Impostor Syndrome: A Navigational Toolkit

Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things. On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.” And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.” And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

-Neil Gaiman
From http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/160603396711/hi-i-read-that-youve-dealt-with-with-impostor

That anecdote illustrates just how pervasive impostor syndrome is, and that it even affects people outside of creative spheres. Both Gaiman & Armstrong are widely celebrated for achievements in their respective fields, so if they feel like impostors, it’s fair to say that nearly everyone falls victim to it at one point or another, no matter where you are in your career, no matter the industry. I’ll direct you to the insights of people much wiser and more experienced than myself, and hopefully this post will serve as a toolbox that you can pull from to hammer, chisel, drill, dynamite, or scream your way out of impostor syndrome episodes whenever they strike!

If you’re still not sure about what exactly impostor syndrome consists of, or have questions about its validity, this piece from Time Magazine is the perfect launchpad. Abigail Abrams runs through its origins and evolutions, references the psychology behind it, and pinpoints the personality types most likely to be affected. http://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/

Kirsten Weir conducted a thorough examination of impostor syndrome in graduate students for the American Psychological Association. While its primary focus is academia, this piece is loaded with information that can be applied regardless of the disciplines, industries, or institutions that have you feeling like an outsider. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud

This essay by Alicia Liu caught my eye because of a brilliant accompanying graphic, but the text surrounding it is just as exceptional. Liu details her experiences in programming, and has even written follow-ups (linked at the end of the original) to help guide others through the entire arc of impostor syndrome, including moving beyond it! https://medium.com/counter-intuition/overcoming-impostor-syndrome-bdae04e46ec5


https://medium.com/counter-intuition/overcoming-impostor-syndrome-bdae04e46ec5

Sometimes you feel like an impostor when things get more difficult, but Mary Robinette Kowal has a theory that might just set you back on track! http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/impostor-syndrome/

Unfortunately, impostor syndrome can strike twice for people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people, and other marginalized folks. It’s an ugly truth that many establishments have a default of straight-white-cis-het-able-bodied-male rather than qualified. Mario Montoya runs down what it’s like to be othered in an already anxiety-inducing MFA program. http://bmr.unm.edu/2018/11/07/double-impostor-syndrome-being-of-color-in-an-mfa-program/

Afrofuturism! Music! Academia! The power of imagination! What do these things have to do with impostor syndrome? Inda Lauryn lays it all out in this transformative personal essay at The Toast. http://the-toast.net/2014/11/19/afrofuturism-imagination-impostor-syndrome/

Working behind the scenes at Simon & Schuster, Janelle Milanes saw that the reality of publishing wasn’t as daunting as it often appears. In this interview with Vivian Nunez, she discusses impostor syndrome, her Latinx heritage, and how to create a space for your work. https://www.forbes.com/sites/viviannunez/2018/12/14/this-latina-young-adult-author-shares-how-she-navigates-impostor-syndrome/#16752ed9135d

Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi maps out the other side of the coin: a potentially infuriating glimpse into the life of a successful writer who’s never experienced impostor syndrome. He explores the privileges that carried him along the way, but also acknowledges that when you are a writer, you are a writer, no matter what anyone else’s perceptions or opinions may be. https://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/01/30/impostor-syndrome-or-not/

Still need a boost to get you out of the impostor bog? Sonia Thompson is here with motivation, understanding, and a little help from Maya Angelou, Seth Godin, and Tina Fey. https://writetodone.com/how-to-keep-writing-2/

If that wasn’t your speed, try this shouty, sweary explosion of impostor syndrome-checking inspirational hellfire in that only Chuck Wendig could conjure! http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/03/01/please-let-me-motivate-you-with-my-gesticulations-and-screams/

Last but not least, a gift from Kythryne Aisling to take with you on your journey.https://wyrdingstudios.com/blogs/news/83774788-fighting-impostor-syndrome-or-how-to-be-a-real-artist

Dear creative person, go forth and create!

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