Triumph Over Imposter Syndrome: 11 Essential Insights to Conquer Self-Doubt

Imposter syndrome

Battle with Imposter syndromeImposter Syndrome, a pervasive psychological phenomenon, is an internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite evident accomplishments. It’s a phantom lurking in a writer’s psyche, ready to strike when they attempt to put pen to paper. The term was first coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. For writers, it manifests as a deep-seated fear that their work is inadequate and that their success is undeserved, a product of luck or deceit. This persistent self-doubt can severely impede their creativity and productivity. Recognizing Imposter Syndrome is the first step in defusing its power.

For a writer, grappling with this syndrome can feel like a constant battle with an unseen adversary. The joy of creating is replaced with the fear of exposure, the satisfaction of completion overshadowed by the dread of judgement. Yet, it’s crucial to remember that the so-called ‘imposter’ is a creation of their own mind, not a reflection of their true capabilities. Empowered with this knowledge, a writer can begin to challenge and overcome this invisible opponent.

I know the pain of imposter syndrome. The feelings that come with it prevented me from becoming a writer for decades. After all, my college writing professor himself told me I’d never be a good writer no matter how hard I tried. Yeah, he actually said that to me. But, in spite of that, I’ve now written over 100 books and hundreds of blogs.

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Imposter Syndrome Test: Evaluating a Writer’s Self-Perception

Several online self-assessment tools and quizzes can help writers identify if they’re dealing with Imposter Syndrome. These tests usually comprise a series of statements related to feelings of fraudulence, fear of failure, or devaluing one’s accomplishments, with responses rated on a scale. A high score typically suggests a high level of Imposter Syndrome. The Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS) is one such well-recognized tool.

Here’s a simple example:

  1. I often feel like my writing successes are due to luck, not my skills or effort.
  2. I worry that others will find out I’m not as talented a writer as they think I am.
  3. I tend to discount or minimize positive feedback on my writing.
  4. Even when I write something well, I feel like I could’ve done better.
  5. I’m afraid people will realize I’m a ‘fraud’ writer.

If you find yourself agreeing with most of these statements, it could indicate the presence of Imposter Syndrome.

Yet, it’s important to remember that these tests merely provide an indication of a possible issue. They aren’t definitive diagnostic tools. If a writer identifies strongly with the feelings associated with this Syndrome, it may be beneficial to explore these concerns further, possibly with the support of a mental health professional. The aim is to understand these feelings, not to self-label and add to existing anxieties.

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Imposter Syndrome Meaning for Writers

Imposter Syndrome, for writers, is not just about grappling with self-doubt. It’s about questioning the authenticity of their creative process, their ‘right’ to be called a writer, and their worthiness of any accolades they might receive. Writers with Imposter Syndrome often struggle to internalize their success. They live in fear of being unmasked, of having their perceived inadequacies exposed to the world. It’s a constant psychological battle against the nagging feeling of being an imposter in the world of letters.

As a ghostwriter, there is always a bit of trepidation about delivering to the client. Will they like what I’ve written? Now, I’ve written over a hundred books, and have received hundreds of 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon. My clients love my work as a rule. Yet I still feel that mild anxiety. Go figure.

In essence, Imposter Syndrome erodes a writer’s self-confidence, blurs their perception of their achievements, and keeps them in a perpetual state of anxiety. Understanding this deeper meaning can help writers realize the need to confront this issue and seek help if necessary. The meaning of Imposter Syndrome for writers is complex and multifaceted. It’s not just about a lack of confidence in their writing skills. It encompasses fears about creativity, originality, and audience perception. Despite its debilitating effects, understanding the meaning of Imposter Syndrome can provide the foundation for strategies to overcome it.

For writers, Imposter Syndrome goes beyond mere self-doubt. It’s an intense feeling of being an impostor in the world of ‘real’ writers. The writer feels they’ve fooled others into believing in their abilities. They fear that sooner

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Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome in Writers

Symptoms can vary widely among writers but generally revolve around intense feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and fraudulence. These feelings can manifest as a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, dismissing praise or achievements, overworking to avoid being ‘found out’, avoiding showing confidence for fear of being perceived as fake, and attributing successes to luck rather than ability.

