Imposter syndrome is common in Bay Area tech culture where people are judged by impossibly high standards and are left feeling like their confidence is a fraudulent performance. But it is catching.

Whether or not you work in tech, right now most people in the Bay Area feel like a different kind of imposter during this time. The state of things is abysmal, and yet the Bay Area expectations around positivity haven’t changed. We still live in a culture where we are supposed to be “fine all the time”.

Five and a half months into a pandemic, with racial violence exploding, rampant economic distress and a cherry of fires on top, people still feel social pressure to be positive and hopeful.

But right now we are often not feeling hopeful.

I have been talking with clients about what to do when we just don’t feel hopeful at all. How to be real and not slip into despair, but rather be in the interstitial place between hope and despair and what to do while there.

What can you do while being there?

It is not easy. But there is a way forward. Once you learn to manage the stress of having too much to do or the boredom of having too little to do, in the world, as it is now, you can get to know yourself better. This might sound cliche (note how I begin to feel like an imposter here). But we each have ourselves as a constant no matter what is happening around us. And in building a stronger relationship with yourself, you can build resilience, and in particular you can learn to tolerate uncertainty which is useful right now in these uncertain times. Again, it is not easy to do any of this. It’s much easier to flee into false hope or to flee into despair. But doing the work of tolerating hopelessness can be meaningful and quite rewarding.

As a therapist I know that when my clients go through periods where they do not feel hope that I am tasked with finding and holding hope for them. Eventually I can give the hope back, when the time is right, and there is enough space to hold it again.

In our world, as broken as it is right now, when we do not feel hope, we do not need to be imposters who pretend to feel hope. Rather we can be real about how we actually feel and instead give the universe the task of holding hope for us.

We can remember that the world is still beautiful and magical and right here.

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