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GYWD #16: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

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In this episode…

Have you ever been thinking about a writing project but then said, I don’t know everything I need to know about that so I shouldn’t start that project right now, I should wait until I’m more confident about what I know. Or have you ever found yourself in the middle of a manuscript and asked, “Why did I ever think I could do this?” Have you ever sat around a table of your peers and thought, If these people really knew me they wouldn’t think I belong here.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Club. 70% of the public will confront imposter’s syndrome at some point, and I think almost all writers certainly do.

In today’s podcast I’ll talk about my own ordeals and offer some strategies for defusing imposter syndrome.

Links

Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It

Trevor’s Coach-Led Weekly Writing Group
GetYourWritingDone.com
Follow me on Twitter

The 12 Week Year for Writers

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Transcript

Trevor Thrall  0:00  
Welcome to the Get your writing done Podcast. I’m Trevor Thrall, author of the 12 week year for writers. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please submit a review wherever you get your podcasts that really helps. And for weekly updates on the podcast and other writing resources, you can subscribe to my newsletter at get your writing done calm. Have you ever been thinking about a writing project, but then said, I don’t know everything? I need to know about that. So I shouldn’t start that project right now. I should wait till I’m more confident about what I know. Or have you ever found yourself in the middle of a manuscript and asked, Why did I ever think I could do this? Have you ever sat around a table of your peers and thought, if these people really knew me, they wouldn’t think I belong here? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then welcome to the imposter syndrome club. 70%, at least of the public will confront imposter syndrome at some point in their life. And I think almost all writers certainly well. In today’s podcast, I’ll talk about my own ordeals and offer some strategies for defusing imposter syndrome.

Let’s start today’s episode with a quick exercise. So I’m going to read you a little scenario and then pause the podcast, write yourself an answer to the scenario. And then we’ll come back to that a few minutes down the road. So here’s the scenario. Imagine that you are in your first year of medical school. And you’ve just finished the first semester, and the school posts, the performances of everyone in your class. And lo and behold, you are number one in the entire class after the first semester. Your exercise here is to pause the podcast and take a few minutes to write down just a short paragraph about why you’re number one. And what you think is going to happen in the next semester. That’s it pretty simple. So we’ll see you on the flip side, once you’ve conducted that little self assessment, and we’ll talk about it in a few minutes. Okay, you’re back. So every year at when I was the director of one of our graduate programs, at George Mason, I would welcome the new PhD students within a little orientation session and talk them through a short presentation that I like to call the PhD Survival Guide. And you know, just sort of some some tips on the common things that students need to figure out while they’re in graduate school. And I think most of them probably ignored most of the things I said being the cocky young folks that they are. But the one of the things that I always talked about was the imposter syndrome. And the reason I did this is because when I went to graduate school, fresh out of college, without taking any time off in the real world before going to graduate school. I felt wildly out of place for about two and a half years. Because I you know, looked around and realized, oh my gosh, what am I doing here? Look at all these incredibly smart people. And you know, it’s it’s very interesting environment for a young, you know, PhD student, sort of Yeah, to think about who you’re talking about here. And you know, these are typically ambitious, very smart, people who have always been very good students, most of them have gotten mostly A’s throughout their life. And they’ve been told, probably repeatedly that they’re a very smart person, and they should probably go to school and go to more school and so on and so forth. And you know, the here they are, they’ve gotten into a, a competitive Ph. D program. But once they get there, they look around them and they’re no longer the smartest person in the room. They are now not only not the smartest person but their professors are, you know, at close quarters and who are you know, wildly impressive people whose work you may have been reading for the past several years and kind of in wonder how amazing it is. You’ve got other students who are more advanced than than you are. So you’re not only not smarter than the kids in your own cohort, but but you’re blown away by the expertise and knowledge and capabilities of the people who are 12345 years ahead of you. And you can really, it’s very easy to doubt that you belong in that situation. As I said, it took me probably two and a half years until I started to feel like I was really qualified in a sense to be there and it wasn’t so much that, that I had changed it was that my comfort level had changed. And, but but, you know, it occurred to me upon becoming a graduate school director that that, you know, there is a there is a process, there is a process for overcoming the imposter syndrome, there are some strategies you can use, you don’t have to just wander around feeling bad for several years, it’s helps to actually talk about that. And so that’s, that’s my goal today is to talk about it. And let’s sort of figure out what’s going on why it’s going on. And let’s talk about some strategies that we can use to push through it because it can be a very, very

