WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Two — Imposter Syndrome: You DO Deserve To Be Here

Imposter syndrome can often feel like being a side character in a horror movie: you know the monster is gonna get you, but you don’t know when. Many authors–from just starting out to long-time pros–experience imposter syndrome, especially people who are marginalized. We wonder if we “really” belong; we wonder if everyone else knows we’re faking-it-til-making-it; but when will someone call our bluff? Imposter syndrome is common and we can continue our work despite the doubts. So, how do we deal with it? What techniques do you employ to make it to the end credits?

Panel: Alasdair Stuart, E. M. Markoff, Alexandra Rowland, Nancy Kress, Margaret Dunlap

  • The Imposter Syndrome is:
    • it’s the little voice that says “Did I deserve this?”
    • feeling like your success is because of luck or the people you know
    • feeling like you can’t do it again
    • “We fooled them again.”
    • feeling not worthy of the success or recognition
    • the feeling is not supported by evidence
    • self-doubt
    • not accepting empirical proof
    • can stem from mind control or mind set
      • lack of support
      • carries over from the past or childhood
    • gendered? (some discussion here)
    • tiny little micro-things add up
    • based on expectations
    • sometimes based on real mental health issues
    • can lead to depression
    • is one of the most hazardous effects of the creative industry
    • as you get older, you just get better at hiding it
    • comes forth particularly when having to write a professional bio (“How would a white dude write it?”)
    • “Why am I bothering?”
    • Because of your age? Nope.
    • Comparing the final draft of your previous work with the first draft of your new work
  • Coping
    • “When you set aside, you can focus on the characters and story.”
    • “Narrow your focus” (like a magnifying glass) on your current story
    • anxiety medication
    • “brute force” to “those people” that you can …
    • talk to your therapist
    • self-awareness of when it is happening and why
    • it can help to put some good experiences “in the bank” to reflect on
    • when someone gives you a compliment, just say “Thanks” without giving yourself time to dwell on it
    • don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it; don’t let yourself believe “There are people who deserve it more than me.”
    • find people who you can trust
    • “add a rung to your ladder” — don’t dwell
    • project confidence on what you do know and what you have done
    • use writing as a cathartic tool to work through it
    • express it in writing — externalize it
    • put labels on it or describe it
    • “You are not alone.”
    • practice better thought processes
    • cut yourself some slack
    • focus on how much further you can go rather than how far you’ve come
    • practice some self-kindness
    • “never underestimate the power of cake” (insert the comfort food of your choice)
    • “Fall in love with finishing your work.”
    • combine work (writing) for therapy plus work to finish
    • “Motivate yourself out of spite … or whatever.”
    • give yourself permission to sit down and do the work
  • Providing Support
    • Point out (tactfully) that their brain is doing this thing
    • support through healthy communication
  • Other Points
    • the best moment of writing when nothing else exists, the world disappears — just the characters
    • you don’t always see others’ anxieties
    • “Always be aware of your own voice and don’t censor yourself.”
    • “Your own voice will also be the strongest one to write with.”
Note: The discussion occasionally jumped around due to questions from the audience, so I have organized them here somewhat by topic rather than in the order in which they were originally presented.

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