Since we have some time to reflect and work on our writing due to the coronavirus, I figured we should look at ways to get around feeling like an imposter. To that aim, we’re all going to feel like frauds for a bit as we explore imposter syndrome. It’s not fun feeling inadequate or like you can’t be a writer because of x, y, and z. This is something that a lot of writers suffer from, and it shouldn’t hinder our progress or stop us from achieving our goals.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
According to Harvard, imposter syndrome is the feeling of inadequacy despite achieving many successes. In fact, imposter syndrome can make you suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence despite evidence to the contrary. Still not sure what imposter syndrome is? Well, this TED Talk can shed some more light on it for you:
To make things more interesting, there are five different types of imposter syndrome:
- The Perfectionist. This one is pretty self-explanatory. You have an overachiever who is afraid to begin anything because they’re worried about it not coming out correctly. Perfectionists have trouble delegating, tend to be a micromanager, and set insanely high standards for themselves and others.
- The Superman/woman. These people tend to think they’re frauds when they compare themselves to their colleagues, leading them to work harder and longer than most people. The superperson lets work consumer their life and let relaxing, downtime, and hobbies fall by the wayside.
- The Natural Genius. Like the perfectionist, the natural genius sets incredibly high standards for themselves and attribute their competence on how quickly they can do tasks and master new skills. If something takes too long, the natural genius is not going to be happy.
- The Soloist. Soloists don’t want to reveal their phoniness by asking questions. To combat this, they do everything themselves.
- The Expert. The experts believe that they will never know enough and are always seeking new opportunities to up their skill levels. They fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable. Basically, it’s justified procrastination.
Regardless of the type of imposter syndrome, we all chalk up our successes to luck, good timing, dismiss it or give the success up to someone who we believe is more intelligent or qualified than we are. There’s a whole host of issues that go with this, including anxiety, burnout, and depression, with the most important being a lack of productivity and never being able to fulfill our goals and dreams.
How to Combat Imposter Syndrome
How do we combat something wrong with our own minds? Imposter syndrome is a mental thing for us. It’s an internal dialogue that we have with ourselves about ourselves. Fixing imposter syndrome is as easy and hard as changing our thinking. I know it sounds trite and is the go-to bandage for anything that ails us, but it’s definitely something we need to keep in mind.
I know changing your thinking isn’t an easy thing to do, and the experts at the American Psychological Association believe that this is a crucial step towards overcoming imposter syndrome. The experts do caution that changing your thinking should be done slowly and in small steps to ensure that you don’t overwhelm yourself. Small steps could be showing someone an unpolished manuscript or asking someone for help on something minor.
The other standard advice for combating imposter syndrome is to talk to someone about it. That person could be anyone – a colleague, friend, family member, or a professional. It’ll help you understand that these types of feelings are normal and irrational. Plus, they could have some helpful advice on how you can combat it and some of the worse side effects, such as anxiety and depression.
Speaking to point number two, I have found this tip to be helpful. I, like many others, have suffered from imposter syndrome. Whenever it’s getting worse, I usually talk to my partner about it, and he helps me keep the situation in perspective. This is just an excellent tool to have because it can help you get out of the downward spiral, which could lead to more severe issues, like depression or anxiety.
I know that the two tips above won’t work all the time or for every person, so here are some others to help you out:
- Recognize your achievements and expertise. Don’t just brush off praise, but take a moment to feel good about doing something well. Also, don’t just go to people who “know” more than you do, but tutor someone – it’ll go a long way to helping you recognize your own skills.
- Remember what you do well. Realistically assess your abilities. This way, you know what you’re really good at and what legitimately needs improvement. You can do this on your own or with a friend.
- Realize no one is perfect. It’s ok to make the occasional mistake, to have an off day, or to ask for help. Forgive yourself for making mistakes as well.
- Develop a new script. When you fail, and it is inevitable, change how you talk to yourself and how you react to the situation. This will take some work and practice, but it does have the ability to help you overcome feeling like a fraud. Instead of thinking, “OMG. They’re going to find out I’m a horrible writer!” try thinking, “My editor and beta-readers think this is awesome, and so will a bunch of other people.”
- Reframe failure as a learning opportunity. Look at it as a way to grow and learn rather than a mistake. This helps you block out the mental beating you’d usually give yourself.
- Practice gratitude. Being grateful for the skills that you have is a great way to boost yourself up. I find that keeping a record of all good things you’ve done or that others have said you’ve done well goes a long way to boosting your confidence. Plus, all those good things others say about you make great portfolio pieces.
- Fake it ’til you make it. I can personally say that this does work, and if you start to believe in the image you’re projecting, it will eventually become your new reality. As for this last point, Mike Cannon-Brookes can shed some light on why it works:
That’s it for me, folks! I hope that this helps you out and allows you to better understand your own feelings. If there are any other tips for success, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Next week we’ll be talking about editorial calendars, which will help you with your marketing efforts. It’ll also help you organize all this free time you may not be used to having. In the meantime, keep safe and sane, everyone!
Until next time.