painful feeling this and very detrimental to our own writing our own productivity. So, you know, first, let’s just be clear, and define imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is not not too complicated here. It’s the feeling or belief that you are not as competent as others think you are. So basically the feeling that you’re a phony, or that you’re an imposter, that you’re masquerading as an expert, or, in our case, that we’re masquerading as a writer, when in fact, when people pull back the curtain, they’ll realize that we’re, we’re just pretending, and or we’re not very good, after all. And and this is such a common, common feeling. If you’re feeling this, if you’ve ever felt this, you are not alone. I was reading some research. And the research suggests that somewhere maybe between 25 and 30%, of all folks regularly kind of suffer a chronic sense of imposter syndrome. And that anywhere and it’s a little bit hard to to know for sure with this stuff, but but very common data point is that at least 70% of folks have felt the imposter syndrome at some point. And I’m going to guess that among writers and intellectuals creators, in general, that number has got to be closer to 100%. That’s, that’s my experience, from talking to people who write for a living anyway, I don’t, I don’t think I can name you a single person who says to Me, they have never felt like an imposter of some kind. So if it’s so common, there should be, there’s probably an obvious cause to all of it. And I don’t know if that’s true. But there are some pretty common causes, at least in a general sense that that research identifies. One is probably the most, I think, common, or at least the one that’s most commonly referred to is family pressure that you dealt with growing up as a kid, very commonly, people who suffer from imposter syndrome, had parents who, you know, for good intentions, in many cases, probably all the cases or hopefully all the cases. But from from a sense of trying to be a good parent, put a lot of pressure on your performance as a student, maybe as an athlete, whatever it might have been, and you felt you internalized this, this sense of danger of failing to meet expectations of your parents, and then that tends over time to get kind of externalized to everyone who’s in a position to judge peers, bosses, and so on. So family pressures is probably number one. But, you know, what, when your imposter syndrome gets triggered is, is probably almost as important. And, you know, like I said, I didn’t think of myself as an imposter until I got to graduate school ahead. I’ve been feeling pretty high on myself until the first couple weeks of classes. So it turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that when we start to inhabit new roles, or take on new challenges, these are the key moments when our feelings of phoniness or our fears about not meeting expectations tend to to go skyward. And so, you know, for, for, for sure, that means students when they hit their next level of schooling, are gonna very often encounter that anybody joining a new and competitive environment of some kind is very likely going to feel that and you know, graduate schools would certainly meet that bill, but many, many, many different workplaces also are competitive and so would trigger these kinds of feelings of imposter syndrome. I have read a lot of in a lot of the business literature, you’ll read that it’s super common for CEOs, even CEOs who have been CEOs for a long time to feel imposter syndrome when they are doing something that’s new for them. You know, entrepreneurs feel it all the time. And writers certainly feel it. young writers who are starting out can feel it. writers who are trying to write a second book often feel it because they feel like maybe the first one was just sort of a lucky thing or people didn’t really read it, so they don’t know. And the second one is the one where you’re going to get found out. So new challenges, new roles, competitive environments, these really trigger this imposter syndrome for a lot of us. And, you know, they also sort of suggest in the research that, you know, your own personality type can kind of feed into this. And I don’t know if, you know, is perfectionism, a personality sort of thing? I guess. So. Certainly,

