August 29, 2021

Hello, Imposter, My Old Friend

Credit: Mitul Gajera via Unsplash

Earlier this month, I published a memoir. It’s been a beautiful experience, filled with love and support (and good reviews), but I haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as I probably should. I’m having a serious flare-up of imposter syndrome. Every time I beat it back, it pops up again, weaker each time, but still stubborn.

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that your success is a lie. You’re a fraud who’s fooled everyone and you don’t really deserve the accolades you receive. 

It’s no surprise that women, especially women of color, and LGBTQ+ people deal with this kind of self-doubt more than anyone else. When you live in a world that tells you the only reason you moved ahead in life is because someone else took pity on you, it can make you question yourself. When you’re told you have to work two to three times as hard to get half of what someone else has, and you watch people who rely on your work (or copy or take credit for your work) get promoted, it can wreak havoc on your mental health. What does it mean when your work is good enough for recognition but only if it’s not attached to you? It’s a hard message to receive on a constant basis. 

I recently confessed to a friend that I was afraid no one would buy or read my book after this first wave of promotion. What if the people who said they liked my book were just being nice? As soon as I asked that question, I realized how foolish I was being. Who’s nice to strangers any more? People won’t even cover their mouths to avoid spreading a deadly virus and here I am, wondering if people are being polite to me with their praise. 

My friend reminded me that people have been encouraging my writing since I was a little girl, that my writing life is something I’ve wanted and worked for my entire life. Even when I was working jobs completely unrelated to the writing career I wanted, people were impressed by my skill with the written word…

Now I feel like writing something extra poetic to prove myself but the proof is easily Googleable! 

And that’s what I have to keep telling myself. That’s how I refute the imposter in my head. Here’s how you can do the same: 

  • Confess your feelings, to a friend, therapist, or journal, instead of letting them fester. 
  • Listen to the people you trust to help you through. Don’t defend the imposter. Your friends and therapists have the facts. The imposter has uninformed opinions.
  • You have the facts of your life! You have the proof of your work, your education, your fellowships, your certifications, the workshops you’ve attended, your portfolio. Proof of your greatness is readily accessible so access it!
  • Then remember you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Maybe this is a cliche worthy of wine-mom font but it’s true. When you spend so much time trying to show what you’ve done, you take away from the work you could be doing moving forward. 
  • Keep going. Imposter syndrome wants to keep you in place.  

Ignoring self-doubt is hard. It can feel impossible. It will continue to follow you, but if you keep going, it lags further and further behind. Keep moving.