Kick Imposter Syndrome to the Curb

Am I good enough at writing to call myself a writer?

I ask myself this as I’m submitting to a contest or publication. I’m already doing the work of a writer, yet I ask myself if I have the credentials to do what I’m doing. Why?!

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we hold ourselves back from our own successes?

Have you ever met someone who always succeeded because they never worried about failing?

Think about it. If you spent less time worrying about failure, you wouldn’t sike yourself out of things. You’d have the confidence to give something your all and be satiated with the knowledge you put your best effort out there.

If you feel like this pug, we're going to change that.

Obviously that’s easier said than done. I’m not going to act like you can snap your fingers and instantly solve your imposter syndrome. But, as I said in the last post, it helps to take a moment to reframe your thinking.

Come with me. Let’s go through some things together, shall we? Take out a pen and paper (or open a word doc—I’m no purist) and ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Do I have a clear list of my creative goals? E.g., submit to X contest, submit to X literary journal, attend X event, edit X number of works, finish manuscript, etc.

  2. How many of those goals can I realistically tackle at once? Be honest!

  3. Have I outlined the steps I need to take to reach said goal(s)?

  4. What have I accomplished lately?

Take the time to actually write out the answers to these questions. Now let’s address those answers.

Q 1 - If you don’t have a clear list of your creative goals, it will make you feel like you have a million things you need to do, but you can’t remember what they are. Make. This. List. MAKETHELIST. It will prove to be invaluable when you wake up groggy and think anxiously, “what am I supposed to do again?!”

Q 2 - Remember my post about burnout? We often let our ambitions get the best of us, and allow them to set a trap where we are doomed to fail despite our accomplishments. Be real with yourself about how many things you can take on, on top of everything that is already on your plate. I promise you that if you try to do everything, you won’t be able to do any of it well, and then you’ll end up even more disappointed.

Q 3 - Hi, I’m actually your parent, and I’m telling you it’s time to make another list! I know I am neurotic but please trust me, the organization will help you make your plans concrete. Now that you’ve listed your goals, go through each one and write down (with a crayon this time? If you insist…) the steps you need to take to reach them. I’m talking start to finish. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to get a better idea of how much work/how long they’ll take and how to build your schedule around them. Bonus: Seeing all the steps laid out like this will help you realize you’re being way too hard on yourself when you hate yourself for not getting them all done in one day.

Q 4 - You better not skip this one. I’m serious! This is another one I have to do for myself all the time. I’m terrible at celebrating my own accomplishments. But acknowledging when you complete a step toward a goal and achieve something is absolutely necessary to combat imposter syndrome. If you’re looking at everything you haven’t done, of course you’re going to have negative thoughts about yourself! Realize when you are looking at other people’s highlight reels and totally burying your own. Be there for yourself.

I hope this little exercise helped you.

Oh and hey, if you have something to add, let me know in the comments!

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