people have connected imposter syndrome to perfectionism. Sometimes it’s a strategy that we adopt, to deal with our feelings of imposter syndrome. So I wouldn’t want to say that’s a personality type. But I suppose there are people who maybe have some like kind of a neurotic need for perfection, and that could, that could fuel they suggest the research that that’s correlated with, with imposter syndrome feelings. And finally, the last thing I think is of note is that an interesting were the original coining of the phrase came from was a study in the late 70s by two women who did research on high achieving women. And, and ever since then, it first the concept was actually kind of imagined as a female, only kind of condition. But after that, the, you know, it resonated so widely, because it’s actually so widely felt a problem it, it stopped being seen as a, as a woman only thing, but research since then, has actually confirmed that women do in fact, suffer from imposter syndrome more commonly than men do. And I think that reflects, you know, without getting to CEOs, sociological here, it reflects our society and the hierarchies and the fact that women have greater struggles, especially in male dominated environments that are seen as competitive around sort of, you know, being super smart or brilliant or things like that. And in those fields, that sort of research really interesting has shown that, that the gap and imposter syndrome is worse between women and men in fields like physics, or economics, where, where there’s a real emphasis on being brilliant, and women are in those situations are just much more likely to feel like they’re phonies, because in those fields, you know, it’s these towering giants, we’re all men historically. And, and, you know, I think it’s pretty easy to imagine how much harder it would be to be a woman in those fields and feel like you belong. So women more commonly suffer from imposter syndrome than men. So you’re probably aware if you suffer from imposter syndrome or not.

But as I was doing some reading about this, I thought it was kind of interesting to to look at some of the different symptoms or signs that people display when they’re suffering from imposter syndrome. Because you know, as a, as a professor, and as a coach, for writers, I’m, I’m often in the position of trying to figure out what’s going on with someone else. And sometimes people don’t want to tell you sometimes they don’t know themselves what’s going on yet. And so So, you know, looking at these signs, and other people, sometimes I can get a bead on things. But one of the first things and let’s come back to our medical school scenario that I gave you in that one, and here’s the here’s a fun story about that, when I first encountered this scenario, or experiment in 1982, in the fall, my first year in high school, and our psychology teacher who was just a wonderful woman, Mrs. Smaller, if you’re out there, loved your class. And she gave us this exercise. And we duly all set, you know, wrote, wrote our little narratives out, and then she sort of explained the AHA, and she had us look back at our things. And and the first thing to look for is, you know, to what did you attribute your success in that first semester? Was it something internal was internal to you? I’m very smart. And I’m very hard working. And so I studied a long time. And I saw I got good grades. That would be an internal description of your success. On the other hand, but it was very common for people to write was, I just got lucky. Some of the other kids, you know, maybe we’re smarter, so they didn’t take it seriously. But I panicked, and so I worked. Right. So, if you if you externalize your success, and you, you know, either downplay it, or you ascribe it to other factors, or you assume they must have made a mistake, I can’t be number one, something like that. And then when looking ahead, I probably won’t be number one again, that was a fluke. It won’t, you know, that kind of talk that that’s a sign that here you’re suffer from imposter syndrome or that in the right conditions, you probably would suffer from imposter syndrome. So that the first sign is when you when you hear yourself or others attributing their success or you attribute your own success to external factors. Instead of sort of owning your success and being the cause of your success. You identify other reasons for that outside yourself, right? Because you’re the imposter. It couldn’t be due to you. So it must do two other things. Right? Oh, I just, you know, my book got lucky, it would, you know, normally would have been ignored. But there was this one thing that happened. And so, you know, whatever, whatever. Right. So that’s, that’s sort of maybe the most obvious symptom. But another one is agonizing over your own performance and feeling really, really bad about even small errors or tiny imperfections that you think, you know, you should have done better. And so on. You know, I’ve talked to some people, I won’t name names here, but but people who still mull over, like bad grades they got in middle school, and we’re talking about people who are in their 50s and 60s. And, and they you know, they’re there. They’re so you know, bent out of shape by even the smallest thing, even though they got A in the class or whatever it might be, they’re always worried that any any imperfection is going to be the first end of the wedge that reveals their, their their phoniness, that they’re not actually as good as people think they are. And so if if you find yourself you see others really getting bent out of shape about Sperry small things, that could be a sign that imposter syndrome is lurking behind they’re being super sensitive to constructive criticism is another sign, right? I mean, none of us likes being criticized even constructively, probably. But when you fear being revealed as a phony, think how much more dangerous criticism feels, because it feels like this the first step towards the unzipping of the curtain to reveal nothing, right. And so if you are feeling like an imposter, you’re gonna be super sensitive, we’re going to be very defensive about criticism. And then the other side, and I see this in my classes sometimes is in a group setting, if you hear someone or find yourself downplaying your own expertise, your own skills and abilities, sort of, you know, I’m from the Midwest, so sometimes the all shucks thing is, is the appropriate modesty. But But what I mean is when people sort of repeatedly suggest that, that well, I’m not really an expert, or I don’t really know, you, you probably know better than I do, you know, that sort of thing. This is perhaps a person who is struggling with imposter syndrome. And so, you know, there are a lot of different ways that might

