Saturday, March 9, 2013

Straw Poll on Impostor Syndrome

Dear old Wikipedia defines it thus:

"The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be."

I was talking with a woman I know recently and she was telling me about reading a biography of a famous actor, star of stage and screen, who suffered from "impostor syndrome". Despite his many awards and successes, he believed that one day he would be unmasked as a fraud who perpetrated some great scam on the public and critics alike.

Well, this got me thinking about the tightrope many walk in the various fields of creative endeavour.

In my general day-to-day life, I feel relatively confident that I manage alright as a husband, father, employee and general all round human being. But when I venture into creative waters, such as writing and acting, I am often plagued with self doubt. Despite a modest amount of success in both creative pursuits, I am often convinced that just because I love writing and acting doesn't mean that I'm any good at either.

I read the work of other poets and writers and think how wonderful they are and how sub-standard I am by comparison. I see their successes and think how wonderful it must be to reach those lofty heights and how talented they are.

But is it, as most of us suspect, self-sabotage, a dirty trick played on us by our minds?

STRAW POLL: Feel free to share in the Comments your thoughts on Impostor Syndrome and, if you are feeling bold, do you also suffer from self-doubt in your creative career?


  1. "Impostor Syndrome" . . . a rose by any other name would smell so sweet . . . a syndrome for everything these days, there's the rub! Life is a battle between the spiritual and the material, if you are not struggling, then you are simply . . . dead!

  2. I don't think I suffer from Impostor Syndrome, but I do have periods of feeling self-doubt about my writing, especially when the rejections start piling up with any acceptances to leaven the load. The solution is to become an editor and load the self-doubt onto other authors ...

  3. Claire Beynon (a fellow Tuesday Poet) gave me permission to quote her from an email she sent me:

    "Your blog was thought-provoking, too. Who of us does not experience self-doubt? Questions nudge us forward; uncertainty keeps our curiosity piqued; not-knowing deepens our trust in process more than outcome and secures our insecure connection to all that is mysterious - inside and out. I'm all for self-doubt!"

    I thought Claire's comments were extremely interesting and perceptive as she is turning a seeming negative into a positive and using the self-doubt to fuel the energy of her creative drive. Well done, Claire, I say.

  4. Too true, Tim, become an Editor and wield unbridled power!!!