For as long as I can remember I've never felt like I deserve anything I've succeeded at. Sure, I've given these achievements all my effort, spent hours, days, months working on them and honing my skills, but (in my head) they've always come to me out of sheer luck. This is the Imposter Syndrome and I'm only now realizing how devastating it can be for your creativity and self-worth.
I recently stumbled upon this article discussing the syndrome and was fascinated by how many levels it has and how many different ways we can experience the same emotional turmoil. I definitely fall into the "natural genius" category, thinking that if I have to work hard at anything or if a goal is difficult to achieve then I don't deserve it. As a writer, this is an incredibly detrimental mentality that is simultaneously unavoidable. I believe that writing is a skill, not a gift (despite how many people would disagree), meaning that it can be honed, refined, and practiced in order to become good and, eventually, great at.
In this creative niche (and I'm sure many others), we are often told that the words should be flowing out of you constantly, as though the genius can't help but burst through you. This notion has held me back so often with the thought that if something isn't coming naturally then that must mean that I have no purpose or right to pursue it. If my first novel isn't spilling out of every orifice in my body, then I shouldn't even bother struggling to write it. If the new job I started is tricky to understand or grow comfortable with, then it must not be for me. Whatever the example, there will always be a little voice in my head that thinks everything should be easy because, let's face it, celebrities and successful influencers make it seem like it is. Or, perhaps not them directly, but the person they portray online. However, the logical side of my brain is certain that if we had the chance to follow our heroes around for a workday we'd realize that what they have accomplished has taken years to master along with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
So, how do we get over this toxic mindset? That's a good question that I definitely do not have the answer to (that's what therapy is for!), but one I am constantly battling and working towards solving. These are a few things I want to start incorporating into my mindset, especially this year as I work towards writing a novel and prepare to move to a different country for a little while:
1) You are your work; you are not your struggles.
2) It's also okay to struggle because that is how you grow and improve at anything.
3) Like an underworked muscle, so too is your creativity waiting for you to bend it in different directions and build it into something stronger. Don't be scared to go outside of the routine for fear of failing. The only failure is not trying at all.
4) When you are praised for your work, believe and accept it.
5) Find what you love to do, even when it's incredibly difficult, and stick to that.
6) Avoid falling into the trap of comparing your level of success to others', especially when it comes to their age. We all work at different paces with the same end goal in mind - happiness.