When Impostor Syndrome Clouds Your Future

It’s not just about cringing at your past accomplishments.

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There is no cure for impostor syndrome.

There isn’t a course you can take or a magic pill you can consume that instantly erases those feelings of “they’re saying I did a good thing, but I don’t think I deserve their praise.”

Even though impostor syndrome can manifest differently for everyone it plagues, it poses the same set of problems across the board. Many times, it isn’t just looking back at your past accomplishments that triggers feelings of doubt and self-consciousness.

Sometimes, it’s trying to look ahead to the future that causes mental — even emotional — distress.

So much so that many people find themselves unable to write something new.

John Green, who published The Fault In Our Stars in January 2012, has a new book coming out in October 2017. It took him awhile to finish Turtles All The Way Down because — among a number of reasons — he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to write a book as “good” as his previous success.

He talked about it in a Vlogbrothers video almost exactly a year ago.

Many of us feel we’re not ready or we’re incapable of starting (and/or finishing) new projects because we are afraid of failing. Regardless of how much success we may or may not have had up until now, there’s this crippling anxiety that comes with the possibility of never living up to our own expectations.

When you add impostor syndrome to the formula, there’s the added hinderance of feeling like you are never going to do anything well, even if you DO succeed far beyond your own expectations.

The key to crushing these worries, of course, is to write anyway, despite our own self-doubt. But that’s a major mental barrier many writers struggle to move past. Even our dear friend John, whose young adult fiction has captivated audiences for the past 11 years (off and on, but still).

When we lack the confidence to create, overcoming that can seem even more challenging than the actual writing part of the endeavor. Especially when you have created something before, and cannot help but worry that you’ll either never be able to produce something that good again … or you never did in the first place, so what’s the point of another attempt?

Despite our questions and our worries, we have to keep writing anyway. Even if we never end up finishing what we start. Even if what we finish doesn’t work out. Because even though we are writers, and we write things for other people to read, at the end of the day, creating is about self-expression. We should never feel like we can’t write something because it might turn out terrible. That’s not fair to our brains, which itch to create whether we’re consistently able to act upon that desire or not.

I have dealt with these feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty for years. Maybe you have, too.

But after awhile, you come to learn that your opinions of your work and others’ opinions of your work are two very different things. You have to separate the two, with the understanding that one does not necessarily influence the other (or shouldn’t).

You never know — you might end up writing a story someone will fall in love with. Even if you’re afraid to write it, give that person — whoever they may be — the chance to find a story they can hold dear.

Keep writing. Because deep down, you do love it. Even if your brain keeps trying to convince you you’re not good enough to turn that passion into something real.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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