What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Suppose you hit a huge milestone with your writing. You finally got the publishing deal that you have been working on for years. You finally completed a manuscript and are now ready to start editing. You're proud of yourself, but then the unpleasant thoughts start to creep in.
The usual feelings of self-doubt return, of course, but you also start to believe that maybe you don't deserve to celebrate your accomplishments. After all, there are plenty of people who have done more than you have. Maybe you aren't so great after all. And maybe people will find out.
This doesn't just happen to writers. It occurs in any profession, to anyone who should be commended for their accomplishments. We all can fall prey to this. And for those who don't know the name for these thoughts, it's called imposter syndrome.
Why are we writers so concerned about imposter syndrome? How do we stop ourselves from succumbing to the mindsets imposter syndrome throws at us as writers? Here are a few things to remember when the imposter syndrome sets in.
Ask Yourself Why as You Progress
First off, take a step back. Recognize your accomplishment and congratulate yourself on what you've done. Then ask yourself why you're feeling this way. If you recognize that what you're experiencing is imposter syndrome, evaluate what you can do differently to avoid feeling this way. Understand where this comes from so that you can be better prepared to overcome it when the negative feelings come back.
Also, recognize if the issue stems from dealing with perfectionism. As writers, we're all a little tough on ourselves from time to time, whether it be with our writing or any milestone we accomplish. We like to think that would could have done something better after we completed it. We may even think that we're never doing enough when it comes to advancing our writing career, and the perceived failures and rejections along the way don't help, either.
And if we think we should have done something differently, then the idea that we're a fake or a fraud enters our minds. If we aren't where we want to be and we've made mistakes along the way, then maybe someone will find out and expose us for the imposters we are. After all, we're only trying to be writers.
But writing takes a lifetime, and we keep learning throughout our entire lifespan. You're going to make mistakes, but you can learn from them. Remember that you're a work in progress, and any accomplishment shows your progression. Be proud of what you have done with your writing, and know you are improving. That's the kind of thing that should be celebrated.
Know You Are Stronger Than Your Mindsets
Remember that imposter syndrome is just a mindset, and it's a mindset that no one else believes about you. While you might see yourself as a fraud, others may be quick to point out that you, in fact, aren't. As a writer, half the battle involves getting out of your own way, and you've proven that you can overcome self-doubt, procrastination, and your anxieties by reaching this milestone and accomplishing a major goal.
Think of imposter syndrome as another negative mindset, another stepping stone you have to crawl over. Once you put things into perspective, it becomes easier to manage.
If you got this far, you can keep going. Writers are never done with their work, but they create goals along the way. And when you accomplish a goal, you should be proud that you've progressed in your writing journey. The idea that you're a fraud is just a mindset.
Consider some major authors who believe their accomplishments aren't all they're cracked up to be and someone will find out. Do others believe they're a fraud and shouldn't be recognized for their talents? No. Those mindsets get in their way just like they do with you. Remember you're stronger than what your mind comes up with to get you to back down.
Come Up With Positive Things to Say to Yourself
After recognizing the mindsets you need to get rid of, turn the negative into something positive. Remind yourself of the truth: You have the talent and drive to become the writer you want to be. You are capable of accomplishing your goals. You can overcome the negative thoughts that try to get in your way.
Turn the negative ideas on their head, no matter what stage of the writing process you're on. You could be editing your work and believing it's not good enough because you're not good enough. You could be about to finish your manuscript but you don't think you can call yourself a writer just yet. You have to believe you are a writer, and you have to tell yourself every day that you're a writer. You deserve that title after all that you've done.
Don't let imposter syndrome get in your way. Instead, remember that you're not pretending to a writer. You're becoming a writer.
© 2023 E M Sherwood Foster