I am an amateur writer. Sometimes I feel I am not enough of a writer to even call myself that. I am not trying to praise myself for modesty here; far from it. This is a lamentation for a dream that impostor syndrome is slowly estranging me from.
The blinking cursor on a blank page still sends shafts of terror through my heart with each blink. I don’t write with the frequency with which I’d love to write and I tell myself the reason for that is because I don’t have much free time, but deep inside I know that that is not altogether true. It is mostly just an excuse to keep the fear at bay.
Ever since I started writing for an audience, I have grown ever so anxious that I should not at any point be perceived as regressing in skill or creativity. I find myself always expecting that anything I write should surpass everything else I have ever written in quality and acclaim. Alas, this is a recipe for discouragement.
When we focus too much on our past accomplishments, we begin to get this illusion that we are good. This is dangerous because one who is already good has very little motivation if any to become better. And it is absolutely necessary to become better. Our very survival as individuals and as a race depends on it.
At times, we dwell on our past glories without even realizing it. When we do this long enough, we soon find ourselves in the grip of a paralyzing reluctance to take any action towards our goals because we fear that taking action could lead to poorer results, thereby making our past achievements seem inauthentic or the product of mere luck. This is the most insidious form of impostor syndrome.
When you do something good, normally you should feel encouraged to do more of such things, not sit back and admire it. If you enjoyed it and excelled at it the first time, and you suddenly start feeling reluctant to do it again, then it is probably Impostor Syndrome. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize your inaction. Don’t try to outsmart your brain. Just call it for what it is and take appropriate action to overcome it.
And now for the million-dollar question… How do we overcome Impostor Syndrome? Here’s my recommendation: Burn everything to the ground and start all over again.
Metaphorically of course.
The thing is, you should not allow yourself or your audience to put you on a pedestal, even if it is a good one. Burn that pedestal to the ground, and then when you start over again you could be anything, including something far better than what you have ever been before.
Fundamentally, we are human beings. It is not possible for us to sustain a certain level of mastery indefinitely. If it seems we are sustaining it, then it is not really as cool as we make it out to be.
So if you’re a writer, don’t stop writing simply because you’re afraid it won’t be able to produce something better. If you’re a designer, don’t stop designing; if an architect, don’t stop architecting. Value only your effort and dedication, not just the result.
If at any point you think you have fallen below your level of competence, just tell yourself you are burning it down to start again. It will be better, I promise. Just keep at it with all the dedication you can muster.
Thanks for reading!