A Perfectionistic Mindset

Imposter Cropped

Recently, I stumbled across the term Impostor Syndrome, or Fraud Syndrome, and was surprised by the number of successful writers who experience this phenomenon. Clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes identified impostor syndrome in 1978, as feelings of fraud and self-doubt suffered mainly by high-achieving individuals. Despite their success, the person believes they don’t deserve recognition and a nagging, crippling fear of exposure as a fraud persists. Continually comparing themselves to other writers, they battle ongoing negativity.

  • I’m not a real writer.
  • Why would anyone care what you have to say?
  • Sooner or later, they’ll find out you have no clue what you’re doing.
  • Who do you think you are?”

And so on and so on . . .

This syndrome affects both men and women equally. High-achievers in every walk of life may feel at any moment their cloaked abilities will be unveiled as a talentless fraud, their work worthless.

The writing profession is unique in that we work alone without a boss or co-workers telling us what to do, how to do it, and praising our efforts when we’re finished. Isolation is the perfect breeding ground for self-doubt. Without motivators, incentive or praise, we wonder if our efforts are good enough. Self-doubt gets in the way of completing work, saps creativity, and build restless defeat.

Some of the most accomplished writers have experienced impostor syndrome.  Maya Angelou, Author/Poet, once said:

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

In 1938, John Steinbeck wrote in his diary:

 “I always feel like something of an impostor.” 

Research has shown the impostor syndrome correlates with high-achieving, successful, perfectionists and that those who don’t suffer impostor symptom are more than likely the real frauds. So, if you identify with the former, your work is probably darn good.

There are several suggestions for taming these crippling emotions.

  • Remember you’re not alone. Other writers have similar mindsets
  • Get involved in a writer’s community. Talk to other writers who can sympathize with your plight and support you with strategies to overcome self-doubt
  • Reflect on positive feedback from other writers, beta-readers, etc. Unfortunately not all reviews will be positive. But negative reviews are necessary to hone your skills and become a better writer.
  • Most importantly, remember why you write. It’s your passion. Forge through all that self-doubt. Keep writing, and writing and writing. . . Don’t stop! You’re not an impostor but a genuine author with an exceptional voice!

 

Daily Prompts: Cloaked, Exceptional,  Fraud, Tame

Art: Courtesy of  Julia Rohwedder

39 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for sharing these good thoughts. Self-doubt is everywhere, but certainly among writers. It is a struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It most certainly is prevalent, probably more so than documented. But I do believe sharing these emotions with other writers help bring it to light.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Simon says:

    You know I’ve felt like this most of my life and not just about writing about what I do everyday. So I can relate to this, the thing is too that when those close to you poke fun it doesn’t help at all.
    How does one deal with this? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have had similar experiences Simon. I believe some topics aren’t meant to be discussed with our loved ones who may not take the topic quite as seriously as other people who are in the same profession. As with finding a writer’s community, I would suggest the same with any other profession. Find like-minded people.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Simon says:

        I guess that’s why friends on here (like you) are so amazing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aw! Yes and thank you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Simon says:

        Always my pleasure – thank you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Simon says:

    Reblogged this on Planet Simon and commented:
    This great post from Denise shows why we as creative people suffer from self doubt and she explains why we must overcome it.

    Simon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Amal Suresh says:

        Rang sm bell in my mind

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, thank you so much for this, Denise. This syndrome not only affects me as a writer, but also it’s affected me in other creative endeavors, mostly near the end of completing artwork, for example. Then there are times–too many times–I’ve become frozen, fearful, of tackling other works of art, and of course, books. “IT” taunts me with the negativity you present here, but as I get older, the loudest has been “just give up and stay in your place.” I cave, shelve, and then depression takes over. The PM is a nasty beast… a crippling one. Hoping it’s not too late, I’ll certainly read this again and again to help me conquer it when needed. With a warm hug, I softly scream… BRAVO! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maya !’m so sorry for this late response. I absolutely love your comment!! You’ve experienced what so many gifted people experience, especially writers. But don’t let this cripple you to the point where you give up. NO! NO! NO! Tape this to your computer and when that beast comes a knocking, slay him/her with your powerful pen!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. narutomath96 says:

