According to Wikipedia (and many similar sources) imposter syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
It happens in all walks of life and I’ve been hearing the term whispered within the writing community more frequently in the past few years. It actually wasn’t defined until 1978 by a couple of psychologists, so it’s a relatively new phenomena but one which can be crippling all the same.
It usually grips me in the middle of a project or when I’ve received nonconstructive criticism on a piece of writing (which to be fair doesn’t happen that often, but when it does happen it is really damaging). What it does remind me is to ensure I continue to be objective when reviewing other writers work, and that doesn’t mean saying everything is great if it isn’t. The key is in how the message is delivered not what the message is.
Anyway, here are some tactics I use to kick it in to touch when it strikes…
Reflect on more positive feedback – It’s too easy to concentrate on the negative stuff. I remind myself of all the good things said about my writing, how constructive feedback changed it for the better and remind myself that many of these people don’t know me personally. They don’t have to be positive! It’s one of the reasons I don’t like the review system for authors and writers. It is so subjective. And sometimes writers can be the worst of all critics.
“It would be wrong to think that you’re always right and correct and perfect and brilliant. Self-doubt is the thing that drives you to try to improve yourself.”
Remind myself I’m not alone – I know many writer friends go through this at some point in their writing career and probably as regularly as me! And I remind myself who I am writing for at the end of the day. Me. First and Foremost.
“I’m just Michelle Robinson, that little girl on the south side who went to public school’.”
Stop comparing myself to others – instead celebrate their success and achievements as much as my own. Writing can be a lonely world and developing connections with other authors who understand how you are feeling, is critical. It’s taken me a long time to appreciate this.
“Never compare yourself to others. Only compare the person you are today to the person you were the day before.”
Keep writing – my first reaction is always just that, reactive! I tell myself, often aloud or to the animals, that I’m rubbish and I should stop wasting my time and give up. Often, talking things through with my husband helps put me back on the right track and I never feel like this for long. I just can’t not write, it’s in my soul. And once I do start writing, I’m lost back in the worlds I create with the characters I’d like to meet. No better place to be.
“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.’”
Have you ever suffered from this crippling syndrome? If so, how did you manage it, let me know and if you are right now, then shout out so we can support you 🙂