  1. Persistent self-doubt: Despite evidence of their capabilities, writers constantly question their competence and talent.
  2. Attributing success to luck: Writers believe their success is due to luck or timing, rather than their skills or hard work.
  3. Fear of failure: The fear of making a mistake or not meeting high expectations can paralyze writers, hindering their creative process.
  4. Downplaying success: Writers trivialize their achievements and struggle to accept compliments or positive feedback.
  5. Overworking: To cover up their perceived inadequacies, writers may work excessively, leading to burnout.
  6. Fear of success: Odd as it may seem, success can terrify writers with Imposter Syndrome because it raises the stakes for future endeavors.

In addition, writers with Imposter Syndrome may find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of procrastination and overworking. The fear of producing imperfect work leads to procrastination, which then results in last-minute rushes to meet deadlines, reinforcing their belief that they are ‘fakes’. Recognizing these symptoms is a crucial step towards addressing and managing Imposter Syndrome.

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Imposter Syndrome Quotes: Writers’ Shared Struggles

This syndrome is a common experience shared by many successful authors. Here are a few quotes from well-known writers that show they too have grappled with this psychological phenomenon:

  1. Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'”
  2. Neil Gaiman shared his experience, “The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now, they will discover you.”
  3. Even the prolific writer John Green admitted, “Every time I start a new project, I am plagued with nightmares about being an imposter.”
  4. Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and author, said, “The only difference between someone who experiences Imposter Syndrome and someone who does not is how they respond to challenges.”
  5. Bestselling author Dan Brown confessed, “I think the reason I’ve had success is that I always feel like a student. The day I ever feel like a teacher, I’ll probably quit doing what I’m doing.”
  6. Tina Fey, renowned actress and writer, candidly shared, “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!'”

These quotes remind us that feelings of inadequacy aren’t exclusive to emerging writers; even the most successful authors have faced similar fears. This shared struggle can be a source of solace, a reminder that every writer is battling their own insecurities.

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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Strategies for Writers

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome requires conscious effort, time, and patience. The first step is self-awareness, recognizing when Imposter Syndrome strikes and how it manifests in one’s writing life. It’s about understanding that it’s okay to have self-doubt, but it’s not okay to let it stifle creativity and productivity.

Next, writers should challenge their imposter thoughts. When the fear of being a ‘fraud’ emerges, writers should reflect on their past achievements and positive feedback, reaffirming their skills and capabilities. They should also normalize failure and see it as a part of the creative process rather than a sign of fraudulence.

Creating a supportive network of fellow writers can also be highly beneficial. This network can offer reassurance, share personal experiences, and provide constructive feedback. Remember, it’s a writer’s unique voice and perspective that makes their work valuable, not their alignment with some elusive standard of a ‘real’ writer.

The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome | Lou Solomon | TEDxCharlotte

Lou Solomon talks about the solution to imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome Examples: Insight into Writers’ Minds

There are countless examples of successful authors who have experienced Imposter Syndrome. For instance, celebrated author Maya Angelou often spoke about her struggle with Imposter Syndrome, despite her prolific career and numerous awards. Similarly, Neil Gaiman, a renowned fantasy author, has openly shared his feelings of being an ‘imposter’ in his field.

Author Chuck Wendig, despite his successful career, admitted to feeling like a “lazy, bumbling, word-flinging, impostor hack-fraud” in a blog post, perfectly encapsulating the sentiment of Imposter Syndrome. Similarly, Amanda Palmer, musician and writer, discussed in her book “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” about her constant fear of being unmasked as a fraud.

In the realm of science fiction, writer John Scalzi wrote a blog post about his struggle with Imposter Syndrome, despite his numerous awards and recognized works. These real-life examples underscore the fact that Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate based on achievement or stature.

Even after publishing numerous successful books, these writers still harbored fears of being ‘found out’ as impostors. This highlights that Imposter Syndrome isn’t connected to a writer’s level of success or experience; rather, it’s tied to their self-perception and fear of judgment. Recognizing this can help writers understand that they are not alone in their struggle and that these feelings don’t diminish their talent or success.

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Imposter Syndrome Anxiety: The Unseen Stress for Writers

Imposter Syndrome can cause significant anxiety for writers. This anxiety can manifest as constant worry about being ‘found out’, stress over meeting the expectations of others, and fear of failure. It can lead to overworking and burnout, as the writer feels they must work harder to ‘prove’ their worth.

This constant state of anxiety can have serious implications for a writer’s mental health and overall well-being. It can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, sleep problems, and fatigue, as well as emotional symptoms like feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and depression. This underlines the importance of addressing Imposter Syndrome and seeking help if it’s causing distress.

