Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Telling Life: Imposter syndrome

This post is an expansion on some of the ideas I first wrote about here. Some content is being repurposed.

Wikipedia describes imposter syndrome as:
Impostor syndrome...refers to high-achieving individuals an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Oh, I question myself constantly. I wonder if I have any right to do what I do, let alone try to help people. I routinely feel as though I am not as smart, not as capable and not as talented as other people tell me I am. I ask myself questions like:
  • Why would anyone want to hear my stories?
  • This stuff is easy. And fun. Why would anyone bother to hire me to do it?
  • I don't really have anything worthwhile to offer, what makes me think I have any right to teach this stuff?
  • How dare I send a newsletter to people who signed up for one? Do I really have anything to say?
  • What right do I have to do this work?
When my self-doubt becomes too loud and I struggle to believe I deserve this life and work, if I'm lucky and smart, I do several things. 
  • I get away from the work for a little while, taking a little walk or do something else for a few minutes. 
  • I might ask a friend to tell me something to counteract the fear. That's where this all comes from, for me anyway, a fear that all of the poor messages I've received are right. Or even worse, that I do deserve this but am not living up to the gift.
  • And I ask myself questions, things like:
    • Can you remember one single time your work seemed to make a difference for someone? (yes)
    • It's easy and fun for me. Is it that way for everyone? (Probably not) 
    • Okay, so maybe you're making it up as you go along. Does that make it less useful? (not usually)
    • Why are you running yourself down like this, is it about something else? (often) So what can you do about that other thing?
    • Whose voice is it that's doubting you? Is it my own? Is it someone who should have held me up but didn't? Is it social pressure? Whose voice really matters?
    • Would I think someone else who knows what I know is good at what they do? So why think I not good at it?
You get the idea.

I'm telling you this NOT so you will reassure me, but because I'm betting some of you question your own artistic worth from time to time. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I know I can't stop you, I struggle to stop myself, but I remind you, your voice matters. Your work matters. Please don't quit. Ask yourself the right questions and then? Get back to work. The world needs you.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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