Monday, November 19, 2012

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome or Imposter Phenomenon. Until the other day, I didn't even know this was a real affliction. But since I learned of it, I've been interested and wondering what makes us feel like we aren't worthy of our accomplishments.

For something so common, it surprises me it's not a recognized psychological disorder.

A little back story: I've had several short stories and book reviews published over the years. I have never been super excited about the book reviews though appreciate the publication. But part of me wondered if my lack of excitement came from knowing it's fiction I really wanted to focus on. But then a few years ago came my first short story publication. I'd been waiting for it for so long, but yet, when it happened, I was not overcome with excitement. Instead, I kept thinking they only chose me to fill space, or because the majority of the people on the collective knew me.

Then the next publication came and it was more of the same. How credible is this magazine, do they publish almost anyone? And the next, and the next. With each publication the feeling that I didn't deserve it raged. I talked to a few other people about this and found that several of my writing colleagues feel the same way. So maybe it's not so uncommon.

A friend of mine recently got her first short story accepted for publication. When she received the news, she was beside herself with excitement. Jittery even.

And then I began to wonder, what's wrong with me? Publications are so hard to come by, we need to appreciate them when they do come and not take them for granted. I think for most writers it's easy to not take them for granted, unless you're Dean Koontz or Stephen King.

It's said that writing and being published is 5% talent and 95% luck. Maybe that's where the problem comes from. We see it as we only got lucky. We got the right editor at the right time who saw something magical in our words. So it doesn't really mean we're talented. Does it?

If we're trained early on to believe this mantra, it's no wonder we can't see the real success in our work. The worthiness of our words that we slaved over for months or even years. We want that success, we dream about it, we want it so bad we can taste it. Everyone wants to be noticed.

At first I thought maybe it was a desperate attempt to remain modest in front of everyone else. But then, you would think in the privacy of my own mind, that excitement would be bursting. I'd should be doing an unseen happy dance.

It doesn't. I wasn't.

A dear friend and colleague pointed out there is no right or wrong way to react to an acceptance or a rejection. It is what it is. We're all different. Some are thrilled, some are appreciative, some don't think they deserve it, but all are still grateful for the acknowledgment.

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