Do You Suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

Monday, July 29, 2019

My name is Renee, and I have a bad case of Imposter Syndrome. It applies to a lot of areas in my life, but stands out the most when I discuss my writing.

On a vacation recently, I was telling a friend that I had applied to be a judge for a book publishing competition. The conversation went something like this.

“I don’t know if I’m all that qualified,” I told her. “I mean, I have some experience in the publishing field, but I’m not an author.” She stared at me blankly.

“What do you mean by that? Have you not had things written and published?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “I guess I mean that I’m not a published author, you know, a novelist.”

“That doesn’t matter, Renee," she said. "You written for a lot of publications. You’ve won awards. You’ve written more than one book. You ARE an author.”

After that conversation, I started to thinking about the term “Imposter Syndrome” I hear a lot from entrepreneurs. I came across this article in Fast Company, which breaks Imposter Syndrome down into five different types. I won’t rehash the entire article here, but I encourage you to check it out, as it was pretty eye-opening and I have the feeling I’m not alone in feeling like an imposter. A psychologist divided the syndrome into five different types: The Perfectionist, The Superwoman/Man, The Natural Genius, The Soloist and The Expert. When scanning the characteristics, I could see myself spread out across the board.

There are days I feel like an imposter simply in my daily life, and not only as a writer. I grew up poor, with a chaotic home life, and I didn’t have many cultural or worldly opportunities to travel. When I hear people around me discuss their most recent trip to Paris, I cringe inside because I can’t add to the discussion, having only traveled in the United States and Mexico. (I live in a college town where it's not uncommon for people to travel to Europe multiple times in one year.) I don’t have a graduate degree—I had to scrape and work my behind off all through my four years of undergraduate school and graduated with a pile of credit card debt.

I think having a background such as mine has affected my self-confidence and leads me to feel like an imposter when it comes to my writing achievements, even if I've earned every single one. I don’t like to ask for help, though. I don’t like to admit when I don’t know how to do something. I take on to many things to make myself look like more of an achiever than I really am. These are all characteristics of “Imposter Syndrome.”

All I can do is resolve to reframe my way of thinking. I will make mistakes. I won’t always know all the answers. I will not overwhelm my calendar in order to look like “a more professional writer.” I’ve put in many years of writing, editing and revising. I’ve built relationships with clients on trust and a solid work ethic.

I will no longer listen to that voice inside my head that tells me I’m an imposter.

Now let’s hear from you! Do you ever suffer from “Imposter Syndrome” in your daily and work life? How do you get past it?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also works as a magazine editor for a monthly lifestyle publication. Her contemporary young adult novel, “Between,” can be found on


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--You need to get rid of the buts.

I'm a writer, BUT I've never had a novel published. (So what? I've had stories published in well-known anthologies, along with an article in a professional journal.)

I'm a writer, BUT I'm not famous. (Again, so what? I write on a regular basis. I belong to a couple of writing critique groups. I belong to a writing accountability group. With all that commitment and determination, SOMEDAY I will carve out a bit of "fame" with a small number of people.

Practice saying, "I'm a writer." Or, "I'm an author." Or, "I'm a freelance writer." And then just stop. Let the other person say the next thing. I honestly think that freelancers like you work harder than most novelists (and certainly harder than an author like James Patterson, who just outlines his books and then has 30 other people working for him as they write the books so he can churn out a dozen every year).

I used to say, "I'm just a teacher," because teachers don't make big bucks, they are so beaten up by parents, so I felt inferior. Now I'm just fired up about the profession and how downtrodden it is, so I leave out the word "just" and say, "I'm a teacher." I then add, "I retired from public school and then got a job at a Catholic school, because I love teaching THAT much," because I want them to know how passionate I am about my job.

Yeah, shut that ____ up. Roll your shoulders back, stand tall and shout it, loud and proud. "I am a writer."

Nicole Pyles said...

I struggle with the same thing so much! It's that feeling that my writing successes so far "don't really count." Like, I had a couple of poems published a few years ago and found myself saying recently, "Eh, but they don't really count." And I thought...wait, why not? I find that it can impact my writing progress for sure as well. I feel like this is the year to stop the imposter syndrome and be the writers we know we are!

Illinois Central Review said...

Two books published. Two graduate degrees. Multiple awards. I still feel like at any minute someone is going to knock on my door and tell me what a fraud I am.

Linda O'Connell said...

Renee, I too suffered from impostor syndrome, until I realized I was qualified if not certified. I like to say I don't hold an MFA, but I possess an MFA: mighty fine attitude. Others see us as we present ourselves. Best to you in your writing endeavors.

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