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Suzuki Harunobu: The Face in the Mirror (1766)

"… must be merely hollow inside."

It would surprise nobody to learn that virtually everybody engages in Impostoring, though there seem to be varying grades of individual mastery. Some practitioners work like ventriloquists, never moving lips or larynx, while others perform like the four-year-old in the family production, exhibiting much more enthusiasm than talent. Fifty years ago, this notion that even the apparently very Successful experience abiding senses of inadequacy was still a closely-held secret. It might have been a prominent presence in even the most Successful's lives, but this had not yet been discovered and named. The pair that discovered and named this condition referred to it not as a syndrome, as it has become popularly known, but as a less dramatic phenomenon. In the years since this eighth sense has taken as prominent a placement as has competence in the skill set of the genuinely Successful. One can hardly Succeed these days without, at some level formally faking the skill.

When I finished my big book, I remarked that it would forever stand as testament to what a sincere lack of faith in my ability can accomplish, for I never once had a sense when creating it that I was crafting anything extraordinary.
It might be this way for everyone, though, that we become so accustomed to our own productions that they never seem to rise very far above the absolutely ordinary, such that it might well require an act of sublime self-deception to convince anyone of the worthiness of even their most heartfelt contributions. None of anyone's production might seem very worthy of adoration. I sometimes wonder if the discovery and broad popularity of this Impostoring notion hasn't served as a poison to our civilization. Where we once had heroes, we now have posturing schmucks!

I'm a schmuck, too; I might declare to nobody's particular surprise. Modern angels might still have wings but also feature clay feet and soiled robes. The most authentic seem to hold a genuinely traumatic backstory, some authentic phoenix-from-the-ashes experience. Today's Successful only rarely inherited their role, and none were ever recognized as most likely to Succeed, quite the opposite. All seemed unlikely contenders, Success being pretty much the opposite of whatever they majored in when attending college, in the unlikely event that they even managed to get through college. Even those who graduated were never unscathed by the experience. Their degree seemed more of an encumbrance than any genuine assistance in their eventual Success, which just might have been more accidental than deserved. The most authentic leaders might just have been the best at faking their qualifications. Maybe they were just better at working through their self-inflicted turbulence.

Once we come to know the underlying truth about our heroes, where might we go with this knowledge? Where once, our heroes genuinely inspired us, now they might seem pathetic or worse. They might seem more pitiable than emulatable, more sorry than blessed. If the king of the whole freaking world feels insecure, where does that knowledge leave the least of us? Are we motivated by the tales of certain doom our role models suffered through, or are our own senses of doom amplified by this knowledge? If we're all Impostoring, is all this theater? Are we each mere actors mugging our way through performances, hoping that nobody notices while knowing for certain that everybody probably always knows for sure that we're faking? After all, if everybody's Impostoring, nobody's exempted, so even the very most Successful must be merely hollow inside.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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