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Just Writers’ Things: Imposter Syndrome

I’m not writing all the time. I feel like a fake. I don’t have as much experience as ___. I’m not as good as ____. I don’t deserve to call myself a writer.

I’m sorry, what? Is that the voice in my head? Do you hear this voice too? Let’s talk about it.

Let me start off by saying that you deserve compassion for your passion, especially from yourself. NO ONE can take your identity away from you. Take a deep breath and let’s unpack this a little.

Why don’t I feel like a writer?

There’s this terrible thing that exists out there (or rather inward) called imposter syndrome, a.k.a. imposter experience, imposterism and fraud syndrome. I’m no medical expert and I don’t encourage you to self-diagnose in any way, so I can really only speak from experience and personal research on what this common feeling is and what it’s like to have.

Imposter syndrome feels like when you own tons of books, but you don’t call yourself a “reader” because you don’t read 5 books a month. You game regularly, but you don’t call yourself a “gamer” because you don’t stream. You love to write, but you feel like you’re not “worthy” to hold a pen.

Your expectation to prove yourself to other people weighs heavier than your trust in yourself. It weighs you down and makes you doubt your ability to do anything, even though you have done more than enough.

I like watching Psych2Go videos to learn more about psychology and they have one titled 6 Signs You Might Have Imposter Syndrome, which they label as the following:

  1. You don’t think you deserve your success.

  2. You’re a perfectionist or a procrastinator, attributing your success to luck or hard work instead of your own abilities. (I’m guilty of being both)

  3. You’re afraid of being exposed as a fake.

  4. You fear failure.

  5. You need to be the best.

  6. You constantly compare yourself to others.

Okay, I don’t know about you but all of these are individual rings making a target on my back. Whatever you feel, just know you’re not alone. You are not the only writer一or person一who feels this way. When I was still in university, I was an English major and the President of Poets’ Club, but I still had times where I didn’t feel like a writer even if that was 80% of what I did. I would say things like “my style is too experimental” or “my poetry isn’t even poetry.” I would either start my papers 3 weeks ahead (which I was relentlessly teased for) or a couple of days before they were due. Last year, I stopped writing entirely because I was so afraid of failure.

If any of this resonates with you, you might be thinking, “what the heck can I even do about it?”

Way, way more than you think.

How can I feel more like a writer?

This is an interesting one to answer because the solution often has nothing to do with writing at all. What is going to make you feel better when you doubt yourself? The answers vary from person to person. When I doubt myself, the worst thing I do is hold it in. It eats away at me and I can’t get out of my head. So here are some of my more universal and less harmful methods.

Take a step back. Do something different!

So I know we all want to keep moving forward and get out of our creative ruts as fast as possible, but how long before that way of thinking becomes detrimental? I believe that a big part of feeling like you aren’t doing enough and/or comparing your success to others is because of internalized capitalism. If you want to read more about that, Aaron (my fellow blog editor and writer), wrote about it in Letting Go of Internalized Capitalism & Choosing Yourself. The gist is that we value ourselves for the work we put out, rather than for simply being ourselves.

When I stopped writing, it was for all the wrong reasons. I let my doubt empty my creative well. I stopped creating entirely and spent my days watching art TikToks and reading books I partially resented because that’s what I wanted to do. How can they make these things so well? How can they do that and I can’t?

I didn’t believe in myself enough to do it.

So when I realized I wanted to create, I started painting again for fun. I started filming little videos on my Insta Stories for fun. I redecorated my room and I bought books for fun. I had to realize that the reason I create isn’t to show other people that I am an artist, it’s because I AM an artist. And I like it! My output is not my worth, and it isn’t yours either.

You deserve to enjoy what you do without putting crippling expectations on yourself, so take a step back and remember why you write in the first place. Take the time to remember that childlike zeal for your art. The pen will be waiting for you all the same.

Walk baby steps.

I don’t know if you need to hear this but I need to: Your path is not the same pace as everyone else’s. There are things you’ve experienced that others have not, and it has put you in a different position. Just because you aren’t a best-selling author by the time you’re 30, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just because you haven’t had anything published by the time you’re out of school, doesn’t mean you are a failure. You are not a failure.

For example, I sing. I love to sing and I feel like I can’t call myself a singer because I haven’t done “enough.” I’ve never had lessons. I’ve only been in choir a handful of years. I’ve only been in two musical productions. But my family couldn’t really afford lessons. It didn’t help that I moved around so much as a military kid that signing up for choir was difficult and inconsistent. For the musicals, I was lucky that my school didn’t gatekeep auditions, even though I barely had experience.

We all have to start somewhere and beating ourselves up for where we are is only going to keep us hurt AND in place. So start small with journaling. Write like no one is going to read it. Then slowly start sharing tidbits to the world here and there. Start a blog. If you don’t like that, okay, stop. Pick up poetry. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. It’s a journey and the person setting the pace is you and only you.

Talk about it.

Whether it’s a quick phone call to your best friend or a rant on your Insta Story, chances are you’re going to feel a lot better after letting it out. When we talk to other people, we can experience catharsis, and see our perspective in a different light. It causes us to question our negative thinking, rather than see our doubts and insecurities as truth.

Oh, too accurate?

Well, that’s why you have to talk about it! That line of thinking stops when your friend tells you they feel the same way too. Reassure them, tell them that they’ve done so much to get to this point and that they shouldn’t knock themselves down so hard. That is exactly what you need to tell yourself. Talk to your friends and loved ones about your feelings until you’re able to treat yourself like you are a friend or a loved one.

When we learn to love ourselves as we do others, we become our own little cheerleaders, encouraging ourselves through every goal and every step.

Seek professional help.

If imposter syndrome is crippling you, seek help from a professional. Many life factors can lead to feeling this way and it’s important to address them. Just like we should go to the dentist for a cleaning, we should go to mental health professionals to unburden our minds.

Sometimes we need help when the feelings run deeper than just writing or creativity. Impostorism tangles with negative beliefs from childhood, such as the belief you only deserve praise when you do well. Imposter syndrome can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.

A therapist or counselor could aid you in learning healthy coping mechanisms and how to foster a more forgiving, loving mindset. Whatever you’re going through, remember that you aren’t broken. These feelings don’t make you less than, they make you human.

When will I stop feeling this way? Will I ever stop comparing myself to other people?

Well, my friend, we may never do that. BUT acknowledging that you’re not alone and taking the steps you need to feel better makes imposter syndrome easier to handle. It’s up to you to gather the tools to take it on.

Great writers like Maya Angelou and Stephen King have spoken about feeling imposter syndrome. It’s universal. It’s okay to feel this way. It doesn’t change your worth or your abilities in any way, only your perception of them.

Remember. You are smart. You are capable. You are loved.

What should I write about next? Let me know here!

About the title: As an ode to Poets’ Club, I have an apostrophe after the ‘s’ because it’s not just one writer’s thing. All are welcome here ❤️

Mei-Mei is LYF's Executive Assistant, Event Coordinator, and Head Blog Editor. She graduated from UC, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in English and a minor in German. She was the President of UCSB Poets' Club. She has traveled to 12 countries and counting, feeling lucky and cursed as an Army brat. In 2019, she moved for the 9th time from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas, where she put her love for writing, performing, advocating for mental health, and building communities into the Love Yourself Foundation. Thankfully she can choose when she moves now, so you'll see this jack-of-all-trades singing on stage and juggling open mic sign-up sheets, hoping to spread love in all the ways she can.

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