“I don’t deserve praise.”

“Any day now they are going to realise I’m not really that good – I’m a shitty writer.”

“I don’t belong here, I’m not as smart as all these people.”

If you’ve had similar thoughts, then you may be suffering from a bout of imposter syndrome – a common affliction among creatives. While having some doubts about your worthiness may be healthy, imposter syndrome can spin out of control and have a debilitating effect to the point where you feel that you may as well quit writing altogether.

While Imposter Syndrome is not officially classified as a psychological disorder, it is a recurring theme with the ambitious and creative. The struggle comes from being unable to internalise success coupled with a fear of being exposed as a fraud.

There are three defining features of impostorism. 

  • Feeling that other people have an inflated perception of your abilities
  • A fear that your true abilities will be found out 
  • A persistent tendency to attribute successes to external factors, such as luck or disproportionate effort

The condition is particularly likely to strike when a person starts a new job or takes on new responsibilities. 

Two sides of the Imposter Syndrome coin

Ironically, the feeling that one is a fraud can inspire greater effort and conscientiousness thus leading to more success and promotion, thereby triggering another round of impostor feelings. 

But sometimes the deep level of self-doubt can lead to self sabotage. The self sabotage results in the failure the person feared in the first place – and then proves to the sufferer what they believed all along: that they weren’t good enough.

Perhaps the most limiting part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit one’s courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put ourselves out there in a meaningful way

What causes Imposter Syndrome?

Research from the 1980’s by Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes, who were the first to coin the term “Imposter Syndrome’, identified that imposterism is more prevalent in individuals who had overly protective and critical parents – often a father figure. These findings were supported in later research in the early 2000’s.

“…an overprotective parent limits the types of experiences that their child is allowed to engage in, as well as encourages their child to reflect on them in a less positive way. In other words, the child of an overprotective and critical parent may attribute his or her success to parental involvement or chance, rather than to their own achievements resulting from their own talents and efforts.” Read More Here.

5 Practical ways to manage and reframe feelings of being a fraud

1. Stop comparing. Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on listening to what the other person is saying. Be genuinely interested in learning more.

2. Write down lists of your achievements, skills, successes to demonstrate that they really do have concrete value to share with the world

3. Talk and open up about how you feel in a safe environment, perhaps with a coach. Talking about your fears normalises the feelings and puts it in perspective.

4. Use social media moderately. We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn’t match who you really are or that is impossible to achieve, it will only make your feelings of being a fraud worse.

5. Have the courage to be imperfect. Our increasing impatience with ourselves seriously depletes our ability to recognise that we are works-in-progress, moving along learning curves all the time. We tend to freeze the frame when we feel nervous, make a mistake or have to sweat to achieve something, and then we damn ourselves for not being up to the job.

To get past impostor syndrome, you need to start asking yourself some hard questions:

“What core beliefs do I hold about myself?”

“Do I believe I am worthy of love as I am?”

“Must I be perfect for others to approve of me?”

The main thing is to not fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, acknowledge how you feel when you feel it. It’s only when you acknowledge them that you can start to unravel those core beliefs that are holding you back.

Find more about Cindi’s work, including her novels, on her website, here.

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