    Thank you so much for the “perfect” post 😀 It’s true and I really find myself lucky to read this. I will continue to try my best from now on! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for the late response. And thank you for the comment. I’m always happen when my post resonates with others. Do your best and thanks again for the comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. narutomath96 says:

        Yes, thank you very much. Have a good time for a new week, hehe ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel this often. I usually don’t get to the taming part, though. Thanks for the suggestions…

    Like

    1. Sandra, as I’ve apologize to other readers, I’m sorry for the late response. My week got away from me. I’m hearing many writers are suffering from this syndrome. It’s a constant battle and the only way to tame it is to write and let others read your work. Just put it out there for better or for worst it will help. But from what I’ve learned about well-recognized artists, they live with this syndrome forever, but they’ve never stopped writing. Good luck. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good luck to you to… and you’re welcome! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To you, too, that is. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Juli Hoffman says:

    Yes!!! I love that you shared some of these quotes! If author Maya Angelou feels like a fraud, I think it’s safe to say we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. Author Neil Gaiman also shared an anecdote about this on his blog. Here it is:

    Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

    And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

    And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juli, sorry for the late response. I’m still amazed so many talented people feel like a fraud. As one of my followers commented, she feels this often, and she can’t stop. I wonder if it’s just a permanent emotion we carry with us all of or lives regardless of fame and recognition. Thank you for the comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love it Now says:

    self doubt is like cancer but I strongly believe it can be cured 🙂that you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just pondered this in a response to another comment. Some people seem unable to get over these crippling emotions. Is it something carried for life? For others it might be a slight annoyance, and they manage better. I assume it differs from person to person. But I’m certain this impostor syndrome can be tempered with the right help.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dangerspouse says:

    So…do real fraudsters NOT self doubt? Is that how we can tell who the real imposter is – the confident ones? Oh no, I’m gonna be outed then!

    Like

    1. Hahaha!! No you won’t be outed. 🙂 That’s a good question. I assume some people are more confident than others. Because they don’t suffer self-doubt doesn’t mean they’re fraudsters. The research just show self-doubters are high-achievers, so maybe the overconfident ones aren’t? Good questions . An area I’m sure has been researched. I’ll have to look it up. :-). Thanks for your comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dangerspouse says:

        Thank you very much for the well considered reply!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. So interesting. without being unduly modest I don’t have sufficient standing as a writer to feel an imposter, but I do wonder whether I am wasting my time trying to write all the time, but then not writing is the once sure way to achieve failure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think you’re wasting your time, If it’s something you enjoy doing it’s worthwhile, So, therefore, you are successful in that you haven’t stopped. Writing must offer you some measure of pleasure, otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing. I think for those who write professionally or aspire to be published, that’s when that self-doubt rises. But if you’re simply writing for you and no one else, I can see how this impostor syndrome wouldn’t have an effect. Keep writing! And if you’re aspiring to one day be published, do so and face your fears. 🙂

      Like

  11. J.S. Pailly says:

    That’s a really interesting point: that real frauds do not tend to suffer from imposter syndrome. I guess so long as you’re still able to question yourself and doubt yourself, you’re not living in self-denial.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s only human to question one’s self no matter how small the doubt. I don’t understand a person who doesn’t question their abilities. That is an entirely different syndrome that poses other issues I’m sure. Great comment! Thank you! 🙂

      Like

  12. Reblogged this on Author Maya Emmett and commented:
    Just when I was about to throw in the towel, E. Denise Billups comes to the rescue with this brilliant article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maya, thanks for the reblog!! And I’m so happy it was a timely article. Never give up!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol I didn’t know the system posts here when we reblog. Reblog and learn. 🙂 And you’re so very welcome, Denise.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it’s a two way process 🙂 Have a good day Maya, and keep in touch!

        Liked by 1 person

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