I wrote a foreword for a friend’s excellent book on Autism and sexuality and relationships recently. As I sent it off I was filled with doubt: “This is terrible. I’ve let my author friend down. Should I even send this?’ I sent it despite the self-doubt – I’d promised it by Sunday and didn’t want to submit it late. The next day I had an email from the publisher saying it was excellent and that they would feature is in its entirety and use bits of it for promotion. I was delighted so I sent my foreword to my mum and dad and told them how surprised I was that the publisher thought it was good. My mum – bless her – responded with ‘Why would you think it wasn’t good? It ticks all the boxes…’ My mum was right of course – it was a well-written piece and it satisfied the brief for a foreword. If I spread my gaze broader than just that one piece of writing, it would appear that I am quite a good writer. I have two – soon to be three – published books, have contributed to three other published brooks, I have written for magazines, professional blogs, websites and journals. I have won poetry competitions and been a finalist in other literary contests. I spend more of my spare time writing than anything else and most people seem to love my writing. But I still doubt that any publisher would want my work. I do not deserve recognition or success, I tell myself.
I am not alone in being a somewhat successful person who questions their value. Many others seem to experience this too. There is a term ‘impostor syndrome’ which describes this experience. We feel that our success is misplaced and undeserved. It is a difficult thing to live with. In my case it has meant that I haven’t properly appreciated many of my achievements and have instead belittled them. I have invariable compared myself to people wildly more successful than me (in a conventional sense at least) and felt completely inadequate.
Impostor syndrome is not a nice experience and can turn things which should make us proud into moments of self-doubt, Some thoughts on tackling impostor syndrome and self doubt:
- Comparing yourself to others is rarely a good idea. We tend to compare ourselves to people we see as more accomplished than us so it becomes and uneven competition which just serves to make us competitive and stressed
- When filled with self-doubt about your actions, try to step outside yourself and view things more objectively. If you are good with logic, use that.
- If you can, avoid people who reinforce your self-doubt – people who put you down or belittle your achievements
- Challenge low expectations – both hose you might have about yourself and those of others. Focus instead on things you do well.
- Remember that you are not alone – many others are experiencing the same thing.
- Tell yourself two positive things about yourself each day. Some people like to do this while looking at their reflection in a mirror.
- Other people might be looking at you and seeing you as a successful and accomplished person even if you aren’t. Most people won’t tell you that they think this about you but there is likely to be a few of people who think this. If it helps, you can imagine others being impressed by you and what you do.
- The range of things which society considers impressive does not encompass every impressive thing. You are almost certainly doing things which are amazing, but often uncelebrated, like raising kids, managing a significant illness or disability or caring for elderly relatives.
- Every time you find yourself doubting yourself counter it with a positive statement. These statements can be ones you make up which work for you.
- Look at where you were in the past and see where you have got to. It is likely that your journey has taught you some valuable things which add to your understanding of yourself and the world. Regardless of what this involved, it is almost certainly an achievement worthy of positive feedback.
- If people compliement you for something you have done well, try to accept it. Even if you don’t agree with it, at least say ‘thank you.’
It gets tiring trying to constantly banish your self-doubt demons, In my case I do it by trying to achieve more successes constantly. After doing this for over fifteen years, I have a lot of accomplishments but I am not content and I still question the value of my work. Usually I give an example of how I have overcome something or what I have learned in these posts. In this blog post I am urging you to not use my example. Yes I am successful, I have achieved a lot but I can’t see any of it objectively and am still insecure and negative about me. Please use my example as what to avoid. I do love my successes but it would be lovely to sit back one day and genuinely reflect that I have down enough, I have nothing to prove and drink a cup of tea with no need to succeed or make an impact or anything like that.
Nope. I can’t write at all! Silly self-doubt