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.
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)