Author Life

Are You Suffering From The Impostor Syndrome?

I used to attend lots of events when I was in London. But the events I prefer are the writing ones. Talking about writing and publishing makes me feel like I belong somewhere. I can’t help myself, however, to think that I am a total fraud. I am an author, yes, but I don’t write every day. When I do, I don’t have long writing sessions. I don’t even write 1,000 or 2,000 words per session. This simple fact makes me doubt of the person I think I am.

If you clicked on this title, it means that you are either curious of or struggling with the Impostor Syndrome. It can touch everyone, especially people who are successful and/or on their way to something great. It can happen at the workplace or at home. It can happen whatever you’re experiencing in your life.

What is the Impostor Syndrome?

It is the feeling that you are lazy, unintelligent, incompetent, etc. There might have tons of proofs of your abilities, but you’re rejecting them. You feel you have nothing to do with your achievements, that they just happened.

This syndrome has been discovered in 1978 by two American psychologists, Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes. They even created a test to determine if you suffer from the syndrome. You can test yourself with the Clance IP Scale here.

To simplify matters, you have the Impostor Syndrome if you ever thought:

  • I was just lucky.
    Luck has nothing to do with your success but you will always think it is the other way around, that you have nothing to do with your own success. When it comes to books, every book has an audience. It isn’t luck.
  • Oh, you know, it was easy.
    If that was so easy, why doesn’t everybody write a book?
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
    So do millions of other writers. But in fact, by continuing to write, by keeping up with learning and reading, you are improving your skills. In fact, you know exactly what you want to achieve.

Why you are not an impostor

You are not an impostor because you care.

You care about your writing, about what people think of your work. You care about doing everything you can to achieve the goal you set yourself days, weeks, months or even years ago. You compare yourself to successful writers, just to know if you are a “true” writer.

But let me tell you a little secret: there is no such thing as a “true” writer.

What is “successful” anyway? Is it in term of fame, of published books, of books sold? Is it in term of words written during a writing session or in term of time someone can allow to writing? You might say somebody is successful while this person doesn’t consider herself as being successful.

Maya Angelou herself has doubts. She 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.’

Having doubts about yourself is totally normal. It is specific to the human kind, it is how you can achieve wonderful things. But somehow, the Impostor Syndrome gets in the way and makes things look worse than they actually are.

How to overcome the Impostor Syndrome

Let’s be clear, I don’t have the perfect solution to overcome the feeling of being incompetent and lazy.

I have the chance to have a very faithful partner by my side. He is the one you should thank for the release of Finding Maxwell, because I wouldn’t have published it if it wasn’t for him. And when I did, I received lots of wonderful messages from you guys, not only from my family and friends, but also from strangers who just read my short story and liked it.

I am still struggling with the Impostor Syndrome. I still feel that you will somehow discover that I am a fraud, that I shouldn’t be talking about writing and editing, or marketing and publishing because I still feel I have to figure it all out. But I have three pieces of advice for you.

The first piece of advice is to nurture an encouraging and positive circle. My husband-to-be is the most supportive of them all, but having other people who are telling you that you are a winner, that you are able to accomplish everything your heart desires, is a wonderful feeling. However, they must be capable of criticising you if you’re doing something wrong because you will feel like a fraud to everyone who is only praising you.

In addition: avoid any toxic person, the one who drains your energy and feeds you with negativity.

The second piece of advice is to show your work. It sounds simple like that but it’s a leap of faith. Don’t expect people to give you positive or negative feedback if they don’t know what you’re working on. Showing your work can only make you realise that you’re doing the right thing, that you are competent. It is your proof that all the things you’re doing are worth it.

And finally, the last piece of advice is to keep a file of people saying nice things about you. I call mine the “praise file”. It helps a lot when you encounter a time of self-doubt. You’re telling yourself that you have no talent, but those nice sentences are keeping you on tracks.

For more ideas on how to overcome the Impostor Syndrome, I recommend Kyle Eschenroeder’s article.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you feel a little bit relieved. If I just helped one person, it is worth it. I will see you next week.

Do you suffer from the Impostor Syndrome?
 Feel free to tweet me @vdvestelle

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