Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Impostor Syndrome - Yes, I have it!

A person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others

I belong to a choir and, last week, a new member asked me what I do for a living.

I hesitated before answering, knowing I had two options. The easy one was to say, 'I'm a teacher.' The hard one would be, 'I'm an author'.

If I answered the first way, I guessed the conversation would move on quickly. If I answered the second, all manner of things could happen.

What to do?

I had no choice really. I hadn't taught in a classroom for seven years... but I had been writing for six.

Biting the bullet, I answered, 'I'm an author.' This was  followed by a brief explanation of what that meant - I wrote fiction for magazines and that I had written two novels that would be coming out next year.

Then came the wait. I was in the grips of  'Impostor Syndrome'. How could I dare call myself an author. What cheek! What pretense! How conceited! 

These are the types of replies I imagined she might give:

  • Will I have read anything you've written?
  • You write for magazines? I didn't know they did fiction.
  • What a lovely hobby.
  • I've got a little book in my head too. I'll write it some day.
  • Will your book be in the local book shop?
  • Is it another Fifty Shades?
  • You must be rich then.
  • You're going to published by who? Not Penguin? I've only heard of Penguin

Ridiculous I know, but it's a feeling I'm sure most authors have had at some time or other.

But, to my surprise, it didn't happen that way at all. What she actually said was, 'That's wonderful and so exciting for you. I'm going to buy the magazine next week to read your story and you must let me know when your book comes out. I couldn't write a novel to save my life!'

I could have kissed her.

Why had I even considered denying what I did?  It was all in my head - just my own self-doubt talking. I've had hundreds of stories published in magazines and I have a publishing contract for two novels. I should be proud, not embarrassed by what I've achieved.

And I am proud. 

So I'm pushing that little voice that says 'impostor' away (hopefully for good) and, next time, I will answer with no hesitation. 

I am an author. Oh, yes I am!

Have any of you suffered from Impostor Syndrome? If so, how do you rid yourself of it?

P.S When I first wrote this post, I spelt the word  'impostor' as 'imposter'. It belongs to the group of words such as 'actor' and 'impersonator'. I've learnt something today!


  1. Now you've - deservedly - said it once, you'll be able - and proud - to say it all the time. It's probably part of the writer's psyche to feel they should deny who they are, and also because of those awful questions people ask. When my novel was published, one man kept insisting I must be 'sitting back and counting all the money' (hardly) and my mother said I was going to be the next JK Rowling. No wonder our first thought is to keep our author status quiet! xxx

    1. If only they realised how many people had said the same thing before them. When I was doing my psychology degree, I lost count of how many people said, “Are you psychoanalysing me?”

  2. You are most definitely an author. And your book will be on the local shop soon! So here are the correct answers: 1. You should have. 2. They do. I write it. 3. It's a job. 4. Good luck with that one. 5.Yes. 6. Duh. Mine is much better. 7. Yes, I am. (We're allowed a fib here and there.) 8. I'm published by the same publisher who publishes....(fill in names.)

    1. What brilliant answers, Carol. I shall have to remember them!

  3. What a great response! Whenever someone says to me, oh are you the next JK Rowling/Dan Brown I always reply, no, I'm the first Kathleen McGurl. Usually shuts them up.

    1. Oh, yes! I am going to have to try saying that... although, of course, I am not the first Kath McGurl!

  4. Practise the words aloud - often as you like - in front of a mirror, perhaps! And well done to your fellow choir member for getting her responses right.

    1. Yes it was lovely of her... and I shall start practising. I am an author. I am an author. I am an author 😀

  5. I don't have a problem with saying I'm a writer when asked what I do (it sounds better than saying I spend nearly all my time either away in a camper van, or in my pyjamas, which is the alternative!).

    That doesn't mean I've never suffered from impostor syndrome though. Ocassionally I feel that either every sale was a lucky fluke, or that I'll never write anything worth reading ever again.

    1. Still laughing at paragraph one! I think that’s a much more interesting alternative, Patsy.

  6. I just say I’m a writer. I did once toy with idea of novelist, but decided that was a bit too pompous! When does your first book come out?

  7. Shout it out, Wendy! I have a similar dilemma: do I say yoga teacher or writer/editor? You'd be amazed how people's faces drop when I say I write mainly non-fiction!