There are lots of great resources online, places where you are encouraged to ask fun questions, help others in the writing community and sometimes ask yourself some difficult questions. Thanks to this month’s #GEAVember, run by the incredible Annaliese Avery (@AnnalieseAvery on twitter) and the GEA Academy (of which I am a ‘graduate’), this was what I was faced with this morning: Thanks, A. And thanks for your incredible thread and honest words. How would I answer this question though? (Not in 240 characters I’m afraid.) But here’s the short answer: I don’t. The truth is, I don’t attempt to deal with it. Instead, I try to accept it, and use it. How? I hear you cry. I’ll try to explain. Kuzushi (the art of breaking balance) is also used in jujutsu, where the opponent's attack is deflected using their momentum against them in order to arrest their movements then throw them or pin them with a technique— thus controlling the opponent.
According to research from 2011 : “approximately 70 percent of people will experience at least one episode of impostor syndrome in their lives. It may be especially prevalent among women considered to be high-achievers. Many people experience symptoms for a limited time, such as in the first few weeks of a new job. “ (reference). So, In a room of 10 writers, colleagues, family members, only 3 people won’t know what it’s like to feel the voice telling you that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. How to use it: I am confident in the knowledge that whomever I am talking to at any point : Famous Author, Scary Publisher, CEO, Graduate Marketeer, Second Time Mom, You….WE ARE ALL BLAGGING IT. WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW WE GOT HERE. WE ARE HOPING NOT TO BE FOUND OUT. And yet, we seem to do what it is we were put there to do. It’s a social contract that this is a fact, and we keep going. Knowing this helps me treat people kindly, honestly, and like people. It humanises the person under the ‘title’. Imposter syndrome makes my life easier. There are even catchy songs about it in Epic musicals to hum to yourself when you remember we’re all in the same boat….
The fact is we all see how the world looks at us one way, and feel another way inside. It’s made worse by social media where we’re encouraged to seem ‘Over’ competent, in all things - life, food presentation, house cleanliness, weight control, handwriting…. And the amount by which we feel incompetent in contrast is then exacerbated with any creative art, or in fact any endeavour that’s a gnats wing apart from our egos.
How I use it: I write about it. Feeling this way is fundamental to the human condition, a universal theme, and that makes it perfect story fuel! My entire writing ouvre to date (ouvre is my favorite word right now I think) seems to be dealing with this very thing. From the stories I wrote as a kid, to my book to be published, to the book ideas I come up with. How the world sees us VS How we see ourselves. How well I’ve done this you can judge for yourselves when ‘The Boy I am’ comes out in 2020 (#ShamelessPlug)
IN MY HEAD
We all have an inner narrative. On the outside I’m hyper-productive, happy, busy, creative etc etc but many find it surprising to find my reality is I have impostor syndrome in everything I do. In my place in the world, my role at work, my writing, my relationships with friends, my husband. Whats-more I’ve suffered with ‘high-functioning depression’ (which is pretty common) and periods of mania too where I feel un-thwart-able. I know I’m not unique or special in this. In fact, thanks to the openness of the world these days, I feel that’s pretty normal. Yay for normal! There are days when I wish I didn’t have those feelings of incompetence but I’ve come to accept them as a sort of super power. Why? … How I use it: Here’s the thing people don’t talk about enough. Not only is it common, Impostor Syndrome is a good thing. Lack of this feeling is not a good idea. Mania, over confidence, ego-centric thinking… that way Despotism lies! It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect, you may have heard of it. If not, watch this: Bless my impostor syndrome, it makes me strive to be BETTER.
Here’s the best way to use it. Talk about it. I do: at work, with my boss, with people who work for me, colleagues etc; at home, with my husband, my family; and hopefully with any writer that asks. Because the reality is that while we’re busy feeling incapable, we’re all getting better. We all feel Imposters because our boundaries of understanding what is ‘good’ has moved. And when that happens we don’t realise how far we’ve come while worrying about how far we have to go.
On the days I forget that… I watch this.