What are the steps to overcome imposter syndrome? How can you push through feeling like a fake to realize your dream of being a quote, real author, this and more in Episode one of Writing Pursuits. Welcome to the Writing Pursuits podcast, where authors like you discuss writing craft, author life, and book marketing strategies.
I'm your host, Kathrese McKee. I own Word Marker Edits and write and produce the weekly newsletter Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author. Writing pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgemental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words.
If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you. Let's get to it.
Hey, writing pursuits authors. Thank you for joining me today to talk about imposter syndrome. Everyone you meet seems to have a book idea, and they're happy to share it with you, even offering to let you write it for them. But what holds those people back from their not-so-secret dream of writing a book?
Mostly, life gets in the way, but for those who sit down and write their book, there are many who never hit publish or query agents. Why is that? Imposter syndrome. You know, that feeling you have that you're a phony that somehow people are going to figure out that you don't know what you're doing? That you're a fraud?
It's very common, especially among creative. People see and hear or somehow experience our work, and it's easy to feel we are not good enough. Maya Angelou, accomplished poet and five- time Grammy winner said this: "I have written 11 books, but each time I think. They're going to find out. Now I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out."
And John Steinbeck, who won the Pulitzer prize said, "I'm not a writer. I've been fooling myself and other people."
I think authors are especially prone to negative self-talk. I'm not trained to be an author. I hear this from clients, "My friend promised to read my manuscript, but she didn't. So it probably sucks."
"I need to research more before I can publish my book or send it out."
"I'm so bad at grammar. I'm just so bad at commas. I can't spell. "
"Maybe I'm not cut out to be an author."
And if it ends there, you're automatically correct. Let me back up and fill you in on my history because I am definitely feeling like an imposter right this minute, as I produce the first episode of writing proceeds podcast.
In elementary school, I love to read and write. I made up stories. I remember this one time in third grade, my teacher read my whodunit to the class, and we had to stop in the middle. Everybody goes, "oh," and we came back the next day and finished it up and it was great. I loved it.
But you know when you go to high school, all your counselors and your teachers are trying to prepare you to go to college, and they want you to become a white collar worker somehow, and to be paid well, which is just totally unfair. What would the world be without all the tradesmen and all the people that make things? Hmm. Anyway, don't get me started.
But anyway, I did become a white collar worker. I became a systems engineer. I was one of the few women who worked for my group at EDS. And so that went on for quite some time. Too long.
And then, uh, I decided to venture out and become a realtor. And then I decided to try teaching and teaching was great. But what I really wanted to do was write. I now. And I came to own that particular identity. And I can safely say, now, that I'm an author, but now I feel like an imposter because I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a podcaster.
This is also new to me. These are things that are going on in my head. In my family, everyone knows I'm noun challenged. Y'all, words are hard for me. So why am I doing this?
Well, it's because I'm a late bloomer. I didn't start until I was in my forties. And I want to encourage you to honor your creative side, your skills, and your gifts.
I want to give you the information you need to become an author no matter where you are in life, whether you're young and ambitious or a late bloomer like me, or a happy professional who just wants to write books also. You know, it's kind of that thing they also want to do. And anyone who wants to be paid for their writing .
Then lastly, I want to provide inspiration to help you start writing and persevere.
So there are four steps overcoming imposter syndrome, and I want to make sure right in front, I'm not a lawyer, an accountant or a doctor. I'm not a psychiatrist. So my advice is based on my opinion. If you need psychiatric help, please see a licensed professional.
But the four steps that I can see are: to recognize impostor syndrome, expect it, accept it, and push through.
So, how do you recognize imposter syndrome? Well, there's certain things that, uh, are common earmarks and, and you may recognize these in yourself.
Agonizing over every small mistake.
Um, maybe you have a habit of giving credit for your success to luck or to the assistance of others. So you're downplaying your part. You're waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Uh, you're overly sensitive, maybe, to constructive criticism. It's very hard to take.
You have a fear of being found out as a phony. You know, this can happen to just about everyone in any endeavor, but you reach a certain level of success, all the while feeling unworthy, fake, and fearful.
Downplaying your expertise, even though you're the most skilled person in the room.
Um, A sure sign is perfectionism-- that's to avoid being found out.
Berating yourself for errors. A lot of time that happens in your head.
Overachieving. That this seems so obvious right away, but overachieving as a means of not being found out. So you go way beyond what you have to do so that you aren't perceived as making mistakes. Or the other part of that is: you could sabotage your own success by setting extremely high standards and then feeling disappointment when you don't hit those standards. So it becomes a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Okay. The second thing is to expect imposter syndrome because it is a natural defense mechanism. It's so human. We're always looking for danger, you know, part of our fight or flight response to new and, um, uncertain experiences. Often it's combined with social anxiety, and it can feed depression, frequently tied to childhood experiences.
