The feeling when you know that you have worked hard to achieve your goals and yet, somehow, there is a voice inside your head telling you that you do not deserve it. It might say that you were merely lucky, that you cheated or fooled others. The term itself was established by Pauline Clance back in 1985, and Healthline describes it as “feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments”.
Let me tell you right now, this voice is flat-out lying. However, it can also be surprisingly persuasive. It is easy to be swayed by this negative train of thoughts. Many writers struggle with imposter syndrome at one point or another. Whether they have just finished the first draft, won a writing competition, or received praise from their peers, once you get used to thinking this way, it is a tough struggle to stop.
Note: I am no psychologist, but I have experienced imposter syndrome for years now, and I am glad to say that I have made improvements in handling it. I will mention some of the strategies that have worked for me, hoping that they can help motivate you.
Even published authors with years of experience whose work impacted literature struggle with imposter syndrome.
My question is, what would you say to these writers? You would probably recognize their hard work. Not all of us might be best-selling authors (yet), but I encourage you to tell yourself the same. Another option is to tell a friend (extra points is they are your writing buddy) how you are feeling. Because, once we exteriorize these thoughts, we begin to understand that they lack a foundation. Your friend will likely help you put things in perspective. At the end of the day, a change of mindset is a good way to begin fighting against this way of self-sabotage.
For me, the change of mindset begins by recognizing when my brain is entering this negative space. The moment I realize that I have begun to tell myself that I am an imposter, I stop right in my tracks. I refocus.
The next step is to acknowledge my process. Remember the late nights or early mornings I spent investigating, drafting, and editing. If I could speak to the version of myself that was working on my last story, I would never tell her that she is deceiving everyone, or that her work is not authentic. No, I would congratulate her for dedicating herself to my now-completed story. Thank her for believing in her skill.
Remember that we are our hardest critics. Part of our growth process as creatives is to learn to cherish our work. Celebrate our achievements. And this will mean different things for every writer. Maybe for you, it means to take a break, treat yourself to a good meal, or text a friend, and tell them that you finally got through that plot hole.
Even if you think there are still things to improve in your WIP, take this as your reminder to honor your progress.
Another point I believe is closely linked to imposter syndrome is comparison. The writing community is wonderful in many ways, but there is also a lot of pressure to write correctly and quickly, to be successful as soon as possible. Especially in social media, it is hard not to compare yourself with writers who completed a trilogy or published a book by the time they were 21.
Writing is not a race, and it does not need to be a competition. At the end of the day, everyone has their own writing pace, and if we force ourselves to adapt to a pace that we are uncomfortable with, we might get burned out.
As a writing community, we need to use comparison healthily. When we see past pitting ourselves against others, we realize that we can learn from each other instead. We can choose to think “what can you teach me, and what can I teach you” instead of “who gets there first”. One of the things I love the most about healthy communities is that people support, and are willing to help one another. That they will remind you that you are not, and have never been, an imposter.
is a young planster with too much passion and too little time on a day. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, whether they are thoroughly researched flash fiction pieces or improvised bedtime stories.
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