“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenonor fraud syndrome) refers to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.”
I learned what impostor syndrome was just a couple of months ago, and like the good hypochondriac that I am, I decided I have suffered from this devastating illness my whole life.
I wouldn’t call myself a high-achieving individual — or maybe that is the disease talking — but I have accomplished a thing or two in my life.
I was the first in my catholic-big family to graduate from college; that was kind of a big deal. I received an award or two for doing what I was getting paid to do and got several promotions for just not dropping the ball. My whole adult life I felt like I was getting gold stars because I was nice, mildly funny and –most of the time — reliable.
This crippling disorder got worse after I wrote my first novel, and it reached cataclysmic proportion when the first good reviews started rolling.
You see, English is not my first language, and maybe you can tell by reading this Grammarly-edited post. So the idea that my novel was any good was hard to believe. Good reviews kept popping up and in a moment of weakness and delusion I thought “maybe the book is not a complete mess.”
Then it came the first bad review. Let me correct that; it wasn’t a bad review. Someone who knows I am a complete phony took my book, shredded to pieces, fed it to me, and then ripped my guts out, found the pieces of the book I had just digested, tied them to a stake and burnt the pieces like a witch.
He or She (it was an anonymous critic) called my book: stilted, preachy and shallow. Those words were followed by many well-thought and clever insults. I nodded my head all through the review and by the end I thought, “you kind person; you are doing God’s work by protecting the world from the awfulness of my book!”
Even though my impostor syndrome corroborated what the critic said, I still felt horrible. I thought the violence of the attack was uncalled for. The brutality of the words was excessive. I felt depressed, even though I agreed with the assessment.
Since then, several good reviews (not from my mom) have come along. Most of them kind and constructive. All of them from people who didn’t love my book, but liked it enough to tell me that the next would be great if I just changed a couple of things.
I don’t know what to believe. The last couple of months have felt like standing naked in a corner waiting for people to point at the parts of my body they like and those they don’t. When someone says they love every inch of me, I can’t help to think “what about my scrawny ass? Do you really love that meatless part of my body?” and when people hate it all I can’t help to think “what about my hair? I have great hair!”
I always thought I was good at taking criticism, and maybe I am in other aspects of my life, but not as an author. As an author, I have no idea what to do with it. I don’t know what to do with the good, and I don’t know how to react to the bad.
I don’t have a piece of advice. I just have a story to tell. The story of a naked fraud standing in a corner waiting for praise and hate.