I’ve probably dealt with impostor syndrome most of my writing life.
Growing up, many of my teachers told me writing was my “thing,” that I was good at it, that they were impressed with my work and my craft. And I always just thought they were saying these things to be nice.
The first time I had something published, I did not feel like I had earned it. I felt like I’d cheated, somehow. I thought people felt sorry for me, and kept encouraging me to write because they couldn’t think of anything else kind to say to my face.
Who knows? Maybe all these things are true. Maybe I really don’t deserve to be where I am today.
I did not graduate from college and instantly find success.
I struggled just as much as any other recent graduate to find work that gave me purpose and utilized the skills I had developed over time.
That’s why a small part of me recognizes that I’ve earned the title of “writer.”
No one has ever handed anything to me. I’ve received more rejections from publications than I can count. I’m just like every other writer. I started a blog by myself. I found writing experience by myself. I found a way to make it work. By myself. No one did that for me.
Here’s the problem with being a 25-year-old writing professional.
Even if no one says it to your face, you’re terrified that people think you’re not legit. People with decades of experience and multiple published bestsellers? They deserve to be called experts.
I don’t. Do I?
Of course, I have the added misfortune of trying to establish myself as a writing professional in the health space. Forget my master’s degree, no one trusts anything I have to say about this stuff. If you’re not a dietitian, if you haven’t published a book, if you’re not a food blogger, no one gives a crap about you.
Yes, I personally am aware that letters after your name and a book available on Amazon aren’t what make you a writing expert. But that can’t be said for everyone. Many people might look at my “accomplishments” and wonder what makes me credible. Nothing, if we’re going by CVs, I guess. Yet.
At what point can someone call themselves an expert? At what point do you NEED to?
I think it’s different for everyone, for every industry.
Maybe the term “expert” means something different depending on who you are, what you’re doing, and how you want to use that aura of expertise.
Maybe it means nothing, and we’re all just unnecessarily competing with each other to make money talking about stuff we like to study and learn.
I’m not going to call myself an expert if it looks like I’m trying too hard to be one.
I know a lot about writing. I help people. I tell stories. For me, I think that’s enough. If people want to trust and follow my advice, great. If they don’t, whatever. I guess that’s not my problem.
We all want to be credible. To be trusted and known and appreciated. But we can’t let that stand in the way of our true purposes. I’ve held myself back in a lot of ways because I’ve been afraid to assert my knowledge on a particular subject. Just because I’m afraid of what other people will think about me.
That’s silly. How much time I’ve wasted being afraid to say, “I can tell you what I know about that.”
Expert or not, I like sharing what I learn with other people. If that’s how I spend my life, and I can make a small difference in the world, I’m happy. I’m good.
I hope you can be, too.
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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.