The life of the impostor.
December 12, 2019
Okay friends, time for a serious subject. The hardest thing about being a writer, to me, is the constant feelings or side effects of impostor syndrome. It can apply to anyone, in any profession, but from what I’ve found, it’s not uncommon for writers to suffer from it.
Real quick, I just finished writing this up, and I know this belongs at the bottom or something, but I just wanted to say, Damn! this is a long post for me! Oh, and I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice, don’t do anything without speaking to a therapist or someone who has any sort of authority. Don’t sue me. I think that’s a good enough disclaimer? Anyway…
I read wikipedia for you, so you don’t have to (unless you want better information than I’m going to go into)! There’s a lot of information on the internet about it, but what I couldn’t find much of was how it actually impacts people. I know it’s important to not self-diagnose illnesses, but to me this seems like one that you could look at objectively and see if the things are true.
So what are the metrics used in seeing if this applies to you? I lifted these from an online assessment (link below). Here we go:
- You haven’t earned your successes.
- People give you more credit than you’re due.
- You’ve been rewarded for hard work, but you don’t deserve it.
- You feel like a fraud.
- You got really lucky in your successes.
- It’s hard to accept compliments.
- Achievements aren’t as amazing as people think they are.
I’m sure most of us can relate to this at some point in our lives. Some studies suggest that more than 70% of people experience this syndrome at some point in their lives. (I’m not going to cite that. Fine. It’s on the wikipedia page.) But it’s when it brings you down and prevents you from doing your best that it becomes a real problem. Living with these feelings in your life can cause you stress, depression, and anxiety.
There are 5 different types of impostor syndrome. Generally people experiencing this will fall into one of these categories, if not multiple:
- The Perfectionist
- The Superman/Superwoman
- The Natural Genius
- The Soloist
- The Expert
I won’t dive into a long in-depth explanation of what each type means. I think that’s kinda obvious with their titles. The link above goes into more detail though, so if you’re interested, check that out. See, I’m doing my due diligence by citing resources and providing useful links to people! Go me! Oh, I think I’m a perfectionist.
Much like the creative writing cycle, there is an impostor cycle that feels right to me. Dr. Pauline Clance came up with this cycle, so I’m not going to take any credit for it. What I am going to do, though, is break it down so we can all learn more about it.
By the way, this is my first time writing, in a blog atmosphere, something that required actual research. So bear with me, I promise I’ll get better at this. (See what I did there, I just realized this paragraph is a manifestation of Impostor Syndrome!)
Let’s say it’s Monday morning and you have a deadline to finish a project for work, Friday night at 5PM. You have three options to complete it on time. A) pace yourself throughout the week so it’s done in a timely fashion, B) work non-stop day and night to make this the best project ever, or C) procrastinate until the last possible second. If you do A, then I’m proud of you. Please tell me how to do that so I can do it too! If you choose B, you’re compensating for something (we’ll get into that too). If you choose C, you’re setting yourself up for something that’s nearly impossible.
At the end of the day, us good, responsible adults will get the task done, regardless of doing A, B, or C.
If you chose A, you’re a pretty well-balanced individual and this post probably doesn’t hit home that much.
If you chose B, you only succeeded because you worked as hard as you could. Why was it so difficult for you to complete the project? Why did it take you the full week? It was because you wanted it to be the best… but often times that gets interpreted by the brain as having to work harder to compensate for a lack of skill.
If you chose C, you only succeeded because you got lucky. Even though this isn’t really the truth, it can feel that way because you don’t think you worked that hard for it. Otherwise, you would have had to go with option B to get things done on time.
So how is this a cycle? Well, that’s the part I think that’s most important to focus on. It’s the constant cycle of assignment, work ethic, result. If you discredit your accomplishments, you’ll feel like you deserve recognition for them less. I think realistically this happens to everyone at some point or another, and maybe they’re right. But to a person with impostor syndrome, this is a repeating thing that happens on every assignment and every result. Each time it happens it reinforces that you’re a failure and you don’t deserve rewards.
I go through this all the time myself. By writing this out it’s helped give me a little perspective into how it affects me. I hope I didn’t bum you all out with this more serious topic, but I just wanted to share what’d been on my mind the last few days.
If you’re interested in taking an online assessment to see if you are, I took a test at https://testyourself.psychtests.com/testid/3803 and scored a 69! I don’t know if that means if I passed or not, but I think that means I have it a little. Oh, there’s only 7 questions, then the whole second page is optional. I ended up filling half of it out and then tried my luck on the Score My Test button.
I feel for you if you’re going through this. Don’t worry, we’ll all get through it together.