August 22, 2022
I’m back from vacation! And by “back” I mean back at my computer. It was a staycation, so I didn’t go anywhere further than an hour or so away from my house. But was it ever nice.
Now, on to today’s topic.
Imposter syndrome. Most of us have felt it at one point or another. It’s that nagging feeling that we’re frauds at what we do and that someone is bound to catch us in the lie.
But the thing is, there isn’t a lie.
According to an article by Merriam-Webster, imposter syndrome is “commonly understood as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.”
Which is to say, there is skill. Is it as much as the next person? Maybe not. But does that warrant you feeling down on yourself and believing that you don’t belong? It doesn’t.
For me, I haven’t felt much imposter syndrome when it comes to writing. I have no idea why; maybe because there are so many known success stories out there of people who have no training becoming big names, or authors who had to write a dozen books before one got picked up by an agent. But in any case, I’ve always felt like I was in good company.
But then I became a freelance editor and I Understood.
Imposter syndrome has made me feel too worried to apply to some gigs. Has made me question whether I did the right thing by leaping into this job when I did, rather than wait longer. Made me say, yeah I have the necessary knowledge to be an editor, but am I just lying to myself?
But I’ve found ways to combat my own imposter syndrome, and I hope that, just maybe, one of you will find them helpful, too.
Tip 1: Educate yourself
Do you feel like you don’t know enough to be doing whatever it is you’re doing? Your imposter syndrome may be overexaggerating – you do have enough knowledge to be doing what you’re doing – but it doesn’t hurt to learn new skills.
For me, I’ve been taking courses with the EFA. Yes, I’ve been learning new things and picking up new techniques, but it’s also helping me combat imposter syndrome whenever I come across something and think, wait, I know this! So I’m learning, improving, and getting more vocabulary to better help myself and my clients while acknowledging that hey, I’m not as bad as I sometimes worry.
If you’re feeling imposter syndrome from editing too, look into courses like those the EFA offers, or see if there’s some workshop you can attend. Maybe pick up a grammar book or three and study them. Whatever it is, take some time to relearn the craft.
And if you’re feeling it with writing, take a similar approach – find writing courses or workshops, invest in some writing books. Do what you can to learn and improve, even in areas you’re already familiar with.
Tip 2: Take time to look at what you do know
Sure, you may feel that you don’t know everything you should. Maybe you find you actually do need some of those courses or need to find a session to listen in on. But it’s important to note what you do know. It’s likely more than you think, and more than enough to make you qualified for whatever it is you’re doing.
When I started freelancing, I’d take stock: I studied English in university, and my professors drilled better grammar into my head; I took a proofreading and copy editing course the year before I started, and had done very well in it; I’d been editing for friends and colleagues for years, often in academic or professional settings. Did I feel it was enough? No. That’s why I bought books and studied more, and why I decided to take more courses, including those I’m taking now (because I still need to take stock). But was it enough to actually start a freelance journey? Yes, yes it was.
So whether you’re a writer or an editor or something else entirely, remember what you already know. Remember that it’s not nothing.
Tip 3: Find a community
This one can be hard, I know. And the thing about imposter syndrome is we don’t want others to know we have it, lest they discover that we’re actually frauds even though we aren’t.
But finding others in the same field or on the same path as you is encouraging. I’ve largely found my community through Instagram, where it continues to grow for both editing and writing. I like the small groups and organic meeting approach over large group interactions, where I can feel overwhelmed. But in reaching out, I now have more people I can talk to should I need them or should they need me. I can admit to my fears and concerns and the occasional “screw up” (even if it’s all in my head) without fear of judgement. They get it, too. They understand the difficulties and the successes, and they likely have tips for all sorts of situations.
Another route is the larger one – finding a group on Facebook or Discord or what have you can lead to wonderful connections. There are plenty of people out there who take that route and find lifelong friends and colleagues in the process. Just be prepared to bring out your extroverted side!
Finally (and a potential mix of the other two routes), you can take a paid approach. For example, there are authors/writers on Patreon who offer their patrons a chance to build a community through exclusive Discord or Slack channels. There are writing coaches who take a similar approach through their own websites. A few examples are Katie Wolf, Jericho Writers, and the Tenacious Writers Society (through Golden May Editing).
Tip 4: Do the thing anyway
Sometimes you do have to learn more before you can do the thing, especially if it’s for a job. But often, you don’t have to, if it’s strictly imposter syndrome we’re talking about and not an actual lack of necessary knowledge.
Which simply means you just have to Do The Thing.
Ever heard the saying “fake it till you make it”?
Do that. But know that you aren’t faking it for others – you’re “faking” it for yourself. You’re forcing yourself to build confidence, no matter how long it takes, or how long it lasts. And maybe you never feel like you make it. But there’s no reason why you can’t keep “faking” it anyway.
So write that story, pour your feelings into a poem. There’s no harm in trying.
Apply for those gigs, talk to those potential clients. If you have the knowledge necessary for the task, there’s no reason not to take the job.
Show imposter syndrome who’s boss.
Tip 5: Be kind to yourself
Remember, you aren’t the only one to feel like you’re an imposter. It’s not confined to the amateurs or the newbies or even the semi-seasoned; professionals and big names feel it too (ever heard of Maya Angelou? Meryl Streep? Albert Einstein?). Don’t get down on yourself when you feel imposter syndrome creeping up. It’s normal to feel it, and, as we established above, it hinges on a false belief. Turn to one of the tips above if you need it, and feel free you tell your imposter syndrome to back off.
Let me know if any of these resonated with you, or if you have your own tips to fight imposter syndrome. And remember – we’re in this together.