When I was a teenager I’d never heard of the term imposter syndrome. Now I know what it means I can look back and see that this is definitely what I suffered from.
What is this Imposter Syndrome you speak of I hear you ask. Sit back and let me tell you.
Imposter Syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud. They think that they have tricked the people around them, be it their parents or teachers or friends into believing that they are a success, essentially pretending to be someone or something that they are not.
In fact those suffering from imposter syndrome believe that they are nowhere near as good as they pretend to be, they have a fear of being “found out” one day.
In reality those suffering from this syndrome are just as good as others but have applied an often unachievable high standard to themselves. This often manifests itself in situations where the sufferer’s work is constantly evaluated by teachers, employees, parents and friends.
So any teenager ever in fact.
Sound familiar? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? If so, read on. If not go and celebrate the fabulousness that is you!
When I was a teenager I thought that I would be found out, constantly. I remember sitting in my bedroom in the mornings before school wondering how I was going to pull everything off. How was I going to keep tricking people into thinking I was confident, popular or happy and a roaring success at this thing called life? It was an exhausting act and one that was becoming a bigger struggle to pull off.
My default position has always been to turn to books, ‘if there’s a problem a novel will solve it’ was my mantra. I didn’t know I was suffering from a syndrome. Ha! How easy life would have been if I’d known what I was feeling was A THING with a label and everything. So whilst I laboured under the impression that I was THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO FELT THIS WAY, I scoured my bookshelves for a character that might be going through some of the same difficulties I was. Do you know what I found? All the answers!
So now I know what this thing is how do I deal with it?
Ok, the first rule of Imposter Syndrome Club is that how you feel is REAL but your sense of impending doom and failure isn’t REALITY. You need to approach the world in bite size chunks. Break up your tasks and goals into manageable pieces and work towards achieving some of them. Don’t let Imposter Syndrome be the boss of you. Just watch the moment Nadiya Hussein realises she’s won The Great British Bakeoff this year and apply her words of wisdom.
‘I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say “maybe”. I’m never gonna say “I don’t think I can”. I can and I will!’
I’ll be honest, I thought Imposter Syndrome was a thing of my past, something I could relegate to my teenage years, big mistake, huge.
I suffer as much from Imposter Syndrome now I’m a card carrying grown up (some days are less grown up than others) as I ever did as a teen. I thought this was something that would just stop once I got a car, a job, a mortgage and the other trappings of adulthood. Oh no! And it isn’t just me who feels like way. After watching Suffragette recently I read an interview with Meryl Streep and guess what? She suffers from it too. Meryl! The Meryl Streep! I know, right?
“You think “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
Obviously I’ve made it even worse choosing to become a writer because I’m constantly putting myself out there via my books, actually inviting people to comment on my novels and offer their critical opinions of something I’ve created and produced. Why? Why would I do this to myself? It’s like showing the world my diary.
I decided The Boy who Drew the Future to tell my imposter syndrome to leave me alone or words to that effect. I rationally told myself I wasn’t in any danger by writing the book that didn’t want to be written and at points felt like it would NEVER EVER get published. No harm would come to me by carrying on and giving things a go. So I took it one chapter at a time, small bitesize chunks which my imposter syndrome couldn’t get its nasty little teeth into.
“Writing is linear, it must organize itself into this thin little stream that moves forward, which if your mind is full of chaos is quite reassuring.”
Now this applies directly to writing but I think it can be applied to life in general. I’ve come to realise I’ll always suffer from Imposter Syndrome but I’m learning how to manage it.
So, if your mind is in chaos and you’re drowning in imposter syndrome just picture that thin little stream moving forwards and do as Dory says.
Here are some books that deal in some way with Imposter Syndrome.
- Am I Normal yet? By Holly Bourne
- When I was Joe by Keren David
- Air by Lisa Glass
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- CLEO by Lucy Coats
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
- Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Red Tears by Joanna Kenrick
- Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
- Here’s to you Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
- When I was Me by Hilary Freeman
- A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
- The Name of the Blade by Zoe Marriott
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
- Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth
- The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
- Peter Pan by J M Barrie
Good video explaining and discussing Imposter Syndrome here – http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/imposter-syndrome-struggle/
The Boy who drew the Future is Rhian Ivory’s fifth novel and she’s recently finished writing her sixth. Rhian is a WoMentoring mentor, a Patron of Reading and a National Trust writer in residence. Tweet her on @Rhian_Ivory and find her on Facebook.