Back in January I learned something new about myself. I learned that all my feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy and fear had an actual name to it- Imposter Syndrome. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. When I first heard this term, I immediately knew this is what I’ve been dealing with for years and this explained so much about why I react to accomplishments and failures the way I do. This explains why when people compliment my writing or tell me they read my blog, I’m in disbelief and think “Really? You like my writing? You read my blog? But why? There are better writers/bloggers out there!” And it explains why when I fail, I feel like I’m finally being called out on my bullshit/lack of actual talent.
I was faced with a situation similar to this a few months back when a YouTuber I’ve been watching for years posted on Instagram that she was looking for an editor to edit the book she’s currently writing. When I saw this, I was immediately torn between applying and not applying. Though I have some experience with editing, I didn’t feel my experience would be good enough for a project like this. But after talking to my fiancée Shane, I decided to at least apply because then what I wouldn’t be faced with the dreaded what if. So I put my resume together, whipped up a quick cover letter, and sent the email to her. it took about two days, but I heard back from her and she told me I was one of her top three choices to be her editor! I remembering staring at my computer in disbelief and wondering why I was in her top three because I didn’t feel like I deserved that kind of recognition. But I emailed her back and we moved onto the next step, which was me editing a small snippet of her book. I spent an hour and a half working on my edit, overthinking it and worrying the whole time. It didn’t feel good enough to me, I wanted to keep working on it and keep making it better, but I knew I couldn’t keep pushing off sending it back to her. So I sent to her and then it took awhile for me to hear back because she was pregnant and had her baby during this time. When I finally did hear back from her, she told me she had decided to go with someone else whose rate and availability better matched what she was looking for… and immediately my thoughts were “See, you weren’t good enough to be her editor. You charged way too much for your services when you should have charged less. You don’t have the skills to edit and your writing isn’t that great either.” Shane came home from work to find me bawling my eyes open and I told him I was quitting writing. This was a sign that writing was done with me and that I needed to something else with my life. He asked me what else I would do and I told him I didn’t know because there is nothing else I’m passionate about or even remotely good at. To make a long story short, he basically talked to me until I told him I wouldn’t quit writing. He really is the most amazing partner I could ask for!
But this experience made my Imposter Syndrome flare up and made my mental health break a bit. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I was pretending to be this skilled writer who had all this experience and education behind them. Even though I truly am educated and have truly had writing experiences, I felt like I didn’t deserve any of them. Even this blog, which I have always done completely by myself, felt like something I didn’t deserve to have. Even though I’ve committed myself to this blog, sticking to my schedule and trying my hardest to always give my readers something interesting to read, I didn’t feel like I deserved to have anyone take time out of their day to read my thoughts. Overall, I just felt like I was pretending to be a good writer when I’m not.
I know there’s no truth to those thoughts when the evidence speaks against it. I know that not being picked to be her editor isn’t a full reflection on me because my cover letter probably made it seem like I had a lot on my plate and might not have had the open availability that she might have needed. And I’ve been told by people a lot wiser than me that I shouldn’t have lowered my rate just to get the job because I’m worth the rate I gave her. I know when people read my posts or comment, it’s because something I wrote sparked a response in them that they wanted to share. Overall, I know my Imposter Syndrome is a liar and that I shouldn’t listen to it… but it’s hard when I’m filled with so much anxiety and I suffer from low self-esteem.
Being a writer and struggling with Imposter Syndrome is probably one of the worst combinations to exist. As writers, we are constantly facing the possibility of rejection, whether it’s by a publisher, a beta reader, some random person on the Internet, etc. There are absolutely no guarantees with being a writer. As we’ve seen, even the biggest and most well-known writers can fall or have failures. We can spend eight hours a day writing and make little to no money. Self-publishing is a gamble. Overall, being a writer is one of the most uncertain career paths I could have ever chosen for myself! And with my struggles with Imposter Syndrome, it feels like I am constantly setting myself up for setbacks and breakdowns. Because failure and rejection hit me harder than they probably should and for me to snap out of my negative thoughts takes a lot. Honestly, struggling with Imposter Syndrome while being a writer is hard and somedays, it feels impossible to deal with. But here I am, trying to deal with and continue on.
Does anyone else struggle with Imposter Syndrome? How do you cope with it? Or what tips have you learned for managing it? Please let me know! I hope everyone has a great week. Stay positive!