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The Imposter Syndrome in Blogging

On a recent podcast, Dan Harris was telling a story about when he suggested to his wife, a physician who graduated top in her class from a prestigious medical school and has practiced at some of the best teaching hospitals, that she might suffer from Imposter’s Syndrome. His wife’s response made me laugh out loud. Dan said it was something like “It’s interesting that some other people felt like that but I really AM an imposter.”

This Ten Percent Happier podcast with Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on the syndrome for more than 40 years, is fascinating for their deep dive in Imposter Syndrome or “feeling like a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary.” She also noted that some areas are more susceptible to this kind of thinking and being creative is one of them. According to Dr. Young, “when you are in a creative field, you are only as good as your last book or your last performance.

Or, to expand on the professor’s point — your last blog post. That really resonated with me. Here’s why I think that.

I didn’t go to school for it.

In my professional life, I’m an expert in a Microsoft software named Sharepoint that facilitates collaboration within teams – things like creating structure and process about where people put and find their files, and workflow (e.g. how do I submit something for approval?).

Does my electrical engineering degree have any bearing on that? No. Outside of some basic troubleshooting and thinking skills, there isn’t any relationship between my degree and what I do now. I could draw a similarly loose relationship between the writing classes and I took in college and writing now, but I wouldn’t ever call myself an expert because….

Writing has been around a long time.

Sharepoint has been around for 20 years. Writing has been around for about 5,500 years. I’m pulling that number from this delightful Psychology Today article about The Evolution of the Written Word. It’s a lot easier to feel like I know a good deal about Sharepoint even though it changes daily and I’m always have to look something up. But writing? Well, there’s been Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie, and Hemingway and just typing that list makes me remember all that I don’t even know about the great writers, much less about writing.

No one pays me to write

For whatever I do and do not know about Sharepoint, I’ve been able to make a living out of a career providing consulting services around it. I even wrote a Sharepoint book, one of the least profitable parts of my career, which doesn’t bode well for me making a living from writing. But no one pays me to write, or at least not that I’ve managed to figure out yet, which makes me lack in the most basic form of transactional affirmation.

For some people, and I’m thinking of my colleague, Jack Canfora, who have made a go of writing as a career, the mantel of a writer seems to fit a lot better. Which affirms my inclination to think of myself as just a hobbyist.

And yet…

So why persist as a writer? Because writing feels more meaningful than any single Sharepoint project I’ve ever done. Because writing requires me to dig deep and put myself out there is a way that is not required with computer consulting. Because writing about life creates a goodness in my experience that increases my enjoyment in life.

Here’s what I’ve concluded. Sure, sometimes (or a lot of times), I feel like an imposter as a writer and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. But every one who lives their authentic words out on paper can’t be an imposter to their experience. Any one who has hit the word “publish” has indeed created something. No one who uses words to create feelings in others and communicate should suffer from the distinction that others may have done it better. All who bleed, figuratively speaking, to put themselves out there should be proud of the effort.

What about you? Do you feel like you’ve suffered from Imposter Syndrome as a creative? What have you done to combat it?

On my personal blog today, I’ve written a piece about the 30% of people that Dr. Young calls “humble realists” because they exhibit the healthy opposite of Imposter Syndrome. Check it out: Being a Humble Realist.  I also post on Mondays at the Heart of the Matter blog. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

47 thoughts on “The Imposter Syndrome in Blogging

  1. A very rich post, Wynne. And, indeed, there are many imposters in the world, who (unfortunately) don’t admit it and retire.

    But your writing is informed by being sensitive to human suffering, your relationship to your father, raising children, being a single, self- supporting mom, taking on leadership roles, having your heart broken, and climbing mountains.

    Who could call you an imposter? I stand in awe.

    1. Wow, what a gift to hear you list so beautifully the themes that run round in my head and heart and leak onto the page. Thank you, Dr. Stein!

  2. I worked with a student who was a talented percussionist. So talented that when compliments and accolades came his way, and opportunities to play in bigger and bigger venues, he was eclipsed by feelings of unworthiness. He’d lament he was only doing what felt right…he was a ‘one hit wonder’ of his own making and each performance became increasingly difficult for him. He worked through the anxiety as he stepped out of his headspace…but I’ll never forget how paralyzed he was by the pressure. I agree with you, Wynne, the worry that I’ve done my best writing…it’s over, it’s behind me flickers through every now and then. Thanks for your thought-provoking post and the reminder that some of write because it’s where joy resides. xo! 😎 Well, that, and I’m no drummer.

      1. Oh, I’m laughing about your PS about the typo. What an interesting story about the percussionist. I’m so glad to hear that he worked through his anxiety so that he could continue to deliver his gift – and feel the goodness!

        I bet you could be a drummer if you set your sights on it. I believe you can do anything!

      2. LOL! You’re an instigator, aren’t you? Good thing you’re ‘across the pond’ — I fear you, Wynne and I could stir up a heap of trouble! 🤣🥰🤣

      3. Maybe im just relaxing enough to let it out. I know I want to break away from what everyone expects me to be, to be me… and I think the new me wants more fun

      4. I think that’s amazing…especially because it’s a sign that you’re feeling better, overall. Nothing better than that – plus the joy of doing the things you love. You’re in ‘the zone’. 😎🥰😎

  3. “But every one who lives their authentic words out on paper can’t be an imposter to their experience.” What a brilliant reminder to all of us! No matter what we do or how we feel, if we’re true to ourselves than we have something to be proud of. 💕

  4. I sometimes share your feelings about imposter syndrome, Wynne. I don’t have a certificate acknowledging my writing proficiency and I’m ok with that. There is nothing imposter about writing from the heart. 😊

  5. I don’t share the imposter syndrome with writing. I experienced it the few years I worked as a financial advisor with my husband. My degree was editorial journalism in the Comms School at the UW. I always wanted to write fiction, but spent 20 plus years writing newsletters, press releases and advertising. I had children’s fiction stories published and got paid after I left my PR career and was a stay-at-home mom. I quit writing for pay during the shutdown when I didn’t want deadlines and assignments anymore. It’s nice verification to get paid, but it was never enough to make a living — at it in my case. I’ve blogged for nine years as a way to express myself. It’s been something I do because I enjoy it.

