I read a blog somewhere in the last few weeks that talked about feeling like an imposter. Like everything you’d done was a sham and that someone was going to come along and expose you.
That’s me. I’ve been in the army for 14 years and for everything I’ve done, I feel like I’ve been faking it. I know that’s not a good description but it’s the best I can come up with. I feel like I haven’t worked hard enough, that this deployment hasn’t really been that tough, that my books are never going to be good enough.
I’m my own worst critic. I’ve heard a lot of authors talk about self doubt but mine is a never ending struggle overcome that little voice inside that says ‘you’re a sham.’ If I’ve won a contest, it must have been that mine was the least bad of the entries. If I’ve had stuff requested, it was on a promise in the query that did not materialize in the manuscript. I feel like everything I’ve done, I could do better. I have an unending drive to make my book better, to the point that I must stop because I might be screwing it up rather than making it better. I’ll work on a manuscript until the words blur and I’ve memorized the pattern, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually succeeding in making it better.
So what brought this on? We had an awards ceremony today where members of the brigade staff and my battalion were awarded Bronze Stars. While I could easily look across the six rows of officers and NCOs and see those that worked their asses off, I felt a hot distaste as I looked and saw those who’d done nothing to deserve a Bronze Star as a thanks for playing award. Lest you get confused, I don’t feel like I deserved one, either. There are soldiers in my company that deserve this award more than I do.
I look at the comment that still sits like a black slash alone on the latrine wall and wonder if the person who wrote it sees something that others either don’t see or won’t say. I feel like in everything I do, it’s not good enough or that it wasn’t really that hard.
I look back on my year in Iraq and I have done nothing to deserve this award. I look at all the awards on my chest and many of them are awards for winning boards. It’s hard for me to accept that I’ve earned them or to hear that I have a reputation for working hard, because I don’t feel like it’s all that hard.
I’ve learned some difficult lessons this year, the hardest being that you can’t change the system. I don’t know when I made the change from idealist to cynical pragmatist, but it happened. Maybe it was before I became an officer, maybe it was after, but the system is too big for me to change.
But at the end of it all, I don’t deserve the recognition I received and I feel like sooner or later, someone is going to see that and call my bluff.