There. Now you all know it. I’m an impostor. More precisely, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. An impostor in my own life – everything from home to work to the gym, I’m not who I appear to be. Though mostly I think I’m suffering from a very bad case of Impostor Syndrome.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. (Impostor syndrome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
I have felt out of sorts all week and, at least where it concerns my powerlifting training, it has to do with actually looking at and paying attention to the roster of lifters in both the Masters 1 (M1) 84 and 84+ weight classes whom I will be competing
against WITH in the October Raw Nationals. I’ve been so used to my inherent strength being able to carry me through competitions and get me one step closer to my goals that its hard to see people I will be competing with who are already where I want to be someday.
Yesterday it was my bench press. It was supposed to be a 4 x 2, 2, 2 cluster set. OK, I can do that. But I wanted to do it at 150 pounds. I was able to squeak ONE cluster correctly but the rest? My head was in the way. It was telling me that 150 pounds is heavy and that I can’t lift that for reps. All I could concentrate was on that weight. 150 pounds. 150 pounds. Shit that’s heavy. 150 pounds. And I struggled to get 2 singles up. Struggled really hard.
But I’m lucky – we have a resident sage at our gym. Not only is he strong AF, he’s smart AF AND intuitive AF. He just knows things and can see the struggle. And can help you give a name or a voice to the struggle. And so he calmly asked me (not in so many words, but rather with a twinkle in his eyes) to figure out what was causing the swirling thoughts in my head (and nicely didn’t ask too much about those swirling thoughts). My answer: thinking too much about the weight and not enough on the lifting.
I made the joke that maybe I should shoot some archery since it calms me. Instead of saying “yes” he simply asked me WHY it calmed me. Because archery is a mental game and powerlifting is a physical game. I LOVE mental games. But I’ve always struggled with physical games. So, why not look at powerlifting as a mental game, too? Sure, there’s a giant physical aspect but it’s totally a mental game. So I tried. This meant calming my mind of distracting thoughts and focusing on the task at hand.
Bench set up: start behind the bar, hands wrapped tight. Swing body under bar and onto bench, arching back to get better tension. Fix feet and butt positions. Reset shoulders. NOW look up at the bar, breathe deeply two or three times, kick everything else out of my mind. Signal for unracking the bar. Final bracing breath. Pull the bar to chest, slight pause. Push the bar up. Repeat bracing breath, pulling and pushing. Done. Two reps at some weight. More or less easy as pie. I can do it. I have the knowledge.
So while I may sometimes feel like an impostor I know that I’m not – I’m putting in the work to get the results you see. I just have to shut up and let myself do the work.