This wasn’t the first time she sat in her chair with tears threatening to spill down her cheeks in frustration. In fact, it was the third time today that she found herself fighting feelings of hypothetical failures that threatened to suffocate every creative cell in her body.
That’s the word that the monsters in her head screamed every time a thought popped into her head that she deemed even slightly good.
Who do you think you are, trying to do any of this? What credentials do you have? By what authority? Ew, why would you think anyone would even like this? You don’t know what you’re talking about – you sound dumb!
A never-ending wave of abusive thoughts assailed her any time she dared to put pen to paper in an effort to manifest what floated in her mind. She second-guessed every idea, no matter how brilliant it could be. All this wasted potential on someone so undeserving, she thinks to herself.
Sound familiar? Can you relate? If you’ve ever been plagued by these kinds of thoughts, please believe that you’re not alone.
Impostor Syndrome: What is it?
According to Psychology Today, people who experience impostor syndrome feel undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. Simply put, they feel like frauds and that everyone will find out just how phony and under-qualified they are, even if and especially when the opposite is true.
When the concept was first introduced in the 1970s by Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, it was mainly attributed to high-achieving women. We now know that this phenomenon is actually experienced at some point or another, by people all across the board.
The Creative Fraud
Creative work, which is subjective by nature, leaves the creator open and vulnerable. Sure, the last poem, painting, or song you put out was well-received, but that doesn’t mean the next piece you put out will be as successful, right?
Boom. Right there. That’s all it takes for the dreaded impostor syndrome to kick in. Feelings of inadequacy are quite common, especially if you’re not a “trained professional” in your creative practice.
Even some of the most famous creatives struggle with fears of being seen as impostors. Maya Angelou, an award-winning author with plenty of accolades admitted, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Highly recognized actors such as Don Cheadle, Viola Davis, and Meryl Streep all struggle with feelings of being phony despite their huge successes.
You know what this means, right? It means that feelings from impostor syndrome are completely normal!
Rethinking Impostor Syndrome
In Adam Grant’s new book Think Again, he takes a chapter to explore impostor syndrome and the potential benefits of these pesky, bothersome thoughts. Three benefits of the doubts that spring up from impostor syndrome include:
Motivation to work harder: Impostor thoughts can make you move as if you have something to prove
Motivation to work smarter: Impostor feelings lead you to question assumptions and reevaluate/rethink your strategies
A path towards becoming a better learner: Doubts about your own knowledge will lead you to see out the expertise of others
Impostor thoughts may be an indication that we need to rethink our tools instead of doubting our ability. Grant notes that “great thinkers don’t harbor doubts because they’re impostors. They maintain doubts because they know we’re all partially blind and they’re committed to improving their sight”.
If you’ve been following the CreatEscape journey, you very well know the transformative power of telling a better story. What would it look like if you took our impostor thoughts and changed the narrative instead of being paralyzed by your doubts?