Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. (Wikipedia).
The rise in witchcraft and Wicca around the world has been well-documented (Newsweek, Quartzy, The Washington Post are just a few recent articles). This rising wave of witchery brings with it an influx of newbie witches.
Some of them, admittedly, are more interested in the witch aesthetic than digging into the sometimes unglamorous and often uncomfortable work of education (be it self-taught, intuitive, or with a teacher and/or coven), spellcrafting, and taking responsibility for the energies we cast out into the world.
But some of these young witchlings are earnestly seeking to reclaim a power that has lain dormant within them, and are taking tentative first steps toward learning to wield that power with mastery and intention. Like The Magician in the Major Arcana they stand before a metaphorical table of tools/elements, eager yet tentative, hopeful yet harboring a kernel of self-doubt.
Can I really do this? Am I really a Witch? How do I know? What if I’m just fooling myself? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I do something wrong? How can I be sure?
“An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives, according to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science. Impostor syndrome affects all kinds of people from all parts of life […]” (“Yes, Imposter Syndrome is Real” by Abigail Abrams, Time Magazine, June 20, 2018).
I participate in a few witch communities both on- and offline, and these kinds of questions come up repeatedly. Sometimes it’s easy to lose patience with how often expressions of self-doubt seem to cycle through with each batch of folks new the The Craft.
But that impatience is on me; it’s a reminder for me to give a quick twitch to straighten out my Wisdom-Bearer mantle, to remember my Call as a follower of Hekate, and to walk alongside the new Witch on a path that might be utterly familiar to me but is unexplored territory for them. And so I offer a few insights to those new to witchery:
Imposter Syndrome Isn’t the Same as Being an Imposter.
An imposter pretends to be something or someone they are not in order to deceive. Imposter Syndrome is about self-doubt, about feeling like you don’t deserve recognition or that the recognition you receive is not really your due because you couldn’t possibly be worthy. You are not a fraud, and you are more than worthy just as you are.
It’s OK to Check In With a Trusted Mentor.
Maybe your mentor is a particular author whose work speaks to you. Being of A Crone of a Certain Age, Scott Cunningham has had a deep and lasting impact on how I do witchcraft. These days I also consider John Beckett, Christopher Penczak, Mat Auryn, and the incomparable Cyndi Brannen as Guides on my Path.
Perhaps your learning style works best when you’re one-on-one with a teacher or working with others in a group setting. Witchvox and other websites such as MeetUp can be networking avenues (PLEASE, if you go this route, be mindful of basic internet safety precautions before meeting anyone in person!). Your local New Age shop usually offers some sort of on-site classes that are open to first-timers and/or has a Community Board with information on classes.
Learning to Trust Your Deepest Self is Hard.
We’re normative creatures. We have a herd mentality. We come by it honestly; way back in the day we fragile humans survived better if we stuck together, if we knew our place in the pack. When we were very young, if our caregiver(s) approved our words or actions we felt good—and we liked feeling good so we’d try to get more approval from our caregiver(s).
But eventually as we matured and became more autonomous, we came to rely on ourselves for approval—and that’s where a lot of us get stuck. It’s a tough transition to make. It feels uncomfortable and scary. Dangerous. Outside the norm. If you find yourself stuck—overwhelmed—start small. Be private. Light a candle or offer some water to a plant and state a simple intention. Trust—even self-trust—is built upon small acts of covenant. You’ll get there.
Step Off the Cliff.
Decades ago there was a particular time when I was an absolute mess. I was paralyzed by having to make a decision about a specific issue. Where I was in my head-space and who was in my heart-space had become increasingly intolerable, but despite my misery I could not seem to take the necessary actions to break away and step onto a new path.
I’ve never forgotten what a trusted friend told me. “Step off the cliff,” he said, “and trust that the Universe will hold you.”
Even with loads of support from your mentor(s), there will come a moment when you as The Magician are going to have to reach down/up to the metaphorical table, pick up the tools, make them your own, and learn to wield your power with mastery and intention. You’re going to have to be OK with making beginner’s mistakes, and open to learning from those mistakes.
Put another way: if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.
Just as the Universe is dynamic, just as Nature is dynamic, so too is your journey toward self-sovereignty as a Witch. Honor your magickal accomplishments, but do not allow yourself to become complacent. You may make a fool of yourself, but you are not fooling yourself. Own your power, but never forget it is sourced from greater Power(s). And trust that the Universe will hold you.