Where feeling like an impostor comes from and how to turn it into a strength – a reflection on ‘hyper-sensitivity’

A common experience of people who have mental health or emotional difficulties is a sense of sensitivity, from which vulnerability and fear arise. Writer, Patrick/Patti, discusses below, their experiences of sensitivity and explores how it can be embraced to the point of being a strength. The piece was first published on their site, Beyond Non-Binary.

And the [sensitive people] shall inherit the earth.

I remember back at University wanting to take an acting class with one of the most popular professors, and one who was also rather famous.  She decided who could get into her class, and it was always way over-subscribed.

I went to the first class, a teaser, to see what it was all about.  During that class she said something that stung and which I have never stopped thinking about.  She described feeling like a fake, feeling as if everyone can see through you, that everyone thinks you don’t know what you are talking about…I had often felt that.  Even when standing up in front of a crowd of people to speak on a topic that I knew a lot about.  She went on to say that this feeling is common to women.  My mind was screaming, “me too!”  [It was only in later years that I link my feelings to being non-binary].

She also described the sting in your cheeks from smiling too much.  She also linked this more commonly to being female.  This has always been a very real, and almost daily part of my life.  Always.  In middle school English we had “spontaneous speeches” where we were assigned a topic and had to give a speech on it, exactly 60 seconds, right then and there, in front of the class and a video recorder, and were also assigned a grade then and there.  My topic?  “How come you smile so much?”  The answer to that question merits its own post.

The university drama professor linked smiling and feeling “found out” to the same emotion, and linked it to being sensitive.  Hyper sensitive.  She went on to link this trait to acting, an ability to tap into sensitive energy and to use it to display emotion.  While I bristle at the idea of gendering something like this, and I was rather annoyed with her at the time, she was right about the sensitivity part.  From the Gabor Maté book, Scattered Minds, reviewed here, we get the single most defining characteristic of ADD is heightened sensitivity.

Growing up, I was very drawn to drama.  I remember vividly the emotional landscape of my fellow actors [British parlance does not use the word “actresses”].  How prone to tears and flights of emotional fancy they were.  Especially the good ones.  It makes me wonder how the creation of a demi-monde must hinge on having this heightened sensitivity, living life in Technicolor, more vividly.

And I realise that this is what it is like for me to live with ADD.  There are all the drawbacks: chaos in my organisation skills, easily distracted, so many unfinished projects, a rapacious need for mental stimulation [now manifesting itself as a love of D/s]…but each one of these also has a positive flipside.  There are also many other purely positive consequences: the chaos also leads to lateral thinking, to creativity; distraction is provoked by fascination—there are so many beautiful and wonderful things to get lost in; unfinished projects are like friends, and having them unfinished means they are still hanging around talking to me; and the mental stimulation is so enriching, emotionally, spiritually, erotically.

And to think, all of this stems from hyper-sensitivity.  One lifestyle Domme who I really admire has noted to me the prevalence of ADD people in the scene.  It fits.

But what else fits?  I know that ADD is meant to make us less functional as humans.  I see this in many ways in my life, and overcoming those challenges requires conscious effort.  Understanding them took a long time, but understanding is not nearly enough to overcome with.  It takes work and swimming against the tide.  But the really, really important thing?  This feeling of being an impostor, feeling like I am not good enough, or that I will be found out, is actually an extreme motivator.  This sensitivity, this fear, this awkwardness, and if the Professor is right, this femininity are all tools that lie at the heart of my power as a person.  But they could just as easily be my weakness.  And that is what I am driving at.

When our weakness, or weaknesses, can be made our strengths, then we have the power to really achieve. And I look at that in my own life.  Humility provokes a positive response.  Submission provokes a positive response.  Doing the work that it takes to overcome the feeling of not being good enough, not knowing enough. The curious and unexpected thing that I am finding as I journey into the world of D/s, is that I am losing my fear, that I feel less and less like a fraud, and feel my strength growing.

Be strong, give to those around you, and the world will lay itself at your feet.

by Patrick/Patti, Beyond Non-Binary, 8 July 2021