My life changed the day I read an article about Imposter Syndrome in a newspaper. That’s me, I thought. That’s what’s been ‘wrong’ with me all these years!
In truth, of course, there’d never been anything ‘wrong’ with me. Imposter Syndrome – defined as a ‘an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be’ – is a remarkably common phenomenon. It had never occurred to me that my ‘insecurity’ – as I believed it to be – was the symptom of a ‘syndrome’.
Crippling self-doubt was something that had tormented me for my entire life. No matter what I achieved, whether great things or small, I was forever convinced that my success was underserved. That at any moment I would be rumbled. That the house of cards beneath my feet would give way, leaving me exposed to ridicule and shame.
Naturally, I thought I was the only one experiencing these feelings, but the article assured me that no, Imposter Syndrome is something that plagues great swathes of people. This was reassuring. It’s always a comfort to know that you’re not suffering alone, as selfish as that sounds.
So, from that point on I felt able to deal with these feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Simply having a name for them enabled me to compartmentalise them. When they bubbled to the surface I was able to recognise them for what they were. They had a name, and knowing that name gave me power over them. Finally, I felt able to accept any successes or good news that came my way. I felt able to give myself credit for the things I achieved. It was a good feeling.
But this article had another effect on me, an entirely unexpected one. It actually enabled me not just to control my feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, but to turn them into something positive.
For as long as I can remember I have been bedevilled by nightmares and anxiety dreams. Needless to say, this was not something I enjoyed. I would dread going to sleep at night for fear of what my subconscious had in store for me. Anyway, I woke one morning after an especially horrifying dream and thought, Man, that would make a great story! So I wrote it up as a short story. Then I thought, Man, that would make a great novel! So I wrote that up too. That novel was DEEP LEVEL which was published last year. Something good had finally come out of these accursed nightmares!
Also, after reading that article I realised that the root cause of all these nightmares and anxiety dreams was quite probably my Imposter Syndrome. And if I could turn them into stories and novels, which was a good thing, that meant that my Imposter Syndrome was no longer a curse but a blessing.
And that’s how my life changed. I had taken something which had caused me years of torment and sleepless nights and transformed it into something positive.
Since then, I have learned to embrace this thing called Imposter Syndrome. It provides me with inspiration, the building blocks for my stories. I am grateful to it for that. When I wake up from a nightmare now, I punch my fist into the air with glee and gratitude and write down the details before they fade away, happy knowing that these notes will one day evolve into another story.
Imposter Syndrome and I now have a very good working relationship. I for one would never have thought such a thing possible, but for once I’m glad I turned out to be wrong.
Someone once told me Imposter Syndrome happens when you’re out of your comfort zone. As, almost by definition, creativity entails taking risks, putting stuff out there, attracting opinions. I guess it lessens, the more you do it. The idea, I suppose, is to make risk more comfortable.
I know … it doesn’t work that way. And people can tell you ’til they’re blue in the face that you’re good – which you are, Richard. Maybe it’s also about trust, then … ?
As it’s so prevalent you have to wonder if it’s something that’s ingrained into our DNA. Perhaps it’s part of our basic human programming.
Reblogged this on The Write Route and commented:
Know the feeling well,
Thank you for reblogging.
I love nightmares, and I’ve often used them in my writing. You’re lucky to have so many, I don’t have nearly enough!
Now, I’m always disappointed when I wake having NOT had a nightmare. How things have changed.
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Nothing like finding the good in the bad. Well done. Good luck to you! 🙂
Thank you, Terveen.
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