What Confident, Successful Writers Know About Impostor Syndrome
Does a lack of confidence about your writing keep you stopped or stuck? Are you uncertain as to whether your articles are ‘good enough’? You may be letting impostor syndrome, a normal and natural stage of the writing process, derail you from your goals. We’re here to overcome imposter syndrome.
Statistics indicate that you’ve probably have had impostor syndrome in the past (Or have it now). Millennials constitute the largest percentage of the global workforce, and 70% of them report that they’ve experienced impostor syndrome at some point in their career. This feeling of being a fraud can discourage you from taking risks or further educating yourself in writing and life. Additionally, picture-perfect social media feeds have heightened our collective perfectionism, paralyzing us from imperfect action and accelerating a mental health crisis.
If you think you’re incompetent or not skilled enough just yet, you’re actually off to a good start, though you probably don’t feel like it. That’s because there’s a far more dangerous villain lurking in the sense-of-self spectrum: Overestimating your abilities. The unfortunate truth is that most of us are biologically wired to exaggerate our efforts, and some people take this confidence so far they chop out all feedback loops and never get any better.
Why is false confidence dangerous?
In social psychology, illusory superiority is a phenomenon in which we consider ourselves above average when it comes to, well, just about everything. For example, labor statistics repeatedly show we overestimate the amount of time we spend working by nearly 10%, and in a self-evaluation study done at Stanford, 87% of MBA students believed they were in the top 50% of their class.
The more incompetent someone is, the more extreme their bias of themselves. The reason for this is simple: incompetent people are incompetent at measuring their shortcomings. This phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
A recent real-world example, Netflix’s Behind The Curve documentary, showcases classic Dunning-Kruger Effect in action by following leaders of the flat earth conspiracy theory. If you can’t identify your own blind spots, own them, and improve upon them, you run the risk of setting yourself up for a huge letdown later. In order to succeed, you’ll need to disarm your illusory superiority.
Confident, successful writers DO experience impostor syndrome. They just know how to move through it quickly by setting the right goals, recognizing the different stages of the writing process, and becoming more resilient (and even grateful) for critical feedback and direction. Here are three techniques these writers employ on a regular basis and how to overcome imposter syndrome.
#1: Confident writers set goals they can control
“ Be a hard master to yourself — and be lenient to everybody else.” — Henry Ward Beecher
To overcome impostor syndrome, focus on measurable, week-to-week progress. We know from illusory superiority that you’re likely to talk yourself into thinking you’re more productive than you actually are. Measuring windows of time, words written, or drafts completed can keep you honest.
I track my daily writing progress and the number of articles submitted each week (Submitted articles, not published articles, because I can’t control the publishing process). I also track my consumption of resources or courses intended to help improve my prose. These simple measurements, while small, give me insight into my habits and whether or not I’m on track to achieve my monthly goals.
I implemented this because I thought my writing was above average, which we’ve now learned is illusory superiority in action. (At least I’m not a flat-earther?) You’ll reach your goals faster and sideline your ego when you focus on numbers. Choose metrics that you know will move you in the direction of your goals, and be prolific rather than perfect.
Invest time and resources in your personal growth to keep the momentum up. If you don’t take the time to identify how you’ll measure your progress, it can be easy to let feelings run the show and succumb to inconsistency as a result.
#2: Confident writers embrace the soul-crushing transition from first draft to second draft
“The whiplash is normal.”
My first drafts are similar to what you’d find in a landfill: hot, steaming garbage as far as the eye can see. My second drafts, on the other hand, are respectable, intelligible pieces you (probably) won’t need a bulldozer to get through. The transition from first draft to second draft is demoralizing-every time.
Though I do have an outline in mind before I begin, my first drafts have usually been free-written in one sitting — about 1,000 words in thirty minutes. The second draft feels way slower in comparison, and sometimes it feels like I’m going backwards with regard to progress. I know I’m not the only writer who experiences this. The whiplash that takes place as you navigate from first draft to second draft is normal, and to overcome impostor syndrome your best course of action would be to normalize the experience by writing regularly.How To Create And Use A Template To Write ArticlesUse “reverse templating” to build up your toolboxwritingcooperative.com
#3. Confident writers have rituals
I’ll say it again in a gentle, singsong-y voice: your feelings are lying to you. Resist the urge to go by how you feel — this is like candy for your illusory superiority, and you’ll begin to inflate your sense of self-importance. Instead, look for ways to systematize your flow state, the glorious headspace popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Most of us need a trigger or a familiar ritual to get into flow state. Once you’ve begun measuring your output, you’ll be able to review your notes and make adjustments that put you in your sweet spot more often.
It’ll take practice, but over time you’ll build awareness. Maybe your best work comes when you’re in a certain room, wake up at a certain time, or watch a certain inspiring video before the day begins. For me, mornings are best, and my two triggers that put me in the zone for a writing session are a cold brew from my local café and an awful techno song playing in my headphones on repeat.
Document these details. Then recreate them and develop a ritual that delivers results. These small tweaks can be the difference between hundreds or thousands of words written over the course of a week or month. (If you’re a rituals nerd like me, Daily Rituals by Mason Currey is a fun and easy read about the routines of 161 great thinkers throughout history.)
It’s important to not let impostor syndrome get in the way of your writing goals. To make real progress, be firm and factual with yourself. Look for new ways to expand your knowledge and awareness, and you’ll develop a variety of tools you can use each day to achieve greater confidence and success. In time, you’ll be able to apply these tools to overcome imposter syndrome.