Impostor Syndrome, while not an official medical diagnosis, is indeed real. It is described as self-doubt; feeling as if you do not deserve your accomplishments or achievements; fear of being unmasked as a fraud because you think you do not have the talents you think others think you have. According to Psychology Today, an estimated 70% of adults will deal with impostor syndrome at least once in their life.
High achievers and those at the top of their field or area of expertise, often deal with these feelings. It happens frequently to those that may have some special talent or skill. Those perfectionist tendencies and goal-driven approaches may be great at helping us achieve, but they can also be planting the seeds of doubt that grow into impostor syndrome.
I see this often in my Gifted students. They, and those around them, often have preconceived notions that being Gifted means that they will excel at everything. Therefore, when they find themselves in positions of struggle or confusion, they immediately begin to feel like an impostor. They wonder if in fact, they really are gifted. Was there a mistake? Will it soon be discovered that they do not belong here?
For writers, this can also be a very real condition. Especially when you do begin to have some success. I have often chatted with fellow writers at conferences and other gatherings, and as we get to know each other, they will downplay or minimize their achievements, or dismiss any compliments.
According to some academic research on the topic, some common triggers for impostor syndrome can be rejection and peer-criticism. Well my goodness, no wonder writers frequently deal with Impostor Syndrome. Our entire writing/publishing process is built on peer-criticism (also known as feedback or critique) and rejection (also known as submitting your work for publication).
We often compare ourselves and our success to the award winning author who sells millions of copies of their books each year. Honestly, that is not the world of the majority of writers.
Impostor syndrome, unchecked, can do real damage to our psyche, our work, and our success. While a quick google search will reveal a long list of articles, and websites filled with a wide range of advice and suggestions, there are many tips that come up again and again.
- Acknowledge your expertise and skill. While you may not know it all (who does, after all?), be honest and forthright about what you do know and what you can contribute and share with others. It might be very specific pockets of prowess, but clearly you have something valuable to share. Own it!
- Don’t be afraid to say you do not know something. Even if you hold the highest position in your place of work, or your networking group, you are not expected to know it all. Become comfortable saying that you do not know the answer.
- Ask for assistance if you need it. No matter our successes and accomplishments, there are going to be times and situations when you will need outside advice, insights, or support. Seek it out and embrace it.
- Be clear, in your own mind, about what success looks like for you. Do not compare your success to others’ success. Everyone’s success hinges on their own personal goals and aspirations.
The thing I like about these tips, is that they are as applicable to my elementary school Gifted students, as they are to my fellow writers.