Ever feel like a fraud as a writer? Who are you, anyway, to think readers will want your books, much less flock to them? Success happens to someone else. You’re surprised and embarrassed when fame even faintly knocks on your door. You avoid book signings and other events that would put you in contact with readers. Hiding out ensures no one will know you are really just fooling everyone.
Sound familiar? Welcome to the club. This is Impostor Syndrome Anonymous, and we’re here to help.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) was first identified in 1978 by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, two clinical psychologists. While their article focused on high-achieving women, it is now believed that men suffer from impostor syndrome as much as women do. While successful people are more likely to experience impostor feelings, this syndrome is an equal-opportunity employer.
So, what is impostor syndrome? Certain high-achievers are unable to internalize their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. Whether they win awards or garner other accolades makes no difference to their perceptions about themselves. They might dismiss such evidences of success as being in the right place at the right time, luck, or the ability to deceive others.
Evidence does not to support impostor syndrome as a mental disorder or personality trait. It is a reaction based on lack of confidence developed in childhood or later in life.
Prevalence of Impostor Syndrome
Studies indicate that two in every five high-achievers suffer from impostor syndrome and that 70 percent of the general population feels like a fraud at one time or another. Writers who have reported experiencing impostor syndrome include successful screenwriter Chuck Lorre, best-selling novelist Neil Gaiman, and best-selling writer John Green.
Impostor Syndrome Characteristics
Researchers name certain behaviors as typical of impostor syndrome.
- Over-Achieving: Those with impostor syndrome may work very hard to keep others from learning they are ‘frauds.” This may result in praise an lead to further success, which only aggravates impostor feelings and the fear of being found out. This can lead to sleep deprivation and burn-out.
- People Pleasing: When you feel like you are living a lie, telling others what they want to hear becomes a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, this increases the feeling of being a fake, perpetuating the cycle.
- Charming Influencers: Persons inflicted with impostor feelings often seek the approval of others, especially those with influence and authority, in an attempt to bolster their own self-confidence and abilities, which they perceive as lacking.
- Dissembling: Those suffering from impostor syndrome may reject any feelings of self-confidence they may experience, thus preventing them from being rejected by others.
How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
- Self-Evaluate: Knowing the enemy is half the battle, right? Reflecting on your impostor feelings and when they occur can help you eliminate them.
- List Your Successes: Keeping a written record of your accomplishments and positive feedback from others can help you associate them with reality, helping you accept them as your due. Reviewing this list may alleviate impostor feelings when they occur and inspire you to greater self-confidence.
- Talk About It: The saying that you are only as sick of your secrets rings especially true when it comes to imposter syndrome. Talking over your feelings with someone you trust to give rational feedback can go a long way to change your mindset for the better.
- Find a Mentor: Having someone in authority telling you the truth about your abilities can counter negative self-talk and lend you confidence.
- Join the Club: Most people who suffer from impostor syndrome don’t realize that others experience similar feelings. It helps to know on a gut level that you are not alone.
- Find Support: Building a strong support system that will give you honest feedback on your performance is one of the best ways to gain a realistic perspective of both your weaknesses and abilities.
If you suffer from impostor syndrome, I hope you find it comforting that you aren’t alone. It’s nice to know that simply being aware of the problem can help you eliminate it. I hope you’ll apply some of the techniques in this article to step into your true self-worth.
If this article touched you, please leave a comment or email me through the contact form at this site to let me know.