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