show up in people’s behavior over over time. I don’t think there’s any such thing as one kind of, you know, of one flavor of imposter syndrome. I think it hits us all probably a little differently. But, but hit us all, most of us anyway, it does. I, you know, and I know this, and one of the main reasons I, I talked to my students about this is not only do I still have very vivid memories of these, you know, looking around the class going, what am I doing here, but I also suffered even later on, when I was just about finished with my dissertation. And I was actually already teaching. I had written a conference paper for our annual meeting for political scientists, no big 10,000 people, you know, lots of panels, and everyone goes and gives talks, and so on, so forth. And it’s basically a boondoggle to visit Chicago, or New York, but you know, it’s important for your professional development. And especially as a young professor, I was trying to meet network with people and so on, so forth. So I was on this panel. And I had written this paper. And I’d sent the paper to the, to the panelists and to the chair, who was also the discussant. And, and this was a very August, member of, of the sort of subfield of political science that this paper was in. And I mean, August, like I had read all this person’s material, and I used one of his textbooks in class, and that’s a big, big dog. And I was like, excited at first, because, you know, that always means there’s gonna be a lot of people attending your panel. So you know, you’re going to get some exposure for your paper, and that’s great. But as the event got closer, I started getting nervous, because I started doubting whether my paper was good enough, you know, for being flogged publicly by one of the leading lights of my field. And so I was nervous, and I was practicing my little presentation, but I wasn’t feeling any better about it. And then my wife and I went to Chicago where the conference was being held, and I wasn’t feeling any better about it. And then the day of my panel came, and I was just sweating like a dog. And I was panicked, because I was positive that this paper was so bad that it had no business being in the conference, no business, I had no business going to this panel to talk about it in public, and that I was going to be mortally embarrassed by anything that this guy had to say about the paper. And so I did Something more or less, you know, out of bounds, I skipped the panel entirely did not give the presentation and felt terrible about doing that. Because, you know, frankly, I don’t, I don’t know anyone. Or at least no one’s told me, I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that, right. And my friends that I know, has ever skipped a panel because they were embarrassed to present their paper. But I did. And I felt terrible. But I was like, relieved, no one had to hear about this terrible paper. And so then the funny thing is, I then bumped into, I bumped into this chair. And the one thing I didn’t want to do was him to think I had skipped on purpose or something. So I caught him at a cocktail party type of thing at the hotel where the conference was, and I said, Oh, you know, sorry, I, you know, made some baloney about some some time I missed the thing, whatever, you know, you lie, like you’re looking like an idiot. And he’s like, okay, that’s too bad. You know, I want to talk about that, you know, something’s, and basically he said several nice things about the paper. And he said, Oh, yeah, this, you know, one part, you could need some work, but you know, there’s, there’s a lot of promise to it. And so just like that, I realized that I had been suffering from imposter syndrome, I had an unrealistic sense of what others were, you know, gonna think I had just over sort of fear about what, what, you know, my quality was relative to the rest of the profession, and all this sort of stuff. And, and at that point, I,

I vowed not to skip another panel, again, because I thought my paper was no good. Because, you know, I couldn’t imagine having a worse feeling about a paper than I did at that moment. And then seeing it, seeing all that fear, you know, be nothing in the end. But that was a really big lesson for me. And so, but what would have helped would help a lot, is if someone had ever told me there was this thing called imposter syndrome, and that you’re gonna feel it, and here’s the situations where you’re, you’re probably going to run into it. And here’s how you can talk back to it. Right. And the problem is, if you don’t do this, if you don’t talk back to your imposter syndrome, right? I mean, yes, we all get it, we all have it. But that doesn’t mean you can leave it alone. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to let it sit there in one, you know, roam around inside you unchecked and unchallenged, because it can have a lot of negative effects. I mean, number one, you can miss professional opportunities to go present to a great audience and make a connection with an important person, because you felt like you were going to be revealed, right? So it can keep you from doing things that are important for your own professional development. It can, it can, it can build in you a a crushing self doubt, that can stall you on your writing that can make you quit, that can make you change professions, because you don’t believe you have it in you. It can drive you towards perfectionism and overachieving. Because you’re trying so hard to paddle the keep ahead of the reveal that you’re not real, right? That you just keep cranking and cranking and cranking trying to make it up on volume because you can’t feel it. Right. Which in turn then is a recipe for burnout. And a recipe for potentially never getting to do the things that you really want to do. Because you can’t find a way to be peaceful about it. And you know, when when those start happening, those things start happening where you you’re, you’ve basically blocked yourself from doing the things that you love that you want to do that that’s another recipe for depression, right? That’s, that’s not going to go well. So

