For years I avoided teaching at writer conferences because I didn’t think I was good enough. I thought getting a contract with a publisher on my first novel was just dumb luck. I was so terrified to be around other, more experienced writers because I feared they would find out that I was just pretending to be something I wasn’t. That maybe I wasn’t very good and just got lucky.
Fast forward 15 years and over 25 novels (and just as many novellas and short stories) later. I forced myself to start going to those conferences and reader conventions to share what I knew. What was true about MY journey in hopes it would help others on their journey.
This led to literary awards for books and my own professional achievement. The best advice I can give those suffering from impostor syndrome is this: You’re not an impostor. You are doing what you know how to do in the best way you know how to do it. When you give advice or teach a class – you’re sharing what you learned from YOUR journey in hopes it helps or inspires others. People who suffer impostor syndrome tend to feel like they should know everything, or that they should live up to the expectations of others, but that’s not what teaching and sharing is about. Just because you teach does not mean you know everything, or that you must live up to anyone else’s expectations. You are the foremost expert on YOU and your journey. You can’t be an impostor in that because it comes from your authentic self.
Do I still wrestle with impostor syndrome? Of course I do. No matter how many people I inspire, no matter how many good reviews my work gets, and no matter how many people I help along their own journey- I’m still my own toughest critic. In my mind, no one else really reads what I write. In my mind my readers consist of a handful of friends who are just humoring me to be supportive. Even though I know for a fact this isn’t the reality based on all the evidence to the contrary.
I don’t think impostor syndrome is something that ever goes away completely. My inner critic calls the fiction-writer-me a has-been, a one-hit-wonder, and so many other things despite the fact that I’ve managed to make a living as a writer for the past 10 years. But even though it’s still there, I deal with self-criticism differently these days. If you can change the way you think and perceive things, you can change the world around you. After all – our perceptions shape our reality.
Things to consider: What do you think you’re an impostor at? What are some of your internal fallacies? How do you plan to change that internal dialogue?