The irony of this post is I feel like an imposter writing about this syndrome, as I am constantly battling it and nowhere near over it myself. But that also makes me an expert.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a persistent fear of being found out for a fraud. It’s often a part of being a creative, motivated, and highly achieving person when you also fail to internalize successes. I suffer from it. So do many people you would never suspect of ever doubting themselves.
• I’ve been writing stories for almost three decades, since I was eleven.
• I’ve been drawing, carving, painting, and sculpting even longer.
• I’ve published four books.
• I’ve completed a series.
• My books get great reviews.
• I’ve had artwork in galleries.
• I’ve sold several of my pieces for decent money.
• I’ve been a professional copywriter for over four years.
• I make a living off my writing.
• I’ve been on dozens of panels about writing, technology, and art.
• I’ve had successful booths, book signings, and school visits.
• I feel like a complete fraud at least half of the time.
Why We Suffer from Imposter Syndrome
Artists and writers are extra susceptible to this syndrome due to the subjective nature of what we do.
• We are literally making things up. I hammer words out of nothing or glue cardboard together.
• We rely heavily on ourselves without much support during the process.
• We often have little education or training in what we do.
• We often have little to no qualifications.
• Our work is subjective, and not everyone loves it.
• Friends and family are not always helpful. If they praise our work, we assume they might be biased. If they criticize our work, we take it harder.
• Publishing is hard, slow work with plenty of chances to doubt ourselves along the way.
• We allow others to tear our work apart constantly. Critiques, edits, queries, rejections, and reviews open us up to attacks.
• We pour ourselves into our work in ways that noncreative types do not. I can pinpoint pieces of my characters that belong to me and my personality. This makes it even more painful when people fail to love what we have created.
Why That Doesn’t Matter
None of that makes me or you an imposter. If anything, you are more successful than you know. Completing books and artistic projects isn’t something many people manage. Putting yourself out there is a success too. You just need to learn how to internalize your successes.
12 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome
- Be aware. Knowing that you suffer from a syndrome let’s you gain control over it. There is power in naming something. You can change it once you understand it and know that it’s something to overcome.
- Feelings aren’t reality. Feelings are often wrong, misplaced, and ultimately under your control. Feeling like a fraud doesn’t mean you are one, just like feeling anger doesn’t make you a violent person.
- Kill negative thoughts and words. The way you talk to yourself matters. Don’t belittle yourself. You wouldn’t talk to a friend that way. Don’t talk to yourself that way either. You deserve the same consideration and love you would give a friend.
- Get support. There are plenty of people out there willing to elevate you. Let them. There are happy, fun, supportive groups on Facebook everywhere you turn.
- Set attainable goals. Often we choose something huge as our grand success. Once we reach it, we’ll know we’ve made it for real. That’s a mistake that ignores all the steps along the way. Make smaller goals between the huge one and where you are now.
- Celebrate your successes. Every success, no matter how small, deserves to be recognized. You finish a chapter? Celebrate. You crank out a whole book? Celebrate. You finish an edit pass? You got it, CELEBRATE!! This will help you internalize those successes and see all the progress you have truly made.
- Be a part of those successes. Not everything can be attributed to luck. You made each one of those successes happen. You were a part of it. Own it and remember.
- Provide value. So you feel like a fraud? That doesn’t mean you can’t provide value where you can. Every panel I’ve been a part of, there has been one or two questions where I knew I could provide something of value to those listening. You can too. Say what you do know.
- Start a happy ego file. Many artists and authors collect good reviews and comments in one file to read when they’re feeling down. Add your successes to this too, along with how you felt when you hit each one. We sometimes need reminders.
- Don’t compare. You are not anyone else. You are you. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy. Most of the people you are comparing yourself to feel like frauds at times too.
- Admit when wrong. Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. It just makes you wrong, which happens to all of us at times.
- Try. Trying to do something doesn’t make you a fraud. It means you are learning. You are becoming an expert with each new step you take. When I was learning to speak, I didn’t want to do it in front of people until I could do it as well as them. I would go out in my backyard and talk to our little pen of pigs day after day.
Was I a talking fraud? Am I one now because I still stumble over new words or misspeak at times? No, I’m still an expert who has transformed my love of language into something more. I take those guttural sounds I practiced with the pigs and string them into words that become stories. I paint the interiors others’ heads as they read what I have made. There is expertise in that. There is magic.
Go. Be magical. Paint the world with your expertise and let go of the doubt. You are a success who is swimming in successes. I promise you will see them if you look.
Charlie Pulsipher is a were-hamster and lemur enthusiast who lives in Saint George, Utah with his lovely wife and neurotic dog. He writes sci-fi and fantasy or some mix of the two. He plans on surviving the inevitable zombie-pocalypse that will surely start when dust bunnies rise up against their vacuum cleaner masters. He spends his time away from the keyboard hiking and camping in stunning Southern Utah. Don’t be fooled by his shy, humble exterior.
He does bite and his velociraptor impression is quite scary. It’s probably the coolest thing about him.