Imposter Syndrome

| Friday, November 30, 2012
Today's Tune: Don't Leave Me

I'm offering up a signed copy of Kristin Cashore's BITTERBLUE. Y'know. If you're into feminist-ish fantasy. Go here.

If there's one thing I think a lot of us can relate to, it's Imposter Syndrome.

Sometimes it starts all the way back in childhood, or during our tumultuous adolescence. We kind of stumble along, trying to find that perfect elixir of cool or smart or interesting or maybe just a person who doesn't get singled out, but you feel like you're doing it all wrong. You're just kind of going through the motions, doing the things you think you're supposed to do, pretending you meant to do it all along. And somehow, other people buy it. Maybe they start looking at you like you're worthy of notice, like you're doing something right, and you feel this unfathomable pressure to keep up the act. So you do it.

Fast forward to young adulthood and adult-adulthood. No matter how much older and wiser we get, it seems that a lot of us (especially we emotional artsy types) still feel like we're just faking it. We don't believe enough in our own abilities. Even if we ace every test, excel in every game, receive accolades from every job, we still feel like we're faking it. There's this looming sense of panic, like everyone's waiting for you to screw up so they can go HA! HA, I KNEW IT, I KNEW YOU WERE AN IMPOSTER.

It doesn't matter how much you know. Doesn't matter how much you do. You still feel like that awkward kid who's just kind of guessing at everything (educated guesses though they may be) and hoping it turns out for the best. When people start coming to you for advice, or telling you they admire you, or saying they love your work, you sit there going AHAHAHA WHAT? ME? NO. YOU MUST BE MISTAKEN. I KNOW NOTHING.

Here's a secret: you're not the only person who feels that way.

In fact, most people feel that way.

There's this lie that people tell, and it's a lie that says everything will eventually come together and you'll have it all figured out. But that's not what happens. The thing about life is that there's no final level; no tidy cut scene at the finale. You keep on growing and learning and changing until you finally get hit by a fireball and die.

And you know better. I know that I'm a thinker and a planner, and I know I carefully consider things and try to put out good work. I know that other people appreciate it. I know that I'm not completely lost on the topics I talk about. Even so, I still harbor that sneaking suspicion that I only think I'm putting out good work, that other people are only being nice, and that for everything I know, there are a million things I don't.

What's a person to do?

Keep on keepin' on. Teach yourself to believe that when multiple people are telling you that you do something well, they're probably not all lying to you. Have faith in what you know, and be willing to learn the things you don't.

And remember you aren't alone.



{ Old Kitty } at: November 30, 2012 at 5:35 AM said...

Well I do know I know nothing! LOL!! And I get the "your story is crap" every time so no doubts there either!

But seriously!! You plough on and you learn! Insecurity and self-doubt begone! Take care

{ Stephanie Ingrid Sarah Kristan } at: November 30, 2012 at 5:51 AM said...

This is so true.

Although, interesting thought/observation: We sometimes feel like the Imposter Syndrome is lessening in younger people. Maybe all these medals and awards for nothing are over-inflating their confidence? And maybe it's not a *totally* bad thing?

That said, there has to be a balance between confidence and insecurity, humility and self-doubt. So maybe it has less to do with "good" or "bad" ways of raising a generation, and more to do with the fact that everyone has to come to that balance from one side of the equation or the other.

{ Blair B. Burke } at: November 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM said...

Sometimes I just pretend to be insecure to fit in with all the other writers...

{ Brooke R. Busse } at: December 1, 2012 at 10:28 AM said...

I feel this way sometimes, but not nearly all the time. I think that's good. :)

I've given you an award, Steph. Also, the comment above me in spam. ;P

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