Recently I discovered there’s another area I’m not alone in! The persistent feeling that I am a complete phony has a real label to it: Impostor Syndrome.
I know that my happiness comes with writing and connecting with other people, yet anytime I make progress I am filled with an intense feeling that I am unworthy. Worse than unworthy, I’m an unworthy trickster who has fooled “them” into thinking I’m something special. Guilt immediate follows this. I feel guilty that I have deceived “them” and more guilty that it has worked. This makes it so hard to make progress because I never allow myself to see it that way. In my mind it’s not progress, it’s another act in my never ending, unintended, deceptive magic show.
Carl Richards has a great article on N.Y. Times online about impostor syndrome and I think he explains it well:
“We know what the feeling is called. We know others suffer from it. We know a little bit about why we feel this way. And we now know how to handle it: Invite it in and remind ourselves why it’s here and what it means.”
There’s a soundbite within the article where Richards talks more about the topic and he refers to this feeling as “creative tension.” What an excellent phrase! It’s true that I feel it most when I’m sharing my work and being vulnerable. I think the fear of rejection certainly fuels the flames of the fraud feeling.
I also agree with Richards that awareness changes everything. Knowing that this feeling has a name and that it’s so common makes it less powerful. When that doubt presents itself I can acknowledge that it’s just a part of the process and move on (easier said than done of course).
It helps to know that people you consider incredibly talented and inspiring have felt the same. Forbes has an article on overcoming impostor syndrome that is worth a read. I’m going to close this post with relatable quotes from two people I admire:
Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet confided: “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud.” Fellow actor Don Cheadle shared a similar sentiment: “All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud.”