About four months ago I found out that something great happened with a short story I wrote; it was chosen for inclusion in an anthology, which is a collection of short stories. Then this week, a release date was announced. It was a very exciting moment for me – followed by something that felt like panic.
I’m working on launching a writing career. I never expected my first submission anywhere to be accepted. So, I’m still working on writing two novels to have ready hopefully by summertime.
But what if people read my short story and hate it? What if when they review the anthology it’s in, they specify that my story is the one they didn’t like?
It doesn’t matter that the editor of the anthology chose it out of an open call. It doesn’t matter that I thought it was good enough to enter it for consideration in that open call. It doesn’t matter that in the Creative Writing MFA program I’m taking, I’ve gotten used to having other people read and comment on what I write. None of that lessens the panicky feeling.
If you’re familiar with me or my blog, you know I research things. Why would this be any different?
What I’m feeling is evidently pretty common. It’s even got a name. Imposter Syndrome. being an imposter fills us with the anxiety and fear that we will be found out for what we try so hard to be but feel we are not, despite our best efforts or years of education and experience.
“Imposter Syndrome” is literally defined as a psychological pattern in which a person doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments, and has fears being exposed as being some kind of fraud. It makes you believe that your success is because of luck or other things outside of you, not because of your intelligence, skills, or qualifications such as education, experience, and talent. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but after reading about this issue quite a bit (when I should have been writing), I think I can summarize much of it as being a feeling that we don’t know what we’re doing. That we are inept.
Perhaps the best antidote for dealing with imposter syndrome is to look at it in the face and see what it has to say. I’ve found that, often, we become so mired in the feelings that arise about feeling inadequate, that we turn away from them, rather than exploring more deeply and determining what’s actually real and what’s not. Here’s a list of different ideas that may be alternative truths to the lies of either being an imposter or feeling like one. Try them on for size, and see if one or more fit. Maybe none of them do. Maybe it spurs you to come up with your own alternative to (what I know is) the false narrative that you are a fraud.
The advice I found about how to combat Imposter Syndrome had some common tips:
- Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Be objective about it.
- When you feel inadequate, or like it imposter, recognize and acknowledge how you’re feeling. Then make like Elsa, and let it go.
- When you tell yourself a negative, counter it by telling yourself a positive thing. So when you think to yourself that you don’t deserve your new job, reframe your self-talk and remind yourself that you are deserving of it.
- Talk to somebody you trust about how you feel. It might be a close friend, family member, a counselor of some type – anyone with whom you can be honest.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Share them. Remember that your life is largely shaped by your own actions, choices, and decisions.
- Some people find that daily affirmations or journaling can be helpful in combating Imposter Syndrome.
When you experience this issue, if you do, try to recognize it for what it is and don’t let it take over your mind and your life. This is a feeling that can (and does) affect people of all genders, all races, and all socioeconomic levels. It can impact how you see yourself as a parent, an office worker, an electrician, a civil servant, a spouse, a teacher, or anything and everything else. You’re not alone.
I’m going to figure out the best way for me to fight these moments. If it’s something you’ve ever experienced, I’d love to hear about it, and how you handle it. Email me at email@example.com about that or anything else that’s on your mind.