Imposter Syndrome


First, I just want to say how awesome and amazing the articles on Magical Words are. You are so lucky to have this resource. I wish I’d had it back in the day. I’m so honored to get to be a part of a group of such smart and talented people.

But to the topic at hand. Imposter Syndrome. It’s defined (according to wikipedia) as:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

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Now, I’ve felt like an imposter forever. It started in my PhD program and has only increased over time. The imposter in me says–high-achieving? Really? Am not. Not even close. And yet, I have a BA, an MA, and a PhD. I’ve published 15 books. I’ve been married 26 years, had a couple pretty awesome children, and have owned several houses, and published stories and articles, and won awards. By most reasonable definitions, that’s fairly high achievement (I, obviously, am unreasonable).

I have never overcome the syndrome. It seems to run rampant in the writing community. Maybe creative types are extra-susceptible to it. Who knows? But the reason I’m talking about it again, is because of this article that popped up on my radar the other day. It was published on an entrepreneurial website and was titled: Imposter Syndrome Will Kill Your Business. It describes the syndrome and then, for the first time I’ve ever seen written about (and no, I haven’t really done a lot of searching on the subject), it offers solutions.

I found two particularly compelling. The first: write down achievements. You know them. Write them down. Come up with categories–writing, life, business, exercise . . . Whatever categories make best sense to you. And then ruthlessly write down your accomplishments. If it helps, imagine that you’re writing somebody else’s. Don’t skimp. Be thorough. Be tough on yourself and make yourself write them ALL. If your forget some, go back and add them. I suggest putting them somewhere where you can read them regularly. In fact, read them several times a day, every day, and take time to acknowledge that these are big deals. BIG DEALS. You did amazing things.

The second suggestion: keep a file of complimentary . . . well, everything. Emails, written notes, telephone conversations, award nominations . . . All of it. Get in the habit of writing down the compliments that are verbal. Make a point of it. And then read them over, particularly when you’re feeling particularly imposterish. Remind yourself that this isn’t just an ego thing–other people admire and respect you. It’s important.

Go do both of these things now.

Writers often keep a brag shelf of books/stories/articles they’ve published. It helps us remember that we are pretty good at this job. I never look at mine. Never think about just sitting there and paying attention to it. I should. I should spend a few minutes every day just considering the amount of work I’ve done, the hurdles I’ve jumped, and how much I’ve really done.

I’m going to do these things. I’m going to make a priority of them.

What about you?


Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books author pic francisinclude The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.






2 comments to Imposter Syndrome

  • I keep a writing notebook with lots of positive messages from authors who I ask to sign it. I get a new book each year. Not to collect autographs, but to actually get great messages from people I look up to. It’s fun to see the comments (though occasionally it’s just a scribble because they’re *cough* big name so-and-so and weren’t really paying attention). Some are just the “keep writing” mantra. But the personal messages have a lot of meaning, and when I read them, it gives me strength. I just have to remember to read it more.

  • Laura, that’s an amazing idea. I love it.