Dear Danglers! I’ve missed you! In case you hadn’t heard, I had the ridiculously amazing experience of competing in German Wheel World Competition in Italy a couple of weeks ago. I just got back, having spent the remaining two weeks eating my way through Venice, Florence, and Rome (climbing is going to be hilarious this week – even my most forgiving spandex is tight). Friends, this was a PEAK LIFE EXPERIENCE. Know what else it was? Terrifying, humbling, exhilarating, and inspirational. And I had a big old run in with an old pal: impostor syndrome.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the sneaking suspicion that one of these things (YOU!!!) is not like the others, and doesn’t belong in the illustrious company you find yourself in. If you haven’t encountered it, one of three things is probably happening: either you are extraordinarily well-adjusted (in which case you can stop reading now), you are enjoying a moment of being a big fish in a small pond and have no idea what else is out there, or you are Isabelle Chasse, and are in fact a superhero. Thing is, almost everyone who’s reaching high and far has a moment where they find themselves among extraordinarily talented people they’ve been YouTube stalking for years… and then it hits. The feeling that maybe there has been a horrible mistake.
For me, it came out of nowhere. I was fine! I was excited and a little bit nervous, but I was totally good. I stepped out on the gym floor to start my warm-up, got a good look at my competition, and stopped in my tracks. I went icy cold, even though the gym was easily over 90 degrees. I have never known anything more clearly in my life: I did not belong here. I knew I was a fraud, and, pretty soon everyone else would know it too.
My coach Chris took one look at my stricken face, and nudged me towards my wheel. I started my opening moves, but something felt wrong. The floor felt too slick, but the wheel’s rubber, softening in the hot gym, felt too slow. Nothing was going over – nothing was working. Now, not only was I a baby beginner in a room full of the best wheelers in the world, the routine I had practiced for over a year was falling apart. Panic crept up behind my eyes, and they welled up with tears. All I could hear in my head was that I did not belong here.
Wolfgang saw the tears, and threatened to make me do vault if I cried. I hate vault. Chris leaned over and said, “Try everything three times. If it’s not going over by the third time, then we worry. Trust it.” So I did. Sure enough, by time number three, everything was going over just fine. By competition time three days later, everything felt just right; weirdly, my feeling of being an imposter had vanished. What had changed in those three days? Sh*t got real.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
- In a competition where most artists were doing C & D level tricks, I was doing mostly A’s with the occasional B. I was not at their level. I couldn’t meaningfully compete with them, but I could be amazed, inspired, and caught on fire with the excitement of what was going on around me.
- I earned my spot on the team fair and square. I worked my ass off on that routine, and I’m really, really proud of it. It wasn’t just the physical work I did, but the mental and emotional challenges I trained through.
- I had a good run. All that rehearsing paid off, and I had a clean routine. It wasn’t perfect, but it went really, really well. I didn’t fall down, fart audibly, miss a trick, or freak out. WIN.
Moment of Truth
We all have moments of Impostor Syndrome. We want to be good, we want to succeed, we want to be worthy of the opportunities that come our way; we want to be equal to them, to have earned them somehow. I don’t really know what to say about this, except that it’s complicated. At some point, we hopefully get handed something that is just a little out of our league. And, if we are brave, we jump at the opportunity (because – what? We’re going to let it slide through our fingers? I don’t think so.). So, when we are in this place where we are so clearly the lowest rung on the totem pole, what can we do but leave our crap at the door? Everything from posturing to insecurity. If you didn’t misrepresent yourself, if you’ve been honest with yourself and others about the scope of your abilities, then drink it all in. Be a crazy sponge of learning, and soak up every ounce of the awesomeness you’re surrounded with. That kind of humility is good medicine in our business, and I look forward to more of it. Love and pull-ups, Laura
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