Impostor syndrome is that nagging feeling that you are really a “fraud” and do not deserve your success.
For us writers, that nagging doubt that we are “not really writers” can be crippling. At Thanet Creative Writers we have been talking about imposter syndrome and how it affects us. Some of our writers expressed surprise that it was actually “a thing” but most of us have felt it at one time or another.
Impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers. somewhat ironically the more talented a person is the more likely they are to feel this way. The opposite of impostor syndrome is illusory superiority, a cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities, relative to others.
It could be said that worrying that you are not good enough is a positive thing as it can indicate that you are doing well. On the other hand, the mistaken belief that you are miles better than everyone else should be a red light but often is not.
This is disparity in confidence is why mediocre people sometimes out-perform true geniuses.
According to the Telegraph, impostor syndrome is particularly a problem for women. This could explain why more men than women come to Thanet Creative Writers events. I would love to say that I had all the answers but I don’t. What I can do is tell you that no matter how good or bad you think you might be, just keep writing and you will improve.
In a truly ironic twist of fate, writing therapy is one of the best ways to overcome impostor syndrome. As a writer, if you are worried that you are not good enough, the answer may be to simply do more writing until the nagging doubt gets bored and leaves.
As writers, it is important to remember that if you write, then you are a writer. Something I try to remind myself and other writers on a regular basis.
A couple of years ago Forbes ran a story recommending that you stop comparing yourself to others and own your success. That is some good advice. Remember that if you write, then you are already a writer. So what good can come of negative comparisons?
Qz.com goes one step further, suggesting that if you don’t experience impostor syndrome at least some of the time,t hen there is a danger that you really are an impostor and don’t realise it. Impostor syndrome, they say, is a sign of success. They might be right.
For more advice, Writers Unboxed have an article on “how to overcome imposter syndrome as a writer” and Writers Hub have a page that advises “how to keep writing despite feeling like a fraud“. Jill Hackett, an author and writing coach, writes about overcoming imposter syndrome and making the transition from being a writer to being an author.
You are not alone in feeling like a fake. The secret is to just keep writing anyway.
Over to you.
Do you feel like a fraud? Have you every been the victim of imposter syndrome? How did you cope and what kept you going?