Today I’m talking about “imposter syndrome.” It might be a tad dry and you probably won’t like it so you can delete this post right now.
That, my friends, is “imposter syndrome.”
Imposter syndrome is when you make excuses in your head in advance why something isn’t good enough, why you aren’t good enough, why you’re going to fail anyway so why try. We’ve all done it. Some of us still do.
Before a big test I always psyched myself up to lower my expectations. “I didn’t study enough. The teacher won’t like my answers. I’m probably not going to get a good grade.”
Secretly I hoped I’d do well, but didn’t want to be disappointed, so I trained myself not to expect the best. If I did do well, it was a bonus.
I’ve done this before job interviews, peer presentations, projects I’ve volunteered for, speeches, and now book releases. It’s ingrained in my personality like smiling without showing my teeth and parting my hair always on one side. In my case I think it comes from not wanting to fail. If I don’t expect to succeed, then I won’t fail. Twisted, I know.
The syndrome is so prevalent among writers it was the topic of Dr. Valerie Young, keynoter at the recent Romance Writers of America convention. The speaker said it is more common to women who are more likely to understate their qualifications and experience and who tend to internalize failures. But men suffer from it, as well.
Even if we do become successful, we tend to minimize the accomplishment. The speaker gave an example of a young Oscar winner who clutched her statuette and said she was sure it was a mistake, they would announce momentarily that Meryl Streep was the winner, instead.
According to the speaker, we often minimize our accomplishments. Sometimes it is emotionally unclear to us as to how we got here. Our biggest internal fear is that we’ll be exposed. Deep down we feel like a fraud.
How does this affect writers? We write our books, but don’t send them out to agents and editors, afraid of the rejection (which we expect). We procrastinate to miss deadlines. We never start or we never finish. We engage in self- sabotage.
What is the result? It is harder to be successful, we experience feelings of failure, we accomplish less and our self-esteem plummets.
So what do we do about this? Next week I’ll talk about “the cure.” (Unless you’ve decided not to follow, of course.)