And that's where you kind of form that internal monologue that's going on. And it definitely is fed by negative self-talk. So if you're raised with negative thoughts, it's kind of hard to break out of that, and you may even need professional counseling or psychiatric intervention. Again, I'm not a professional, but you need to expect imposter syndrome because it is a natural part of life.
The third step is to accept it. Accept imposter syndrome. This is the hard part, the part where you get to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Every time I submit a passage for critique, I'm filled with doubt and discomfort. However, I've chosen my critique partners with care, and I know they have my back. So every time I seek critique, I do get valuable feedback. So I kind of have to overrule the instincts of the lizard brain to run and hide under a rock.
One of the things that helps is to visualize the intended outcome. And this is what your creative brain is good for. You should be able to imagine and dream and write out what you want. Reprogram your brain.
If you want to be an author, visualize that outcome and act on it. Writers write, so write. Successful writers accept critique, so seek out critique and learn as much as you can. That all helps with that visualization. Be aware of your inner voice, your self-talk, and actively combat negative self-talk. This may just be a habit that you have to break, and you may need help to do it.
Put failure in perspective. So what if no one reads or reviews your first book? Or your blog posts? So what if no one listens to your podcast? At least at first. What is the worst thing that can happen? It's not a life or death situation. The main point is to take every situation as a learning opportunity because failure isn't complete until you give up.
And the fourth and final step after recognizing imposter syndrome, expecting it's arrival, and accepting its presence is... then... you have to push through. Overcoming imposter syndrome one time does not mean he goes away. You may be plagued by self-doubt all your life, but it's worth the fight to push past the discomfort and occasional disappointment.
You never know what waits on the other side. For example-- and this is not real writing related-- but it's an example of overcoming kind of a fear is when I was a kid, I was afraid of water, very afraid. Any body of water greater than the size of bathtub was a source of discomfort. A source of anxiety. It was a bad thing.
So when I was four or five, my dad attended NMSU, uh, New Mexico State University on the GI Bill after he got out of the Army. And the university had a wonderful aquatic facility. I still remember it. Students'
families were permitted to use their giant swimming pool at certain times. Keep in mind that my dad was a diver when he was in high school, so he was very proficient in the water.
So, of course, my parents wanted me and my sister to learn to swim. And one of the things my dad wanted us to do was jump off the side of the pool. He would stand in the pool to catch us, and there was no risk at all. But I remember taking forever to get up the nerve to jump off the edge and let him catch me because I knew the water would be over my head for a few seconds.
Not so my little sister. She could hardly wait to take the leap, climb out, and jump in again. Sometimes I think the only reason I jumped off the edge was because I couldn't let my little sister show me up.
I took real swimming lessons a couple of times over the years, but I was always afraid. The only thing I really mastered was floating on my back. I had a self-limiting belief that I would never be a real swimmer.
My college had a swimming test. I kid you not. You either passed the swimming test, or you took a required swimming course. I passed the test because I can float on my back like a champion, but I knew I needed to take the swimming course.
And I have been grateful ever since that I spent a semester learning from the best coach ever. Coach Beth was great. I learned to do all sorts of strokes and cope with my fears. These days, I still have a healthy fear of the water, and I will never be a competitive swimmer. But I am good enough to scuba dive in open water and enjoy being around large bodies of water. Because I was willing to accept discomfort, I succeeded in this very small corner of my life.
So that brings me to the final point. Anything worth doing comes at the price of experiencing discomfort: that first kiss, giving birth, learn your swam, getting fit, taking critique, making revisions ook formatting, querying agents, pushing the publish button.
All of those activities are worthwhile. They each have a payoff. So we can use fear in a healthy way. What have you lost if you don't take the chance on that first kiss? I mean, you could miss out on a lifetime of love, right? What have you lost if you don't take the pain of editing and revisions and formatting? What have you lost if you don't push past the fear of rejection?
Your fear of losing out on something worthwhile needs to be greater than the discomfort you are dreading. So go ahead and dream, imagine, and then act. Keep errors in perspective and focus on the small successes instead. Work for incremental improvement instead of trying to be perfect the first time.
In fact, just don't try to be perfect. Just be good enough. Perfect is the enemy of done. Show up every day to learn new lessons and improve. Practice positive thinking and visualization, and then take the next tiny step. You can do this.
That's all I have for you today. Thanks again for listening. Please add this podcast to your regular listening schedule. Until next time...
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