven't caught up with your internet reading this week, here they are (and I'm sorry about not linking directly to your home pages, guys, but this is my third try at posting this thing and every time I try to do that I lose my post--so bear with me):
Monday--Jen Lawrence, of MUBAR
http://tomama.blogs.com/mubar/2006/08/this_blog_post_.html and http://www.mothershock.com/blog/archives/2006/08/mothertalk_the_1.html
Tuesday--Mir at Woulda Coulda Shoulda http://wouldashoulda.com/2006/08/08/blog-book-tour-the-ghost-in-the-house/ and http://www.mothershock.com/blog/archives/2006/08/mothertalk_blog.html
Wednesday--Jenny at Three Kid Circus
http://threekidcircus.com/threekidcircus/archives/2006/08/mother_talk.html and http://www.mothershock.com/blog/archives/2006/08/mothertalk_blog_1.html
Thursday--Asha Dornfest at Parenthacks http://www.parenthacks.com/2006/08/mothertalk_blog.html and http://www.mothershock.com/blog/archives/2006/08/mothertalk_blog_2.html
Friday--Tracey Gaughran-Perez at Sweetney
http://www.sweetney.com/001372.html and http://www.mothershock.com/blog/archives/2006/08/mothertalk_blog_4.html
Keep an eye out for Heather Armstrong, aka the fabulous Dooce, who promises to weigh in on this subject on Aug. 15 via her column on Alpha Mom. And, if you still have time on your hands after all this, you can look up some mainstream media reviews on my website.
Gotta go. The kids are pounding at the door.