How to Handle Imposter Syndrome
Today we’re talking about Imposter Syndrome, also known as every writer’s worst nightmare! For those who aren’t aware, “Imposter Syndrome” is the belief–fleeting or otherwise–that you just might be a fraud . . . It’s especially common among creators like writers. They doubt their achievements and are plagued with worry that they didn’t actually earn them or deserve them.
Imposter Syndrome can be really debilitating. It can prevent writers from promoting themselves. It can even prevent them from finishing their book. And that’s stupid! I’m going to help you squash Imposter Syndrome and make it a thing of the past! It’s a long journey, but it can be done. That's why I’m breaking down my top 10 favorite tips for tackling Imposter Syndrome right now, so lets get to it.
This video is sponsored by Skillshare. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: Perfection Is a Myth
The sooner you embrace this fact, the better! You will never be a perfect writer, and you will never write a perfect book. Because those things don’t exist. This is not because we are all flawed human beings, which we are. It’s because perfection is subjective. Perfection to you may be absolute garbage to someone else, and vice versa. There are people who believe Stephen King is a perfect writer and others who cannot stomach his work. That’s how preference works. The sooner you realize you can’t please everyone, the easier the writing process–as well as your life–will be.
Number 2: Cut Yourself Some Slack
Not only will you never please everyone, but you’re also not always going to please yourself. That sounded a little dirty, but we’re just going to breeze right past that. You are going to get frustrated with yourself. You are going to feel overwhelmed, embarrassed, or stupid. You can either bury yourself in the mud on the bad days, or you can cut yourself some slack. You know, the same way you do for the rest of the people you love! You should be a person you love, too! It’s okay to feel like a turd every once in a while, so long as you don’t wallow in self-loathing forever. Wallowing leads to self-doubt, which leads to Imposter Syndrome, and we don’t have time for that crap.
Number 3: Education
As we already discussed, Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you might be a fraud. Typically, a writer “fraud” is someone who isn’t very good at writing, or maybe doesn’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to the craft. The more you know about your craft, the more skilled and thus more confident you’re going to be. Education and growth is an ongoing process. You should constantly be striving to evolve your craft. Learn new skills! Better your art form! The more you learn, the less Imposter Syndrome will plague you. Because it’s hard to feel like a fraud when you genuinely know your shit.
Number 4: Ask for Help
If you don’t know something, instead of stewing in your own shame, you could just, you know, ask for help! I personally try to surround myself with other qualified writers who are skilled in areas that aren’t necessarily my expertise. One of my good friends is really knowledgeable in pay-for-play advertising. Something I’m not particularly well-versed in. So when I’ve got questions about it, I ask her! When she has questions about the pre-sale process–something she doesn’t have a lot of experience with–she asks me. This comes back to education. Don’t be afraid to look stupid! We’re all stupid at some things. That’s just part of being human. Get the help you need rather than festering in your embarrassment. You’ll feel much better about yourself.
Number 5: Own Your Wins
When you hit a win . . . say, finishing a first draft, or making a Best Seller list . . . this is when Imposter Syndrome creeps in because it’s a little bastard. But nine times out of ten, achievements are not handed to people. We work for them. So when you reach an important milestone, you bet your ass you should celebrate it! Give yourself the praise you deserve and bask in it! It may feel foreign, at first, but the more you practice owning your wins, the more your wins feel deserved. And they are deserved! Even if you’re not the best writer in the world, which let’s be real–isn’t a thing that exists, these writing milestones take a lot of hard work. So if you reach them, you deserve to feel good about them.
Number 6: Silence the Inner Critic
Imposter Syndrome often shows up as an annoying voice in the back of your mind telling you that you’re not good enough. I wish we could murder that voice, but unfortunately, lobotomies are frowned upon. The best way to silence this voice–or at least take it down a notch–is to acknowledge it. Simply thinking, “Yep, I’m having those negative thoughts again. Now, I’m going to move on,” is enough to take away at least a fraction of their power. You’re acknowledging that they’re just that–thoughts. And you have the choice to dwell on them, fester in them, or move on with your day! Sometimes if these thoughts get a little too aggressive, I’ll just tell them to shut the fuck up. Literally, I’ll yell “Shut the fuck up!” to myself. It creates quite a stir when you do it in the middle of a grocery store, so I recommend not doing this.
Number 7: Collect Your Praise
It’s very easy to remember the criticism you receive on a daily basis and just as easy to forget all the praise. Because of this, I encourage you to collect the praise you receive for safekeeping. You can write the praise down in a journal, or you can record it on your phone. I personally save screenshots of the praise I receive and keep them in a folder titled “Nice Things.” When I’m feeling especially down on myself, I’ll go through my “Nice Things” folder, and I’m instantly reminded that my biggest critic is myself. There are countless people who believe in what I do and support me, and I really should be seeing myself through their eyes.
Number 8: Embrace Failure
Imposter Syndrome often comes from the belief that there is no room for failure. Error is not an option. Let me make this clear! You are going to fuck up. A lot. Failures are not the end of the world. They are not roadblocks that prevent you from moving forward. People who repeatedly succeed and believe in themselves see failure for what it is: a learning experience.
Next time you fuck up, instead of having a meltdown, remind yourself that you’re a flawed, imperfect human being, like literally everyone else on this planet. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and when you make those mistakes, just say, “Aw, damn. I done goofed up.” Then learn from it! Analyze what you did wrong so you don’t make the same mistake again in the future. This will not only help prevent you from making greater mistakes later on, but it will also add to your education, which as we’ve already covered, is a very valuable resource in regard to Imposter Syndrome.
Number 9: Create a Support Group
Sometimes, all Imposter Syndrome needs is a few slaps upside the head from our writer friends! When you feel like a fraud, it helps to vent to a fellow writer friend who can give you a reality check! The odds are you’re befriending people you respect, and you wouldn’t respect frauds. Am I right? They likely feel the same about you! So when you’re feeling down about yourself, tell them, so they can give you a wake-up call! You’re great! Your writing’s great! And your brain is a bully! I don’t know about you, but sometimes hearing it from someone else makes all the difference!
Number 10: Be Honest
Imposter Syndrome comes from feeling like a fraud, and a fraud is someone who deceives, or essentially, lies . . . Thus, one of the best ways to avoid Imposter Syndrome is to practice honesty. For example, one of the most popular video requests I’ve received is to talk about short stories. Problem is, at this point in my life, I don’t have a ton of experience with short stories. I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving people advice on how to do this well when I have no idea if I’m any good at it myself.
Putting it simply, giving advice on a topic that I’m not particularly well versed in feels dishonest. So, I don’t do it. This is going to require you to be able to distinguish between honesty and self-sabotage. If you’re on a Best Seller list, you’re probably qualified to talk about how to hit that Best Seller list. If you feel like a fraud doing so, that’s probably your inner saboteur speaking. Because the facts show that you have the appropriate experience.
On the flip side, if you feel weird giving the same advice because you’ve only sold five copies of your book, that weirdness you’re feeling is your conscience battling with dishonesty. Listen to it! Choose the honest path every time. It’ll be much easier for you to sleep at night and it will keep Imposter Syndrome at bay.
So that's all I've got for you today!
If you’ve been battling Imposter Syndrome, I hope this article gave you some options to tackle it. And remember, be honest with yourself! Whether that means giving yourself a pat on the back for a win, or restructuring your approach when things aren’t working, give yourself room to grow. We're all human, and we're all learning as we go.
Have you been busy punching imposter syndrome in the nose? Let me know your favorite tactics in the comments below.
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