Imposter Syndrome – Phenomenon or Syndrome? (Part 1)

Normally my second post would be a piece on another author. I really enjoy meeting others, and I love reading what makes them different. However, I have heard the words imposter syndrome a lot in the last few weeks, particularly with reference to the writing world and it got me thinking. It’s a subject very close to me because I guess I am what could be referred to as a late bloomer. Consequently, I am constantly catching up on information and having to re-think, and re-do accordingly. Having faith in myself is a daily battle, and I am pretty darn certain I am not alone in this.


By the very nature of the work, writing exposes the writer, opens them up to be observed by their audience. Once in the limelight, large or small, self-doubt in the creator raises its very ugly head. Sorry to use a cliché but ugly seems right, and head is where it all happens. So, in the next few months I will be exploring the concept of imposter syndrome and looking at solutions. It’s a big topic so splitting it into smaller bits seems sensible, and to be honest easier to understand.

In simple terms the impostor syndrome is the inability to believe that any success achieved, is deserved. This is further undermined by believing that the success, small or large, has not been legitimately achieved as a result of that person’s own efforts or skills. Don’t misunderstand, this is in no way the same as being an imposter. An imposter will deliberately deceive. Kate Atkin in an article from Thrive Global goes on to explain that it also doesn’t refer to those people who ‘fake it until they make it’. That attitude reflects a pretence adopted whilst the person gains the confidence needed to firstly survive and then succeed. You can see how confusing all this can be but wait, there is more.

Phenomenon or Syndrome?

You will also hear this term referred to as ‘impostor phenomenon’, an “internal feeling of intellectual phoniness”, and was first noted by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 (follow the link for some fascinating reading). The word phenomenon was used because the feelings are not constant, and often are very specific to certain situations, of which writing is one. Feelings of doubts appear at various times. In contrast the word syndrome is used to describe a condition associated with mental health, and one that could be referred to as continuous.

I am just beginning to understand some of this and have a long way to go. However, I am a writer, and ironically most writers will most definitely see it as affecting mental health. I do. When it strikes, I want to walk away, run away to be honest. Obviously, I don’t, but the feeling colours your insides and trust me, it’s not a rainbow that forms. Despite it being technically incorrect, it is the word ‘syndrome’ that is being used colloquially, particularly across social media, so it is what I am going to use. The following YouTube clip featuring Kate will explain better than I can.

As you can see, it is a complex and very human condition and by no mean restricted to writers. Parents, teachers, judges, the acting community, in fact I don’t think it matters what you do when the feeling hits. So, stay with me to learn more and maybe find a way to deal with it. Let me know your thoughts. Part 2 will be featured in July.

Alla prossima,


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  1. I believe when writers or anyone focusing on their skills and strategies have times of doubt. There are usually other internal factors intervening, over-analysing of your craft, hiccups in personal life such as family or friends or external factors usually of a material kind, money shortage and critics, everyone is! Artistic creative personalities can also be ruthless towards their own kind. Imposter Syndrome appears to me to be a diagnostic disorder according to the DSM ‘mental illness’ reference book.

    I didn’t view video but I think we should be careful about over-analysing and ‘psychologising’ ourselves.

    Human beings are complex and the drive to create is powerful but how you ‘get there’s is your form of expression. I suppose how authentic your expression is depends on how you see yourself and believe in yourself and that process ebbs and flows.

    Either Shakespeare or Marlowe long ago stated ‘the world is a stage and we are players and actors’ or words to that effect.

    Lillian Hine

    • I agree about over-analysing. How we view ourselves does ebb and flow which makes it vital that we recognise and address things as they occur. The video simply explains our very human reaction to things, and normalises it a little. In the face of the talent out there it is understandable to doubt ourselves but recognises our individuality gives us perspective. Thank you so much for stopping by, Lil and I look forward to hearing more from you.😍

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