You’ve been there. The feeling that you’re a total failure, unequipped to do the job. You know it, but no one else does… yet. Those around you are on the brink of figuring out that you in fact totally suck. Forget the training and preparation that brought you to this moment, and the experience that can give us the guidance to go forward and accomplish great things. Nope. Doesn’t count. You suck and you’re about to really screw up and everyone is about to learn the truth.
Hello, imposter syndrome.
I’ve encountered this jerk-of-an-outlook plenty of times in my professional and academic life. In both areas, I didn’t do anything more than ignore, as much as I could, the tiny voice that was telling me how close I was to failing. I put my head down and worked, persevered, absorbed the hiccups that come with any endeavor (the typos, the bumbling presentations, the misreads of situations). With time, I got over this clamoring self-doubt. Academic insecurity isn’t a problem anymore as I’m no longer a full-time student (YAY.) but I can weather some of the work-related self-questioning better than I have in the past. I can take risks, raise questions, do all the productive employee stuff I was too scared to do in the past.
But here I am again, grappling with a very beast-like bout of imposter syndrome. Same voice, but a different script: I’m a crappy writer, can’t write fiction or essays, and should give up. I should give up now and stop wasting my time.
This runs through my head regularly. It’s been particularly fierce in recent days. I made the choice (mistake?) to share a first draft of a piece of writing with my critique group, and while the feedback on the overall idea of the piece was positive, I’m having trouble shaking the feeling that I suck. A few readers were caught up on errors and choices that I would have caught or done differently in a later draft. Another reader echoed the same feedback she shared the last time I submitted writing for the group to review, that she’s looking for “something more.” I felt put on the spot when I didn’t have any additional questions for the group other than the ones I’d asked initially.
So here I am: I feel like the moron who should have worked harder at revising this draft before sharing, who has dumb ideas, who doesn’t have a good idea for the direction of my writing. I’m wasting everyone’s time. I should just quit this critique group and, better yet, writing.
I know, intellectually, that this is a silly line of thought. Of course I shouldn’t share a first draft with a group like that to review; I can catch places to revise on my own in a first draft. Not every reader is going to be in love with my work, but I can always work to think through new ideas for new work or existing drafts. It’s OK if I want to mull over the feedback just dumped on me (that I had asked for) without asking additional questions in that moment. Further, I’ve been complimented on the feedback given to others in this group, so no, they’re not going to kick me out. (Is that even a thing? Anyone know of writers who have been kicked out of critique groups?)
That little voice won’t quit, except in the moments when I’m actually putting in the work. Producing, revising, editing.
So, I’m going to do what I’ve done in the past. I’m going to put my head down and work. I’m going to acknowledge the whispering of doubt in my ear but I’m only going to listen for so long before I get back to work. I’m going to keep submitting work for others to read. I’m even going to submit writing–my first story submitted to this group–for publication consideration, very soon. I’m going to keep working. Some day, I’ll stop feeling like I suck. The only way to do so is pretend I don’t completely suck.
How do you all battle feeling like an imposter?