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Imposter Syndrome Statistics: You’re Not Alone, Writers

Based on research, about 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives. For writers, although exact statistics are hard to come by, anecdotal evidence and self-reported surveys suggest the percentage is equally high, if not higher.

In a study by Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on Imposter Syndrome, five distinct types of Imposter Syndrome were identified, each with their own unique traits and behaviors. This underscores the fact that Imposter Syndrome is not a ‘one size fits all’ phenomenon but rather an individual experience.

Thinking your way out of imposter syndrome | Valerie Young

Valerie Young talks about imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome Psychology: Understanding the Writer’s Mind

From a psychological perspective, Imposter Syndrome in writers can be seen as an internal struggle with self-perception and reality. The syndrome is rooted in beliefs about personal inadequacy, despite evidence to the contrary. Writers with Imposter Syndrome tend to attribute their successes to external factors like luck, timing, or deception, rather than acknowledging their own skills and effort.

Imposter Syndrome often stems from perfectionism, high expectations, fear of failure, and criticism. For writers, this can create a crippling fear of rejection and critique, hampering their creativity and productivity. Understanding the psychology behind Imposter Syndrome can provide insight into how to manage it effectively.

Imposter Syndrome, in its essence, is a psychological pattern rooted in cognitive distortions, or flawed thinking. In the case of writers, the ‘Imposter Cycle’, as coined by Dr. Pauline Clance, often starts with an achievement-related task, like a writing assignment. The writer, feeling anxious and doubtful, either over-prepares or procrastinates, leading to an overworking pattern.

When the task is accomplished and positive feedback received, instead of feeling confident, the writer experiences relief and attributing success to hard work or luck. This perpetuates the cycle, reinforcing the imposter feelings. Understanding this psychology is crucial for devising effective coping strategies.

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Imposter Syndrome Exercises: A Toolkit for Writers

Engaging in exercises specifically designed to combat Imposter Syndrome can be helpful for writers. Here are some practical steps to consider:

  1. Reality check: Regularly assess your achievements and capabilities. Write down all your writing accomplishments, big or small, and refer back to this list whenever self-doubt creeps in.
  2. Challenge imposter thoughts: Whenever an ‘imposter’ thought arises, challenge it with evidence. For example, if you think you’re not a ‘real’ writer, remind yourself of your completed projects, positive feedback, or improvements in your writing.
  3. Share your feelings: Talk about your feelings with trusted friends, family, or fellow writers. Chances are, they’ve felt the same way at some point.
  4. Self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself, and remember that all writers face self-doubt at times.
  5. Self-compassion meditation: Practice mindfulness and self-compassion through meditation. It can help create a kinder, more understanding relationship with yourself.
  6. Positive affirmation: Develop a list of positive affirmations and recite them daily. Affirmations can help rewrite the narrative you’ve created about your writing abilities.
  7. Visualize success: Instead of anticipating failure or exposure as a ‘fraud’, visualize a successful outcome for your writing project.
  8. Develop a healthy response to failure and criticism: Understand that failure and criticism are a part of the writing process, not evidence of your incompetence.

Remember, tackling Imposter Syndrome takes time and patience. But with consistent effort, it’s possible to reclaim your confidence and rediscover the joy of writing.

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Ghostwriters: Allies in Combating Imposter Syndrome

Ghostwriters, with their vast experience and writing prowess, can be valuable allies for writers battling Imposter Syndrome. They understand the challenges and pressures of writing and can provide guidance and support. Here’s how they can help:

  1. Mentorship: Ghostwriters, having navigated the choppy waters of writing, can provide invaluable advice and reassurance to writers, helping them understand that doubts and fears are part and parcel of the creative process.
  2. Collaboration: By working closely with the writer, ghostwriters can help overcome the daunting task of transforming ideas into compelling prose, thereby easing the burden and reducing feelings of inadequacy.
  3. Skill enhancement: Ghostwriters can share their knowledge and skills, helping writers improve their craft. This, in turn, can boost writers’ confidence in their abilities.
  4. Validation: As accomplished writers themselves, ghostwriters can validate the efforts of the writer, helping them see their worth and potential, despite their doubts.

