How is Everyone Not Crippled by Imposter Syndrome?

This week’s been rough on the writing front. I keep vacillating between enjoying writing and wanting to abandon the craft forever. I have a writing conference tomorrow and last week had my critique group, which always seems to drum up feelings of fakery on my part. There’s something about being included among these legit, talented adults that make me want to thank them for their kindness and bolt for the door. But I think the big source of this unpleasant feeling came a little over a month ago.

I won second place for Student Journalist of the Year in the Michigan Community College Press Association awards. They look at everything you’ve done and a letter sent from the newspaper faculty. The biggest honor in my eyes is that I was picked because my peers voted me in. And then I won second place at the actual thing.

I was quick to point out to my husband that this meant I was the second best community college student journalist in the state of Michigan. It diminishes it somehow while still being true. Makes it feel like not as big of a deal. He laughed at me, which is the appropriate response.

I believe this has been the source of most of the trouble.

I walked out of the ceremony that day with a brief feeling of elation and surprise… that was quickly replaced with a lingering, “Now what?”

Now what. What will you do with this momentum? What’s next? You’re done with your year at the paper, your days as second best community college student journalist in the state of Michigan are over almost as quickly as they started. So what’s next?

And the truth is I didn’t know.  Other than feeling like a fraud because they awarded someone who is not a journalist a journalism award.

The other day I was introduced as a writer in casual conversation. I wanted to throw up my palms and say, “Woah woah woah lets not just start throwing words around.” But my friend was quick to point out that I was a published writer. Which, yeah, okay, is true. I guess. And I’ve been paid for my writing. Also true.

It’s hard to accurately explain it. It’s like my default mode is, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll just show myself out.” This is true for friendships, my career, and this writing side hustle of mine. It’s almost like the more I try to legitimize myself as a writer, the more the imposter syndrome rebels.

Surely you’ve heard of imposter syndrome. It’s when your brain rejects all feelings and notions that you belong somewhere or deserve nice things. That even the status quo is undeserved. It instead replaces them with a parrot that screeches, “BRAWK! You’re a fake! Everyone will find out soon enough and you’ll be left with nothing! BRAWK! All of your hard work is meaningless when it isn’t adequate! BRAWK!” It’s that. On repeat. On a loud speaker.

I’ve been trying to drown it out. Remind the bird that, okay, so I’m not going to be on News Bus 7 delivering headlines. I’m no restaurant critic eating the finest of salmon foam with a lemon pesto gastrique. But I like this thing I’ve been doing. I’ve liked it since I was a kid. And I should be able to be imperfect at that something… especially if I enjoy it.

But before I can give myself permission to be human, I need to be dragged through the imposter syndrome with that obnoxious bird first.

“I’m a big dumb bird!”

“Yes, you are.”

“But I’m right.” It whispers. “Brawk.”

I wish I could be comfortable with the idea that I’m getting better at this. That I’m okay.

But it’s so hard to drown out that goddamn squawking.

2 thoughts on “How is Everyone Not Crippled by Imposter Syndrome?

  1. This is an accurate description of the bird that poops all over everything.

  2. I think we’ve all had that feeling. You’re sure “they” will find out you don’t know what you’re doing. You keep dancing as fast as you can hoping not to stumble. Believe in yourself, you have been awarded for your accomplishments. You are a good writer. Your writing has never failed to inform, challenge and entertain me. I am a fan. I was also the editor of two union newsletters so I have experience evaluating written submissions. Keep up the good work.

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