there’s a lot of reasons to take imposter syndrome seriously. Now, you know, if you have the light form, where you can kind of shrug it off and and go for it. That’s great. I hope that’s you was not true for me, I had to I had to work out a little bit. And and it’s not true for a lot of people that I have met over the years. And so I think it really is worth sort of taking stock of you know where you’re at, with with imposter syndrome. I’m sure if you’re feeling it, then maybe one of the strategies I’m going to outline here, over the next few minutes will be will be useful because I think, in my experience, not only was able to sort of defeat my own imposter syndrome, not that it is 100% permanent, right, there are still situations where these feelings can crop up. But I’ve also seen a lot of other folks manage the process as well. And using some of these strategies. So I think none of these are original to me, I’ve borrowed them from other people over time, this is how these things go. I’m just trying to hand the torch of knowledge down down to you guys. So I won’t take credit for any of these except for in the shepherding of them to you. So the first thing i i tell my students when when they come to graduate school is I tell them you’re going to feel like an imposter. That’s fine. It’s okay. And it will go away over time. So the first thing is just to is to relax and not worry about the fact that you have it. Right it’s it’s not like you just got cancer You don’t have to worry that it’s going to kill you. Everybody gets it, and it goes away over time. So the first thing is to kind of relax and not create a national security emergency over it. Time will take care of some of this, as long as you do some of the other things that I think naturally you’re going to want to do. So the second thing that I tell them to do, is to do the work. So students come into a Ph. D program, wanting to become political scientists, or whatever they might want to be doing. But in my case, political scientists, and at first when they come in, they’re not a political scientist, right? They’re a student of political science. They’ve been an undergraduate student of political scientists. But maybe that means they’ve taken six courses. They’re not a political scientist yet, but they want to be one. And they want to be a real one who feels like one. And so the first thing to do then is to do the work of a political scientist. So what does that mean? Well, it means you read stuff in your field, it means you start to write papers in your field, it means starting to go to conferences in your field, it means writing conference papers, in your field, trying to publish journal articles, or op eds, or doing experiments, or collecting data, or whatever it is, is interesting to you in the field. But to my mind, feelings of imposter syndrome have trouble holding up when we start doing the real work, right? If you don’t feel like a real whatever, doing the work is a very concrete response, because you’re actually doing it. So it’s kind of hard to argue that you’re not when you’re actually doing it. So it gets and again, that accumulates over time for you. So the more of the work you do, in our case, we’re talking about writing. So the more writing you do, the more you’re going to feel like a writer because that’s exactly what you are. Right? So that’s, that’s the first thing. The second thing I tell them, the third thing I tell them, is to build their identity, by engaging community. And so for writers and I’ve talked about the importance of writing community a lot in different ways. But spending time with mentors, spending time with peers, spending time, in the institutions and organizations of your of your field. If you’re a science fiction writer, find science fiction people to hang out with, if you’re a fantasy writer, find fantasy people, if you’re, you know, a literary person, go to, you know, a literary book club, whatever it might be, do be with the people who are doing what you’re doing. And what that does is it helps socialize you. So when you know that you do the same things, as the people who you’d look around and go, Hey, that’s a writer, that’s a writer, when you’re doing the same things that they’re doing on a regular basis, the in the same places, at the same time. It tells your brain that’s who you are, you build your identity that way, right. And that’s really I think, in a sense, what imposter syndrome is about right, you don’t feel like you’ve fully inhabit a particular identity. And in the case of a lot of writers, I you see this all over the internet, when you read people’s kind of concerns and doubts. You see this phrase, a lot of times, I want to be a real writer. And I don’t know, you know, that’s such a strange phrase from a certain perspective, because what the heck would that be? What do you mean a real writer. And I think the problem is, a lot of us have all sorts of different feelings about what that might mean means maybe getting paid, getting published, having other people like your stuff, it could mean any or all of those things. But the fact is, is being a real writer, is called being a writer, it’s someone who writes. And that’s really the main thing that you know, being a writer is about, but when you hang out with other writers who are writing, when you go to writing dates when you participate in NaNoWriMo, with hundreds of 1000s of other people, when you do different things like that you’re you becoming a writer, you get identified with being a writer, and then I think the word real can drop away from your, from your worries, because your brain will eventually sort of become soaking, you know, in that writing juice and you won’t worry so much anymore. I think community is a huge

