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Story Sharing: Working Through Imposter Syndrome and Internal Gatekeeping

Before starting working as an advocate, I had spent more than 2 years unemployed. This was due to a combination of factors, but it mostly boiled down to ill health and losing job after job from workplace discrimination that I faced due to having both narcolepsy type 1 and mental health difficulties (complex/developmental trauma).

It was amazing for me to be introduced to the advocacy world by a passionate fellow advocate. I met her in an online narcolepsy support group, and she saw my potential when I didn’t see it. This support and that of other people in our community has been vital – a life jacket to me. I can only hope to give back to our community and do the same for others.

New hope, possibility, and purpose

Realising that this kind of work was even possible was like being handed a GPS to a labyrinth I’d been stuck in for so long. It restored to me a sense of hope, possibility, and purpose.

I might not be completely out of the maze, but I have some kind of direction that was lacking before, which makes all the difference.

Starting to write

When I started to try and write, I was overflowing with ideas, but I quickly noticed that a pattern was emerging. I was starting lots of articles but never finishing any of them. It was so validating to read pieces written by our community that I could relate to, which was amazing!

A part of me, however, struggled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome when thinking about sharing my own work. I would read an article on an even vaguely similar theme to one I had begun writing and would compare and contrast. “Well, someone already wrote about that! Whatever you have to say is not as valid as what they do on this topic. Why do you think anyone wants to read what you’ve written?”

These critical thoughts plagued me to the point of inaction.

Meeting with a coach

I signed up for a free service to speak to a work coach because I felt I needed some advice about working freelance. It's worth noting, this is not a replacement for therapy, which I attend separately. Part of me is also still sceptical about coaching in general. This is because it’s hard to know when someone is practicing safely since there is a lack of proper regulation in this field.

It did, however, shine a light on the real potential and place of good coaching! I went in looking for advice, but I got something much more valuable: someone to help me see my own value. Over 6 free sessions, my coach helped me to see my skills, what I had to offer in the working world, uncovered my real passion, as well as practical things around freelancing.

We spent 2 whole one-hour sessions just talking over the doubts I was having about writing articles. After these helpful sessions, I was able to start finishing and submitting my work and to begin to see my own value in this work.

Share your story!

I believe that the more people share their stories, the more we will raise vital awareness and uplift our whole community! This can be done in a variety of ways, such as a personal blog, social media, writing articles, or even a memoir!

Want to share your story but hitting similar roadblocks to the ones I faced? Here are some tips and insights I got – thanks to the coaching and from friends – that I found helpful:

  • It may not feel sincere at first but keep reminding yourself, that no one else has been through exactly what you have, and your story deserves to be out there as much as anyone's.
  • Your experience is just as valid as anyone else’s with narcolepsy.
  • The particular way you describe and write about things, even on a similar topic widens the scope of it reaching different people with different ways of thinking and identifying.
  • The more stories we get out there the more we raise awareness and hope to change things. That means some overlap of similar topics from different voices.
  • We are a collective: while we all have unique experiences, advocacy and story sharing is a team effort towards a common goal.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect or the best thing you’ve ever written, finishing something imperfect is better than a perfect unfinished piece that doesn’t see the light of day!
  • Having an aim to finish 1 piece before starting another, can help a lot (though admittedly, I still struggle with this!).

Boundaries for sharing your story

Try journalling or meditating on these points:

  • What are the key points of this piece? What message am I trying to get across?
  • How does it feel emotionally and in my body when I think about someone reading what I’m sharing?
  • If someone reacted negatively, do I currently have the emotional resources to support myself through it? If not, can I put something in place?
  • If it feels like too much, can I remove some of the details of what I’m sharing to make it more comfortable for me?
  • What is the balance between sharing enough for relatability and maintaining self-care?
  • How much of the details are necessary to get my point across? What is the nature of my motivation (if any) to share personal details of my story?
  • Is there any part of me that feels any pressure that it ‘should’?
  • If you have an urge to start writing another article before finishing the one you are on, be with that feeling and explore what the reason for this might be. What is uncomfortable about this topic that makes me want to stall finishing it?

Self-care comes first

Remember, it’s ok if you hold some details back; your self-care is paramount! Conversely, it’s also OK to share details if you feel you want to!

Just keep in mind that if you are sharing anything potentially traumatic, consider putting a content notice (CN) at the top of the piece, letting people know what themes come up in the piece that could be distressing to other people.

Have you considered publicly sharing your experiences with narcolepsy? If you have, what were your experiences with it? Any tips to add to the list?

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