The Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome didn’t start with my becoming a published author. It started long before and plagues me to this day, thankfully to a lesser extent. But I sometimes still wonder if I am what I am, professionally speaking.

When I took the California Bar Exam – the final step needed to practice law – doubt nipped me the whole way. At my heels, my elbows, the ears and all other exposed body parts. In fact, on the second day of the three day exam, I nearly left, certain I’d never pass in this lifetime. The passage rate that year was 32%. It didn’t help matters that, during the breaks, I overheard other takers discuss subjects I’d entirely missed on the test. With one foot dangling out the door, I forced myself to return and completed the exam. And passed. Unbelievable, but true. Yet, once in a while, I still wonder if there was a mistake in my score. How ridiculous is that?

CalTech describes “imposter syndrome”: “Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.”

Does this syndrome plague me as a new author? (Insert deep breaths). I’d like to say not one bit. I’d like to, but I can’t. But it only happens at the starting gate. It rears its wobbly head when I appear in front of an audience on an author panel. Especially when I’m the first panel member to speak. Which brings me to the story of Secretariat, the champion race-horse. Although he lost his maiden race after another horse collided with him, he won his second by six lengths. Slow to start, it took a while for Secretariat to reach his stride. This marked his signature for the rest of his career. Starting behind, in the blink of an eye, he’d lead the pack. And he continued to lengthen his lead with every step. Now, I certainly am no leader of any pack, but I do know I’m slow to start. I scan the audience members, asking myself why any one would want to read my book or listen to me speak. What do I have to say worth hearing?

It’s been said that our thoughts will inevitably bring either failure or success — according to which thought is the strongest. So to keep strong thoughts about my current status as a happily published author, I carry my book with me. It is real. I can smell and touch and see it. I did actually untangle 90,000+ words and over 100 rewrites to create something tangible that other people have read. People I don’t know. I’m lovin’ every moment of authorship. If that doesn’t light a fire under me, or anyone suffering Imposter Syndrome, nothing else will. We authors are the real deal.

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7 years ago

Hello Lida.
I learn a lot from your blog and really enjoy reading it. I agree with your latest blog; we all think we’re imposters now and then.

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