I’m a freelance writer.
I’ve been published by The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New Internationalist, The Telegraph and BuzzFeed. But until recently I was convinced that all of that had been a fluke. The editors must have been drunk or it was a case of mistaken identity – I’d briefly Freaky Fridayed with my far more talented writing partner.
In the face of this onslaught of insecurity a friend suggested I might have Imposter Syndrome: “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments”, according to Wikipedia. Apparently people in the creative industries are more likely to be affected (something about the glamorous lives we lead *sucks hummus off dressing gown*).
Luckily, over the years I’ve developed a couple of tips for dealing with it.
Find a mentor
Sometimes you need an outside voice to tell you when you're doing a good job (or explain why it feels like you're doing a crap one). The killer part of Imposter Syndrome is that it makes you suspect everyone of just being nice because they feel sorry for you. So find someone you respect, a few steps up the career ladder from you, who can tell you if you're being a crazy person.
Keep a work log
Keep a work log. Even the weeks when you’re getting no work and have decided to pack the whole thing in – keep a work log. It will stop you from telling yourself that you've had it easy or have had success handed to you and it acts as a reminder that you’re constantly learning and improving. Crap at networking? At least you’ve stopped calling business contacts “mum”.
Interrogate your successes and failures
Imposter Syndrome makes you feel like you've cheated to get every success and you deserve every failure. But analysing the circumstances can help you identify patterns: what do your successes have in common and how can you keep replicating that? Obviously if you’re the massive fraud Imposter Syndrome makes you think you are the common thread will be deception and witchcraft.
Go back to basics
Working in a creative industry there’s pressure to be fresh and push yourself – but sometimes taking the road more travelled is the best option. I started out writing about books and feminism, got worried that I was being pigeonholed as a writer, so I wrote about a ton of other stuff, before realising that books and feminism are what I actually enjoy writing about and forcing myself to write about other stuff was making my Imposter Syndrome worse.
Have a break
No-one is on it all the time. We all have weeks, months, even years when nothing comes easily and life is a constant battle. But Imposter Syndrome tells you different; it makes you feel like the reason you’re struggling is that you’re crap and maybe if you try just a bit harder you’ll overcome your crapness. Sometimes you need to stop, take some time out and work on your confidence – impossible to do if you're constantly pitching or auditioning.
Apply for your dream job
The great thing about job applications is that they don’t leave any room for self-deprecation. They force you to be unrelentingly positive about yourself and your accomplishments. Even if you’re never going to get the job it’s an opportunity to answer questions like, why would I be great for this role? Rather than, why am I such a massive fraud?
Take an evening class
If there's something in particular you're not feeling positive about it can help to be proactive. I have massive hang-ups that I earn money from my writing but never studied writing, so I've taken some copy-writing and proofreading courses. It helps me get past the fact that I don't have a formal education in my field (something a lot of creative people are also lacking). I feel like I've put the effort in and I'm not just an opportunist.
How do you deal with Imposter Syndrome? Let us know in a comment!
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Image by Jesse Draper, on a Creative Commons license.