So, what is imposter syndrome? It was first identified by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It refers to feelings of fraud and self-doubt experienced mainly by high-achieving individuals.
These people are convinced that they are not really knowledgeable, skilled or talented in their area of expertise. They think they have somehow fooled people, scammed their way to success, and worry they will be exposed sooner or later as the fraud they believe themselves to be.
Impostor syndrome can affect anyone in any industry or profession, but often rears its ugly head with writers.
What writer hasn’t doubted their knowledge, or talent at some point or another? I know I have. I’ve shied away from praise or encouragement, due to a genuine lack of confidence in my work.
Yet to be published and self-published authors can be particularly susceptible to suffering from impostor syndrome. They don’t have a traditional publishing team behind them, making them feel as if their work isn’t validated or good enough to be put out into the world.
While impostor syndrome, by definition, is usually experienced by high-achieving people. You don’t necessarily have to achieve a great amount of success as a writer to suffer from it. Working on a book, and simply calling yourself a writer can lead to overwhelming feelings of self-doubt.
Suffering from imposter syndrome can have negative effects on your writing, such as relentless critiquing of your own work, never ending editing, second guessing yourself at every turn, and worst of all, giving up on a project all together.
The first step to overcoming it, is recognising you are suffering from it in the first place. Once you have identified that you are experiencing imposter syndrome, you can actively work towards adjusting your attitude.
So, let’s look at what you can do to overcome this syndrome.
Talk to other writers
You know the saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved?’ The simple act of talking about your concerns out loud can be really helpful. Many writers keep their struggle with impostor syndrome to themselves, often afraid that if they bring it up with someone, that person might confirm their fears. Getting things off your chest with someone who likely knows exactly what you’re experiencing, can help you regain your confidence as a writer.
Remember you’re probably not the only one
One of the most important things to keep in mind if you’re suffering from impostor syndrome is that you are not alone. Lots of very successful and famous authors have suffered from it too.
Remind yourself of all the blood, sweat, and tears you have shed in the name of your craft
Seeing other fellow authors all around you post or talk about their book deal or phenomenal success, it’s easy to start to feel like writing success is due to luck, chance or accident. Stop and remind yourself of all the hard work that went into getting you where you are today.
Remember all those sleepless nights? Remember all the dedication? Remember all the effort you’ve been pouring into it for weeks, months, or years on end?
You have earned every bit of success you have achieved, no matter how small it may seem. Try and remind yourself of this when the doubt starts to creep in.
Keep on keeping on
Keep writing. People suffering from impostor syndrome believe that they aren’t ‘real’ writers. A ‘real’ writer is ‘someone who is writing’. So, if you stop writing, you’re only giving more weight to your own fears. Just keep pumping out those words.
The more you write, the more your writing improves. This will boost you confidence.
Writing is a lonely gig. Be kid to yourself and if all else fails, reach for a big tub of your favourite ice –cream.