“But that’s what umbrellas are for!”
My punchline to the joke lands with maximum effect. My guests roar with laughter, some almost spilling their glasses of pinot noir. My scented candles fill the room with smells of autumnal spices, and there’s a faint lingering of the dinner I’d prepared earlier — pork tenderloin with apple sauce on the side, accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.
The timer on my oven dings.
“Oh!” I say, “Those’ll be the cookies!”
My guests cheer. I stand up to walk over to the kitchen, but before I can get there, I hear something else — a knock on my door.
“That’s strange. A knock at this hour?”
My guests shrug, and I along with them. I walk over to the door, open it and am greeted by a short, old man in a gray wool suit. “Good evening, sir!” He says. “Might I have a moment of your time? I won’t be long.”
I look back at my guests, and then return to the old man. “Well, you see, I have guests here. Can you come another time?”
“It has to be now, I’m afraid.”
“Listen, I’m sure we can reschedule —”
“Five minutes, and five minutes alone.” He smiles. “Not a second over, I promise.”
I hate to be rude, but I put my foot down. “Look, I have guests. I’m not interested in whatever you’re selling or whatever you want to discuss, so please get off my property and —”
“Dominic,” says the old man, the smile now nowhere to be found, “It’s in your best interest that you and I have a discussion. Right now.”
I look at the old man, and then back to my guests. “Everyone, I’ll be right back. Can one of you pull the cookies from the oven?”
One of my guests nods and moves toward the kitchen. I exit and close the door behind me. “Alright, what’s going on?”
“We know who you are.”
I pause. I look out at the street, but don’t see anyone behind him. “I’m sorry?”
“We know who you are, sir. You can stop pretending.”
“I — I truly don’t know what you mean.”
“The real Dominic, sir — he’s here. We know you’re a fake.”
My breath catches in my throat. “I — you’re mistaken. I’m Dominic.” My pulse quickens. “This is my house. Those people inside are my guests. I —
“Sir, stay calm.”
“I made cookies —”
“Sir, we know you’re an imposter. The real Dominic is in a car, just around the corner. We’re going to bring him as soon as you leave.”
Now I’m fighting back tears. My jaw tightens. “Who are you?”
“I represent the people who find people like you.”
Despite my best efforts, a tear falls. “Well, you need to tell the people you work for that they made a mistake.” I beat my chest and lean in close to the old man. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but my name is Dominic Laing. I live here, in this house. I have friends — those people, inside my house. They know me. They know who I am.”
“They know what you’ve told them. And what you’ve told them…is a lie.”
His eyes remain fixed on me. And all at once, I come unglued. More tears fall. My proud posture crumbles. My hands shake. I’m cold.
“I — I don’t understand what’s happening…”
“Sir, if you come with us now, I promise we’ll do the best we can to relocate you to an amenable location. Somewhere far from here, but a place where you can start a new life. Chile,
Luxembourg, Iowa —”
“However, if you don’t come with us, things are going to get very bad for you.”
I look back at my guests. They’re starting in on the cookies. “I need — I need to say goodbye.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, sir. We’re all set to take you now, deliver the real Dominic here, and have him take his rightful place.”
“But what about his clothes? They’ll know a switch has been made.”
He shakes his head. “We knew you’d wear this for a party. He’s wearing the same thing. As far as your guests are concerned, you left briefly to talk to a solicitor, but returned just in time to enjoy your freshly baked cookies — which smell delicious, by the way.”
“But — but they — I —”
“Sir,” he says, putting his hand on my arm. “It’s all taken care of.” He glances at his watch. “Well, would you look at that — five minutes. Time to go.”
Whenever I walk into a room, I fight the false narrative that on my own, I’m not enough; that I need to prove to everyone there why I’m there and why I’m necessary. The moment I enter a room, I feel compelled to assert some sort of alpha-ness and make clear who’s the most important person in the room.
Because if I make clear how important I am, no one’ll detect that I’m a fake.
I know that Imposter Syndrome is not something only felt by men, but growing up in a gender role that was expected— required, some would say—to have all the answers and have it all together, I struggle to combat that lie.
I’ve played and replayed the imagined scenario above in multiple scenarios: at dinner with friends, on a date, on a creative project, visiting family over the holidays, and on and on. It’s easier to chalk up my struggles to the idea that I’m an imposter, rather than being imperfect, because I won’t allow myself to be imperfect or show flaws.
On one hand, I know the truth is that I don’t ever have all the answers. I never have it all together. And that’s okay. I know that. But I don’t always believe that.
A good friend and I were talking last night about “head knowledge” versus “heart knowledge,” and the gap that sometimes exists between the two. I know the truth about me. I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I bear the image of God, and I continue the lineage of creativity and making.
However, my heart is too often governed by false narratives of fear and shame. I cower in the company of others, and I’m dominated by two thoughts: First, that I have to demonstrate, over and over again, how valuable and worthy I am. Second, that because I’m so flawed in comparison to everyone else, it’d be possible to ever stand on equal footing with them. Therefore, it’s best that I keep myself to myself.
It’s best that I keep the seat warm and wait until the real Dominic arrives.
Lord, sometimes I don’t believe you made me intentionally.
Sometimes I believe you made me as a placeholder until something better came along.
Help me remember that I never have to prove myself to you.
Help me remember that you wish to abide with me, just I am. Always.
Help me remember that the moment I walk into a room, I’m enough.
Help me remember that wherever I go, I am loved.
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