Giving carrots to adulting imposters
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WHEN do you become, or feel like, a grown-up?
It’s a question my friend Jen and I have been asking each other for nearly 40 years.
In our youth, we shared adventures and made memories that still leave us giggling like kids. Young women who climbed trees in a park with a bottle of Old Brown to sing from the branches late at night. Shared our dieting colleagues' discarded rotisseried chicken skins, and kindly donated sarmies, when we were exceptionally broke. And some other funny but crazy stuff we’ve sworn secrecy about.
We were young adults paying bills and making life decisions, but grown up? We’re still grappling with it.
We’ve added another “syndrome” to the ever-evolving menu of psychological conundrums.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological “thing” in which a person who is obviously competent or even good at what they do expects to be “exposed” as a fraud, or just “lucky”.
It’s the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect where someone believes he or she knows everything, is excellent at what they do, and doesn’t question the limits of their skills or knowledge, but leave disaster in their wake.
Our addition is adult imposter syndrome.
It pops up suddenly when, for example, you are chopping carrots. You hate carrots, but your mom always told you they were good for you and they’re a must-eat vegetable and so, you clench your teeth and keep on adulting, eating them through slightly unclenched teeth. Because you’re a grown-up and know you should.
Of course, there are things you have been taking care of without thought since you were of an age: paying bills, grocery shopping, buying a car or a home. Budgets are big adulting challenges.
It is the odd little things that suddenly sideswipe you. When did I get so grown up I know it’s time to wash the curtains? Why do I decide to do the dishes and clean every kitchen surface every day? What miracle of grown-upness made us draw up a will? Are we responsible enough to take care of a dog or a cat?
Adult impostering is even sharper when you have offspring. Suddenly you are the one saying “because I told you to” or “look at me when I’m talking to you” or “pick up your towel”. Or going to a parents’ evening and feeling chills at being in the principal’s office. You’re right back to being that child waiting to be scolded. It all seems so mom-ish but now you’re it.
You never know if you’re doing it right. If your mom is no longer here, you wish she was so she could help. Of course, she probably also had adult imposter syndrome, but you would never believe that. She knew everything.
It’s usually a fleeting feeling, just your brain acting its age, hankering back to the times your body would follow its orders and did what it still wanted to do. It’s a comforting inkling that a youthful, carefree youngster lurks inside your head, waiting for a laugh, however juvenile.
But you’re now a grown-up, so you hunker back down into the difficult task of adulting and go and wash the dishes, and decide whether tonight’s the night you have to eat carrots again.
- Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor
The independent on Saturday