buffer against imposter syndrome. Another strategy is to acknowledge your fears, publicly, without selling yourself short. So what I mean by that is that, and I see this as true in so many professional arenas, and certainly the academic arena, I mean, finding truth find me a professor who’s good at saying, I don’t know, and I’ll give you $100 The last thing most professors ever want to do is admit they don’t know something don’t know how to do something, haven’t read something. There’s a lot of imposter syndrome in academia. And that’s so it’s so exhausting to be like that. And the antidote is simply to admit, I don’t know. Or you know what, sometimes I work that I’m not any good at this. Sometimes when I go to a conference, I worry that everyone’s going to think my stuff sucks, right? saying those things doesn’t make you a bad person saying those things doesn’t make you an imposter or make you a phony. It makes you a real person like everyone else. And in fact, you know, and as writers is all the fiction writers out there, and even some of the nonfiction writers, right, what do we need in our stories, to be able to relate to our main characters, you need to see their vulnerabilities. Nobody likes you until you’re vulnerable. So you might be impressive to other people. If you never say I don’t know, but no one’s gonna like you. Right? So acknowledging that you don’t know doesn’t make you weak, it makes you friendly and approachable. But when you admit that you don’t know something, that doesn’t mean degrade yourself in public, you don’t have to sell yourself short and say, you know, nothing, right. When you say, I don’t know, something, it that’s what you’re saying. You’re not saying I don’t know anything. You’re saying. I have many things that I know many things I know how to do. But what I don’t is know how to do that. Right? And so I think what you’ll find is that nothing blows up, nothing goes, boom, no one thinks you’re a fraud. In fact, people come and go, You know, I’ve been wondering about that to goodness gracious that I you know, this is a slightly off topic sort of thing. But just to tell you how important the vulnerability thing is. Many years ago, I was working in organization. And I gave a little goodbye speech for a colleague who was retiring, and I teared up a little bit, I teared up a lot. So I teared up a little bit at the end kind of got choked up. And he was a good friend. And, and someone came up who I didn’t really wasn’t close to in the organization. It was a smallish organization, but we didn’t work in the same buildings, we didn’t really have a lot of interaction. And you know, but we’d probably been in same organization for a couple years. And she came up afterwards, you know, you know, I, I didn’t, I didn’t, I thought you were just like one of those polished, you know, professional assholes is surprised me, you know, and she’s all of a sudden, like, she’s all warm and friendly to me. And I was like, wow, I went, did I ever would I ever do to you. But it was clear that she hadn’t liked me at all before, I cried in public in front of my organization, but then I was okay. I mean, it was a sort of a bracing lesson that being impressive, is off putting, being vulnerable, is attracting right and so strange, but, but that’s what I’m talking about, which is Don’t, don’t be afraid to admit that you have fears and concerns in public or, you know, colleagues or whatever, that just means you’re human, right, and people are gonna actually support you and not tear you down. And if they do tear you down, they’re a terrible person, you should get rid of them. Okay. Here’s another strategy for you.