Suggested Books

  1. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valerie Young
  2. Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome by Lisa Orbe-Austin
  3. Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed
  4. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Imposter Syndrome FAQs

What are the 5 types of imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome, affecting an estimated 70% of people, particularly high achievers, is an experience of persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a "fraud", despite demonstrable competence and success. It is characterized by stress, anxiety, and occasionally depression, with sufferers attributing their accomplishments to luck rather than skills or qualifications. Although it's not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), imposter syndrome is a significant form of intellectual self-doubt with serious mental health implications. It often arises from the interplay of personality traits like perfectionism, societal or familial expectations, and personal experiences like starting a new job or entering a new social circle. Its manifestation can be categorized into five types as per Dr. Valerie Young: The Perfectionist, The Superwoman/Superman, The Natural Genius, The Soloist, and The Expert, with individuals caught in a vicious cycle of the 4 P's: Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis, and Performance.

What is an example of imposter syndrome?

An example of imposter syndrome could be a newly promoted manager who constantly feels like they don't belong in their new position. Despite their qualifications and prior work performance, they may worry about being exposed as a fraud and believe they only got the promotion due to luck rather than their abilities.

What are the 4 P's of imposter syndrome?

The 4 P's of Imposter Syndrome refer to the traits commonly seen in individuals experiencing it: Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis, and Performance.

What are the 3 Ps of imposter syndrome?

There seems to be some confusion here as different sources mention different P's in relation to imposter syndrome. The "3 P's" could refer to 'Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Paralysis' as a subset of the earlier mentioned 4 P's, or they could represent 'Perfection, Pleasing, and Proving', three behaviors often exhibited by people with imposter syndrome.

What causes imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is often caused by a combination of factors such as personality traits (like perfectionism) and family or societal expectations. It can also be linked to specific personal experiences, such as starting a new job, pursuing higher education, or entering a new social or professional circle.

How common is imposter syndrome?

It's estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome in their lives. It's prevalent among high achievers, professionals, and students, particularly those in a new academic or professional environment.

What does imposter syndrome feel like?

Imposter syndrome often feels like an overwhelming fear of being found out as a "fraud", despite clear evidence of competence and accomplishment. It can lead to stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression. People with imposter syndrome often feel they don't deserve their success and attribute it to luck or timing, rather than their skills or qualifications.

Is imposter syndrome a mental health diagnosis?

Imposter syndrome is not a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental conditions. However, it's a real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt that can have significant effects on mental health.

Concluding Thoughts

Imposter Syndrome can be a significant roadblock for writers. However, recognizing its impact, understanding its psychological basis, and employing practical strategies to counteract it can create a path toward self-assured writing. Engaging in exercises and self-reflective practices can help writers manage these feelings of inadequacy. Remember, there is no ‘right’ way to be a writer, and experiencing self-doubt doesn’t diminish your accomplishments or potential.

Further, consider seeking external support, like mentorship from seasoned writers or assistance from a ghostwriter, in your battle against Imposter Syndrome. After all, it’s not a solo battle, and remember, every writer, novice or successful, experiences moments of doubt. So, keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep believing in yourself.

Please note, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the book links provided in this article.

Richard Lowe
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Congrats on the 100 books. Your article is filled with practical insights. The toolkit looks great. TY


Imposter syndrome can express itself in some many different ways. This was such an informative article.


I hear about this every so often, but I didn’t know this much about it. So interesting to learn more.


This was such well written article explaining what it is, thank you for sharing!

Ntensibe Edgar

Ooohhhh….for a long time, I thought I was alone in feeling like an imposter, with all these things I write about. I will definitely keep on writing.

Nikki Wayne

I didn’t have any idea about this syndrome till now. This is really informative thanks for sharing this with us


I may have this syndrome. I sometime feel like Im inadequate in my writing.


Imposter syndrome in writer is real and I dont want to underestimate it. Thank you for giving us tips on how to overcome it.


Thank you for giving us some practical steps to overcome this syndrome. I sont want ot feel like a writing fraud.


Fantastic read on conquering imposter syndrome! Your insights hit the mark, offering practical advice and relatable anecdotes. The tips are actionable and reassuring, making it a must-read for anyone battling self-doubt. Your approachable writing style makes complex concepts easy to grasp. Well done!

Kimberley Asante

This is a great blog post about imposter syndrome. I experience it in my businesses myself, and you’ve shared some great ways to identify it and how to help it. Thanks for sharing


What an impressive, in-depth article, Richard!
It always helps when you see “You’re not alone”!