“I feel like a Joan”

Let’s talk about self-awareness and imposter syndrome, using Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has been granted super-strength and other things that make her the best person to fight the bad guys. After 5 seasons of tough fights, wins, and loses, she does not always feel like she is up to the challenge. We see many times when it is only her friend’s support that keeps her going. Trauma is piled on her as she fights a non-stop war, knowing she will probably die (again) very soon.

In the “Tabula Rasa” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6, our heroes loose their memories. Buffy is the only one without an ID, correct or not. She decides to name herself Joan. When noted that it is a plain name, she is adamant that she feels “like a Joan”.

There are two opposing theories about why she decides on this name.

1. “Joan” is a plain name for the everyday girl that Buffy wants to be.

When she was a teenager, she wanted to get a job as a personal shopper and marry a hot movie star. She was not interested in complicated or stressful situations. Seven or eight years later, she has died twice and saved the world about 6 times. But she never asked for to be “The Slayer” – she was “chosen” by unseen forces to fight evil. Responsibility and skills was given to her and she’s done her best to handle it.

When she is given this clear-headed moment to see how she feels, without knowing anything about her skills or history, she wants to be just an average person, a “Joan”. Yet, when she realizes she has super-strength, she immediately takes up her role as leader and protector. It doesn’t matter who she wants to be. With a less psychologically-damaged view of herself, she feels that although she may feel like she is just a “Joan”, she is also “Joan the Vampire Slayer”.

2. “Joan” is a reference to Joan of Ark, a French girl.

Joan of Arc was a peasant girl living in medieval France in the 1400’s. She was believed to have been chosen by God to lead France to victory in a lengthy war. She had no official training but did lead the army to a significant victory. She was then captured and convicted of witchcraft before being burned at the stake when she was 19.

Perhaps Buffy felt like a Joan because to her subconscious, “Joan” is the name of a young warrior like herself. Buffy’s fictional story is remarkably similar to Joan’s life. She was chosen by The Powers That Be to fight evil. She was not trained beforehand like many of the previous Slayers, but still went on to lead her small army to victory. She also died twice and was tied to a stake to be burned at one point.

Now, lets bring this back to the point. If you could step back, or see yourself as a different person, who would you see? If you forgot everything, would you still want the things you wanted when you were young? Or would you, like Buffy, have an innate understanding that you are now a mature leader – someone who can handle their situation and prevail with confidence in their abilities?

What kind of name would you give yourself?

Do you know who you are? There is something called imposter syndrome. The more I learn about it, the more I realize that most adults feel it at some point – that sense of not feeling like you have earned your place. It’s the feeling that someday soon, people will realize you are not the person you are pretending to be.

I think in Buffy’s case, she handles the situation in a healthy way.

  • She self-identifies,
  • determines the situation,
  • understands her tools and abilities,
  • forms a simple plan, and
  • executes it.

Of course, her memory returns and she is once again weighed down by her trauma. If anyone needs a psychiatrist and a vacation, its Buffy. BtVS Season 6 is an especially solid example of many people who need psychological assistance.

Are you aware of your strengths?

If you step back, would you see someone who is good at what they do?

Or would you see a kid playing dress-up?

Whatever your answer, it’s okay. Trust me – you are fabulous!

Fine Print: Buffy the Vampire is a creation of Joss Whedon. The images/screencaps are copied from a basic Google search. Joan of Ark info was taken from https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/saint-joan-of-arc.

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