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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?