Ever feel like a fraud? YOU’RE NOT ALONE. There’s a THING called Imposter Syndrome where high-achievers (or really anyone who has achieved anything–even getting out of bed in the morning) can feel like big old PHONIES. It can hold back a lot of writers when it comes to approaching agents or publishers, but PARTICULARLY when it comes to marketing books. We get caught up in a web we’ve spun in our minds about how we’re going to be FOUND OUT for the charlatans we are (even when we’re quite genuine human beings).
The key characteristics of Imposter Syndrome (also known as Fraud Syndrome) are:
- Working EXTRA hard to make sure others don’t find out what a fraudster you are (you’d better have TEN books published before you tell anyone you’re a writer).
- Trying to say and do the right things and then feeling like you’re being fake (I love bad reviews. I feel like I learn a lot from them. Like how to grow a fourth skin and how to bite my tongue…)
- Not showing any confidence, in case people feel the need to remind you of what a phoney you are (I just write as a bit of a hobby. My books are FAR from literary fiction. Just fun little jaunts)
- Feeling like everyone else knows A LOT more or is A LOT more talented than you, because you’re just BLUFFING (why would ANYONE want to read a blog about writing by ME?)
The more I read about Imposter Syndrome, the more I realise it describes me to a T. Let me give you some insight into a typical conversation for me:
Random Mean-weller: I heard you write books.
Internal Me: Oh God. WHO TOLD YOU? Was it someone who read them and said they were awful? Who am I kidding? NO ONE has read them!
External Me: Yep. A couple.
Random Mean-weller: So cool! What are they about?
Internal Me: They’re just pretending to care. Quick—rattle off a few vague details and then change the subject.
External Me: Um, a picture book about a dad who has a lot of things. But it was just self-published. Then I wrote a couple about a girl who starts her own newspaper. And a young adult book.
Internal Me: STOP! What are you DOING? You’ve become THAT PERSON. The one who always talks about themselves as if everyone actually cares.
Random Mean-weller: Where can I buy them?
External Me: Oh online. Or in bookstores. You might have to order them.
Internal Me: Do you REALLY think they’re going to go to ALL of that trouble? Why don’t you ask them to memorise the web addresses while you’re at it?
External Me: But I have SO many. I’ll just give you one. Or five. I’ll just give you five.
Internal Me: FIVE? Yeah, because they really want their whole bookshelf taken up by YOUR books.
Random Mean-weller: That’s really kind, but seriously, I WANT to pay. Can you sign them?
External Me: Sure.
Internal Me: Are you REALLY taking MONEY from this person for YOUR book? And GRAFFITING it on top of everything? Kill me now.
I think my 2017 resolution will be to work on this. WHY? Because I don’t want to feel like I held myself back or missed out on anything in life because I was too afraid to try. There are a few things I’m going to remind myself of next time I find myself caught up in the web of self-doubt (like right now, when I think of publishing this post):
- We’re ALL winging it to some degree.
- I’m qualified up the wazoo. I have a degree in writing! And even without it, I have YEARS upon YEARS of experience, including as a journalist and communications consultant.
- Take the good with the bad. Pep myself up with the good reviews and emails from readers. EVERYONE needs a cheerleader!
- I’m human. This means I make mistakes and I change over time. This is OKAY! It doesn’t make me a FRAUD.
And, when I feel really down, just comfort myself with the knowledge that others feel the same way:
The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.
There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.
—Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization
Yeah, that second one REALLY surprised me too!
What about YOU? Do you think you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome? Or are you LOUD and PROUD (if you are, PLEASE give me some tips!).