Imposter Syndrome is a great big invisible beast that haunts creatives as divine as Neil Gaiman.
The brilliant English writer recounts a charming story where he had a conversation with an individual sharing his same first name who had also fallen prey to Imposter Syndrome.
Neil Gaiman is typing now…
“Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”
Fly me to the moon.
While I can’t speak for Neil Gaiman or Neil Armstrong, for me Imposter Syndrome resembles a mythical lion-like creature with fangs as big as sabers and a mane festooned with long wispy peacock feathers.
(Perhaps, Armstrong’s looks something akin to a reptilian martian).
My confidence always seems to be at battle with this nasty son of a bitch in the most inconvenient of times — when I’m on a deadline at Honey Copy, have to get out a newsletter or have to write a damn book.
I can never quite kill him but I can bloody him up and shoo him away for a few weeks, or in some exceptionally triumphant cases, months.
No. My Imposter Syndrome probably looks nothing like your Imposter Syndrome, but I imagine they’re friends (or contemporaries, rather).
There is no doubt that they share hunting stories with one another over Rye by the fire after they’ve had a good successful day of tormenting the two of us, Gaiman, Armstrong and any other relatively insecure human that has done or is aspiring to do something noteworthy.
So, it’s only right you and I conspire to overthrow the gluttons. Or, at the very least, keep them at bay.
Here are a few weapons (for lack of a better term) that have helped me…
Realizing we’re all properly fucked.
For one, I realize both myself and any creative is properly fucked when it comes to Imposter Syndrome.
If you can fly to the moon and back and still feel its icy claws, then it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere.
Our battle isn’t about defeating Imposter Syndrome but instead working, creating and making with it creeping over our shoulders.
Realizing everyone (including the likes of Neil Gaiman and Neil Armstrong) experiences bouts of Imposter Syndrome has helped me realize it is simply a side-effect of creating.
Understanding that feeling it is a good thing.
I’m always fascinated to watch who Imposter Syndrome preys on and who it strays away from.
I’ve found, that generally, it’s a good sign if you’re feeling it.
Imposter Syndrome is almost always felt in talented individuals out doing the work… and almost never felt in the actual imposters themselves.
It doesn’t seem to haunt shitty Medium writers whoring together poorly-written listicles for short-lived applause or greasy internet marketers selling courses on how to sell courses.
Nope. These folks seem to be immune.
While I’m no expert, I’d say this is because Imposter Syndrome in some very strange way is… benevolent.
(It’s like a fucking sour patch kid).
Imposter syndrome haunts the talented because it forces the talented to take a closer look at their work and in turn (if they have the guts) put out better, stronger work because of it.
I’d argue Imposter Syndrome is the ultimate critic to the creative in this way. It keeps them modest through their journeying towards greatness and it’s through this modesty that they make actually go on to achieve greatness.
I’m not sure one can escape Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps it’s more about realizing it’s a tune everybody hears in their ears (at least the ears that belong to individuals with some sort of talent) and we just have to learn to dance with it.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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