I would argue that one of the the best ways to overcome your feelings of imposter syndrome is to teach what you know, if you’re a writer, find some high school students to teach, find some junior high students to teach, find some college kids to teach, find some other fellow adult people to teach. When you’re unsure about whether or not you’re in authority about something, if you teach it, it will convince you that you are. And you know, the funny thing about that is there is a bit of a journey in teaching things. Because I’ll tell you, there’s, there’s nothing more scary than getting up in front of a group of people. If you’ve never done it before. And teaching them a topic for the first time. That can be a very bracing experience in itself. Because you know, what if everyone finds out I’m an idiot, and you know, sort of but here’s what I will tell you having been through that myself, after about five minutes, when people are nodding and going oh, cool. Yep. And then you realize they’re tracking and that they want to know what’s next, you’ll realize that, Oh, wow. I do know stuff. And, you know, there are so many veterans benefits from teaching things, you know, that you probably shouldn’t need any additional convincing, but man, you you learn what you know. And in fact, it’s kind of a helpful thing to find out what you don’t know yet right to teach things. But one of the things you definitely will come out with is an understanding that you may not know everything, but you know a lot more about whatever it is that you do, then than most people do. And that will help erode this worry about imposter syndrome, right? So I really recommend teaching. It doesn’t have to be a formal thing. It can be an informal thing, mentoring, coaching, whatever. Okay, and then something that all the psychologists agree on, and that I have had to do myself a lot, a lot of self talk in my own career, is don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. And in general, don’t compare so much. And I know telling telling social animals not to be social and to compare themselves to others is sort of a fool’s errand. But, but it’s really important not to determine your self worth, by whether or not you’re better than some random other person in the world. Or worse yet a non random other person who you have no business comparing yourself to. It’s very hard. In an academic world, for example, to feel like you’re a really super great researcher, when there are so many people around the world who are so much more super great than you are. There’s always somebody who’s written more books, always somebody who’s published more papers, has more citations, you know, more awards, whatever it might be. And it can be hard man, and some of them in your own department, some of them your own university, and it can be hard to keep going, when you realize, wow, you know, to be to be a real political scientist, I should be X, Y, or Z, or, you know, I must not be very good at my job, because, you know, whatever. But you know what, that, that kind of thinking is useless, right? We do not live in a zero sum world, we live in a positive sum world where everyone can succeed at writing, just because someone else writes one way or the other way, or did this or did that it has no bearing on what you’re writing, or whether or not you’re a writer. And so, you know, that is just something that is a losing game, because, you know, there can be all sorts of reasons for the way other people appear. That just that you don’t know, right, you don’t know the story there. And so even if you’re trying to compare, you’re probably doing a bad job anyway. So I think you need to give comparing between you and others a break whenever possible, I struggle with it, I, I do all sorts of things to avoid trying to compare it to people around me, including sometimes trying not to spend time in competitive environments, right. I mean, academic departments are pretty competitive places, just sort of people naturally, it’s kind of the coin of the realm, stacking up publications and things like that. And so I find that spending somewhat less time talking with with those particular people about those topics is useful for me. So you may find similar strategies. And then a final thing that I would just say, if you are struggling with imposter syndrome, and it’s blocking you on a particular project, because it’s generating fear of moving forward. And and I’ll sort of link this back to the 12 week year, is to create a plan for dealing with whatever the project at hand is, and breaking it down into Baby steps,

baby baby baby steps. Because I think what happens is, it’s when we look at the full thing that we’re trying to create a whole book at once in our mind, or I’m trying to create a paid newsletter, or I’m trying to create a business, you know, to a book to build my business around. And in your thinking of the mountain of things that go into that, that can be paralyzing. Because we can all ask ourselves, do I have it in me to do that? Even if you’ve done it before, you can ask, Do I have it in me to do that again? But but of course you do. Right? There’s no, there’s nothing really stopping you here, right? It’s just but the doing. And so what can help, as I think almost always helps at the beginning of a big project is to break that sucker down into tiny, tiny steps that are all easily doable. And just build some momentum with baby steps that don’t ask you to be able to do everything. You don’t have to be able to do everything to start the first thing. And I think that can help banish those thoughts. Because once you get a few of those things under your belt, almost always, we start feeling more confident and staying focused on the next thing ahead of us instead of looking at that big mountain, right? You’re not going to feel imposter syndrome, but can I go read an article? Can I go do some research? Can I go right one scene, right? Those things are things that you know, you can do. So baby steps for the win. Alright, man, it’s a big topic. I’ll put a couple of links to some other resources in the show notes. But I would be very interested in hearing stories of overcoming or grappling with imposter syndrome. So be sure to leave a comment on the on the podcast page, or shoot me an email. 

And until next time, happy writing

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