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  • Writer's pictureEric

Thoughts from a Fraud

Imposter syndrome and I have a long, mostly friction-filled relationship.

I’ve been writing non-fiction pieces for a classroom magazine for a major publisher lately. These assignments fall under my “The kinds of writing gigs I love” heading. They are very specific. Here’s your topic. Here’s the age level. Here’s the word count and your due date. There are big advantages to being able to clearly see your target before you throw the dart.

The editor is wonderfully supportive and encouraging. She regularly sends positive feedback and thanks. Still, every time I submit another article, I am convinced it will be the last time I hear from her. I am convinced that I have no idea what I’m doing. I am convinced that I am a fraud.

This is hardly the first time I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome. It moved in with me the very first day I submitted my very first poems to a children’s poetry web site. And it doesn’t show any signs of packing its bags anytime soon.

Sometimes I think it’s not so much that we need to kick imposter syndrome out the door as much as we need to respond to it positively. Clearly, it’s not the ideal houseguest. With imposter syndrome in the room:

  • We might quit trying because we know we have no business being in the business.

  • We might quit trying because we can imagine how embarrassing it will be when the public finally realizes they’ve been scammed.

  • We might have a difficult time celebrating each success because we know it was a fluke or the publisher only accepted the manuscript because she was exhausted or possibly hung over.

  • We might find it awkward socializing with our peers because we know we’re not really one of them.

But, then again, maybe there are some positives to imposter syndrome:

  • We might work harder in order to keep from being “found out.”

  • We might be more open to new ideas because we know we don’t have anywhere near all of the answers.

  • We might be more open to taking classes and workshops in our field with the hopes that, one day, we will be (or at least we will feel like) the genuine article.

  • We might celebrate successes all the more (even as we wait for others to call us out for being big phonies).

As Jackson Browne would tell us, say a prayer for the pretender.

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