Imposter Syndrome: Fighting the Lie

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Internal monologue may work well on the page, but some internal conflicts restrict your ability to grow and thrive. Imposter syndrome is near the top of that list, but you don’t have to live with it forever. It’s time to see your true place and potential in the wonderful world of writing.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the delusion that you are somehow not a ‘real’ writer, no matter how much you’ve actually written, how many goals you’ve accomplished, or how many stories you’ve added to the world. If any of these sound familiar, you have imposter syndrome:

  • I’m not a real writer.
  • This isn’t a book I can compare to other books.
  • I’m not sure I qualify for this position/opportunity.
  • Why do people ask for my opinion when I’m obviously substandard?
  • I feel like I snuck in the backdoor and security is going to kick me out of this event for being a fraud.

Address Cognitive Dissonance

Imposter syndrome is a misunderstanding of reality enforced by a wicked cousin of your inner editor. The little voice asking how you got where you are, insisting your accomplishments aren’t real, and second guessing every insistence that you’re a ‘real’ writer grows the more you listen to it. Although that isn’t at all your fault, one of the best ways to shut the little devil up is via some tried and true techniques most of us learned in therapy.

Cognitive dissonance is what happens when the world in your head doesn’t match the world in reality. In reality, you’ve written that book, and you have a host of short stories. Maybe you’ve even self-published or have a contract with an indie publisher. The voice in your head insists you still aren’t a real writer, though. You can start moving forward again once you address that dissonance.

Ask the little jerk in your head questions back and compare what you think of yourself with what you think of others. Your friend just self-published a book! Would you say they weren’t a real writer? If your sibling worked hard and completed a novel with several drafts of vigorous editing, would you say they weren’t really a writer, either? If you write, you’re a writer. If you have completed stories, you’re an author. That’s reality, no matter what your inner editor’s second cousin thrice removed has to say about it.

Flip the Script

Sometimes, addressing imposter syndrome head-on doesn’t work. The voice is too loud, and your fears are too strong. So what do you do? You flip the script!

Okay, fine. You aren’t a ‘real’ writer – whatever that means. You’re a world-builder, a wordsmith, the modern equivalent of a wandering, rogue bard. I’ve found from personal experience that imposter syndrome has more trouble stymying my creativity when stop comparing myself to the expectations I associate with other labels, like writer, author, successful, etc. I am what I am, and I do what I do, and the voice in my head can be a productive member of a story’s cast or it can sod off.

Enlist a Support Team

People matter. They matter a lot. Lack of conventional validation – from a traditional publisher, your preferred agent, The New York Times, etc. – feeds imposter syndrome. Although you may not get the kudos or recognition you think you need from the powers that you believe be, you can get closer, more meaningful support.

Build a support team around yourself and your writing. I have one or two very, very close betas who I send snippets of work to when I’m feeling overcome and incapable. I can ask them, “Is this crap?” and get a reasonable answer that also packs in all the enthusiasm I need to press forward. Find people who will give you the critiques you need to grow, too, but also keep a cheering squad in the wings. This could be family, friends, Twitter followers, or any other group of people who respect you and enjoy your writing.

If you ever completed so much as a short story, then you know how to manage your inner editor. Don’t let imposter syndrome trick you into believing its any more real or honest than that over active inner editor you have locked in the attic. You’re a writer! Trust me.

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