    1. Wow, what an interesting list of wonderful things you’ve written, EA. I love your final statement that you blog because you enjoy it. And maybe you’ll write some more fiction?

      1. I’m working on a revision of a novel as of this week! It was my project for NaNoWriMo. I put it away since November to get distance.

  6. I might have shared this with you before, Wynne, but when I was in high school a teacher told me I was a terrible writer and should just “stick to typing”. Those words stayed with me for many years. When I started my blog, I realized every job I’ve ever had involved some form of writing. Blogging just felt like a different form of expression. In my mind, anyone who writes anything is a writer, despite what anyone else tells them.

    1. Oh, what a shame that statement stuck with you! I really enjoy your blog and am so glad that you are a testament to overcoming the limiting things people tell us. Love your statement that anyone that writes is a writer!!

  7. I love that: “There is nothing imposter about writing from the heart”! Well said!

    I think the silver lining of the Imposter Syndrome is that one cannot then suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect… Maybe the Imposter Syndrome is not all bad? 😝

    1. Thanks EW! I had to look up the Dunning-Kruger Effect. You have an excellent point that there could be an upside of Imposter Syndrome. As long as it doesn’t preclude asking questions and seeking to grow, I suppose it’s a good motivating factor for growth.

  8. I find your post encouraging Wynne.
    During a lifetime of a ‘practical’ career, writing was something I did to gain qualifications or out of necessity. So to embark on creating a blog was taxing and somewhat scary for a while.
    As you suggest, where can you go wrong when writing from the heart? 😊

    1. Oh, I’m so glad this has been encouraging to you, Margaret. Well said – what can go wrong when writing from (and for) the heart?

  9. I have heard about the Imposter Syndrome only recently. A PhD student of one of my projects wanted to talk with me about it. After some searches on Google to better understand what it was about, I actively listened to her and told her that she should be confident but pay a great attention to plagiarism. I guess we could extend to blogging?

    1. I love your statement that you “actively listened to her.” What a lovely sounding board you must be. The professor I listened to said that imposter syndrome can be more prevalent in college students because they are under consistent pressure to prove what they know. So maybe it’s not surprising your PhD student was feeling it.

  10. Lucky me- I get to suffer through my own imposter thoughts both in writing and in music 🤦🏼‍♂️😁 That line about only being as good as your last “whatever” really feels true often times. Very interesting post Wynne!😎

    1. Oh, I’m laughing about both writing and music. Damn, I can see how that would be so true! Well, you have great end product with both so I can very you are no imposter!!

  11. It’s funny, I’d been thinking of doing something on Imposter Syndrome, but after summer and maybe targetted at students. I remember sitting in a big lecture theatre when I started at uni waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say they’d made a mistake and that I had to leave. It wasn’t until talking to other mature students i realised we all felt the same way. I agree it’s common with students, but even more so with mature students. I’m not sure if it’s something with changing careers/direction, but they’re definitely our of their comfort zone.
    Great Post Wynne, giving us all something to think about

    1. What an interesting comment, Brenda. I think you are on to something about changing careers. You have to give up being proficient at one to learn another and that’s disconcerting, right? Thanks for adding this to the discussion!

      1. Definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. But even with those doubts and fears, we push ahead anyway. Maybe we need to have more confidence in ourselves 😁

  12. I’m not sure what the subtle difference is between an author and a writer, or if there even is one. But When I try to think of myself as an ‘author’ I flunk. It’s much easier to identify as a writer, simply by the virtue of the fact that I write—good, bad, or in between. I write. Therefore, I am. Like all of you, if something I write touches a single heart, or makes one life a little easier, then I am a success—even if it’s just my own heart, my own life that I touch. 💕

    1. A success for sure! You touch my heart and make my life more joyful on a repeated and regular basis, Julia! I love your writing – and your wisdom. I hear you about the difference between author and writer – although as someone who has published two books, I think you can wear the mantel of an author proudly! Thanks for weighing in with your wisdom, Julia!

  13. That’s exactly it. Writing is meaningful to those of us who recognize this tenet. Right? Even if all I do is storytelling from my personal life, which is one type of writing among many, it keeps me writing which eventually will feed some other, more lucid project down the road. I wrote about this somewhere else in the comments earlier – we form a tribe in our writing here in WP and similar platforms which builds community. I almost gave that up once because some man told me to “cull the blogging” and I believed him. A died a little when I tried it out…

    My technical writing background doesn’t do much for the personal writing I do now, or the fiction or erotica of years past, but it’s still writing. I wrote chapters for training manuals in the medical industry which helped me understand editing better, for instance, or breaking up a long piece into sub-chapters. It may not be a requirement in personal writing to know these things, but it somehow elevates the craft of writing, if you know what a mean.

    Wonderful post as always, Wynne.

    1. Oh, what a delightfully interesting response, Claudette. I shivered a bit when you said you died a little when you tried it out. And the wonderful thread that you pulled about how all the writing feeds other writing. What an amazing point! Thank you for the wonderful comment!

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