Alright, I know that’s a hell of a thing to say, but hear me out.
Most of you reading this are creators or aspiring to be so. And we know impostor syndrome. It walks with us daily, holding our hands and whispering in our ears like a lover. Only what lover would tell us these sorts of things?
You don’t belong here.
No one really likes your work. They just pity you.
All your Instagram followers are just following you to send you scammy DMs.
Feel free to insert your own hellish thoughts here.
These thoughts suck. And no matter how long I write, no matter how much I create, they’ve never gone away. I honestly doubt they ever will, even if I achieve everything I want to achieve.
I’m a published author. I’m a professional critic. I’ve produced podcasts, both fiction and nonfiction. People like what I create. They tell me so. And I still feel like I don’t fit. Like my stories aren’t good enough. Like I got published and hired as some cosmic joke. The universe gave me just what I wanted, but I can scarcely believe I earned it.
I could join SFWA, get published with Tor, and quit my day job. And it would just make my Impostor Syndrome even worse. Because I wouldn’t feel like I deserve any of it.
So how in the hell could that ever be considered a good thing? Let’s talk about it.
When you feel impostor syndrome, it means you’re trying new things. We don’t generally feel like impostors when we feel comfortable, after all. And if we want to grow as artists, we should always be trying new things. Learning new things that might make us feel stupid and slow at first. Things that make us feel like we’re writing with a crayon shoved between our toes. It’s easy to feel like we don’t belong. Which is a great way to be sure we’re growing.
Along the same lines, impostor syndrome likes to show up when we’re out of our comfort zone. When we’re trying to level up. Even as we do it, it’s normal to feel like we don’t deserve these new spaces. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve them. don’t ever misunderstand. It’s just that you can’t move into your new phase in life without some growing pains.
Impostor syndrome also means that you give a shit about your work. That you want it to be good, you want it to be the very best it can be. Your work matters to you. And you care more about your opinion of your work than anyone else’s opinion. It should be better, it can be better. Because you are capable of better. That’s why you’re feeling like your work should be better. Because you’re capable of better.
Impostor Syndrome will never go away. And you’d better hope it doesn’t. Because as soon as you feel like you belong, you get complacent. You stop trying to get better. You stop working to hit new levels, achieve new dreams.
There’s a time for that in your life. But it’s near the end so I’d rather not think of that right now.
So the next time impostor syndrome takes your hand, give it a comforting squeeze. It’s saying awful things to you, but it’s not trying to hurt you. It’s trying to help you grow.
All that being said, you probably deserve the praise and rewards for your work. There are too many people out there creating for any praise or achievement to be from pity or by accident. Celebrate your wins, celebrate your space.
But then reach for more. Reach high enough until you start feeling that impostor syndrome whispering in your ear again. And again, and again, and again.
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