Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. – CalTech
Imagine someone as great as Maya Angelou suffered from imposter syndrome. She once said : “I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now…I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
The syndrome – the fear of being found out that we’re not really as good at what we are known for as people think we are – strikes people from all walks of life. Writers. Doctors. Painters. Musicians……….. Artist and musician Amanda Palmer says:” The underlying fear is that someone’s going to come knocking at the door. I call these fictional people the Fraud Police, and they’re just going to tell you: ‘We figured it out, and we’re taking it all away.'”
Let’s translate ‘imposter syndrome’ into some of thoughts it might lead you to have about yourself as a writer:
- Who gave me permission to call myself a writer? (Oh yes, there’s a whole argument out there that bloggers are not writers! I have suggestions, and rude ones at that, for people who say that. 😉 )
- I’m certainly not a good writer. One of these days, people are going to find out and tell me that my writing stinks!
As a writer, what you might do if you’re suffering from this is :
- Procrastinate – you keep putting off things, especially challenging assignments. Last year, for example, I lost out on a sponsored post with a fantastic payout. I just didn’t think I was up to writing it. I kept putting it off.
- Second-guess yourself – You keep checking every single comma, every word, every phrase. And once you’ve done that you’ll check some more. Now while it’s necessary to edit what you publish, you might end up not meeting deadlines or start to suffer from writer’s block.
- Avoid connections with ‘better’ writers – You might join writing communities and stay on the fringes, thinking you’re not good enough to mingle with more established writers. Or not even join at all.
- You don’t take up challenging assignments – like writing a book, or taking part in competitions, etc.
- You don’t pitch for being published on well-known publications because you think your writing is simply not good enough.
As I’ve gathered from various sources, here are just some of the things you can do to overcome this ‘disease’:
- Remember why you write. Go back to the basics. Remember that you are an artist.
- Own your success. No matter how ‘small’ your achievements might seem, take credit for them. Tell yourself: ‘I got here. I deserve to be here.’ Don’t talk yourself down.
- Focus on your value, not on perfection. You don’t have win some big writing awards to own that you are a writer. From my examples above, you’ll see that even awards can’t keep people from suffering from this syndrome.
- Don’t avoid situations and challenges that you fear will show you up as a fraud. Stretch the limits. Feel the fear, and do it anyway!
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Sometimes we have that one person compare ourselves to. I know that I do that. So each time she achieves something, I feel bad about myself. I’m working on that mostly by reminding myself that I am not her (thankfully, I’m not! 😉 )
- Make good connections – The Write Life in the article How To Battle Imposter Syndrome stresses the importance of community – both online and offline.
- Keep a file in which you record some of the nicest things people have said about you – testimonials, letters, cards – and keep referring back to them, reminding yourself that you are truly enough.
Do you too suffer from imposter’s syndrome? What are some of the steps you take to overcome it?
We’re into the third week now of #writingwednesdays and I hope it is helping you – both in terms of the content of our posts and as an encouragement for you to keep writing.
This week we have a prompt :
What’s the nicest thing someone (or a group of people) has said about you/ your writing? Share how that makes you feel.
It’s totally up to you whether you want to respond to the prompt or not. We invite you to add links to your posts from this week. The linky will be open until next Tuesday.
Please do the right thing – comment on the posts of others and share the love (use the hashtag #writingwednesdays). Thank you.