Three Ways to Leave "Imposter Syndrome" in the Dust
I was sitting on the deck of an Italian villa. It was a beautiful morning, and the sun rose on the mountain town below. My writing notebook lay open beside me; my pen was uncapped. For all intents and purposes, I was ready to start the day with a free write.
So, why wouldn’t any words come to mind?
How could I travel halfway across the world, to a gorgeous location where I was getting feedback on a long-form project, only to find myself unable to do anything but write self-pitying journal entries?
In a word: Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a phenomenon where a person has attained some new position or honor but does not feel worthy of it.
It gets its name from the persistent and (usually) irrational anxiety that we will be outed as someone who doesn’t deserve such plaudits.
In my case, when I looked at the writers around me, I saw both fresh-faced up-and-comers and seasoned professionals. I didn't feel that I fit into either group, and therefore decided I was not meant to be there. My attendance was somehow a horrible mistake.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but we can't let Imposter Syndrome get us down.
Instead, here are three suggestions for how to work around it so that you can better enjoy the awesome opportunities that you've earned. (That's right! Earned!)
1. Fake it till you make it.
If you tell yourself you're a fraud, eventually you'll believe yourself. If you tell yourself you deserve the place you’re in, eventually you’ll believe yourself.
Here’s a link to an image that says “You’re worth everything and more.” Add it to your phone's lock screen, where you'll see it every day until, eventually, you believe it.
2. Share your feelings with a trusted friend or cohort.
In her article "Outing the Imposter," Holly M. Hutchins suggests that mentoring and public confession of feelings of guilt, exhaustion, and imposter syndrome can help us work through the situation.
My personal experience corroborates this fact.
On the second night at the villa, I shared my feelings of inadequacy with my fellow writers. I expected only sympathy for poor, insecure Jessica, but in fact, the others admitted feeling the exact same way.
The thing that (I thought) had driven a wedge between us actually gave us common ground. After I named my feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, I didn't feel them anymore. Instead, I felt welcomed by a group of writers who felt largely the same way I did in our first days together.
3. When all else fails, focus on your accomplishments.
In some cases, Imposter Syndrome can tip over into anxiety and acute depression. This means that tips 1 and 2 may not work for you. If this is the case, begin by focusing on your existing accomplishments.
When you're depressed, it can be easy to downplay all of the awesome things about yourself. Instead, try to list at least five things about your writing that you are proud of. Take the time to savor your achievements.
You aren't fooling anyone. You're awesome. You're here. You're worth it.
So, in 2018, let’s say good riddance to Imposter Syndrome. Don’t let it get in the way of living your dreams.
Chances are, you're meant to be where you are, and if you aren’t, well, you’ve been given a fantastic learning experience that could have gone to someone else.
If only for that runner-up, don’t squander your chance. Learn from it. Grow. Move forward.