For those of you who don’t know, I work in a bookshop which happens to sell my books, and every time one of my books sells, I’m always amazed. I feel a mixture of anxiety, surprise, happiness and doubt. This doesn’t just happen with my books though, I make things too and when they sell, I get the same feeling. I feel like my books and crafts are not good enough and not worthy of peoples’ hard-earned money. I know my feelings are irrational, and that if someone likes my work then they will be happy to pay for it, but it doesn’t stop me from wallowing in self-doubt.
These feelings are often associated with Impostor Syndrome. According to the internet: ‘Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.’ It is described as ‘that uncomfortable feeling you experience when you think you’re unqualified and incompetent. You might look around and assume everyone knows what they’re doing except you. And if you achieve something good, you’ll chalk your accomplishments up to “good luck”.’
Many people, particularly creative people have feelings associated with Impostor Syndrome. A lot of would-be writers give up writing during the editing process, and some give up after they’ve published one book. The successful authors are those who don’t give up and push ahead regardless of their self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy. There is always room to learn and improve whatever you’re doing, but it is important to remember that the learning doesn’t stop, even when you’re seen as a professional in your field.
The sad thing is that many talented people who are good at what they do are often held back by Imposter Syndrome. In my experience as an author, every sentence I write never feels quite good enough, and even when I have finished a book, re-written it, and edited it with professional editors, I still often feel that my work is not good enough or not the best it can be. It’s not a feeling I expect will ever change, even as I continue to write more and more books. So, it is a feeling that I have to live with and ignore when I’m working on my next project.