On Feeling Like a Fraud and the Harsh Inner Critic

I recently read an article about "imposter syndrome" and recognized myself within it.

Imposter syndrome is basically the feeling of being inadequate, in spite of evidence of high achievement; it leaves people afraid that they will be "found out" and exposed as frauds in their field. I've felt this way...

              ...in my graduate studies... "How is everyone else so organized and intelligent?! How are their research ideas so interesting and coherent?! My ideas seem so unpolished."

                                             ...in my work.... "My lesson isn't good enough! What if I let everyone down? The kids will hate me! The administration will hate me!"         

                                                  ...and in my writing.... "This is such a ridiculous story. I have no more good ideas. I have nothing left in my soul to give. Who would want to read my work? I'm finished!"

OK, maybe some of that is a little exaggerated, but only a little!

While this syndrome can be found in all walks of life, I have a feeling that writers and other creative types are much more susceptible to the voice of the harsh inner critic. Or the voices of harsh inner critics, the ones that not only criticize you for being uncommonly dull, but also the ones that sarcastically count how many hours you've sat blankly in front of your computer screen without inspiration, that berate you for revealing too much about yourself or your family, or insist, in lugubrious tones, that your energies could be better and more profitably spent elsewhere ("in a real job").

How do you silence those critics?

In one of my favourite books on writing (and also one of the funniest), Anne Lamott suggests visualizing those voices as mice, dropping them one by one into a volume-controlled jar, and then turning the volume all the way down. She adds, "A writer friend of mine suggests opening the jar and shooting them all in the head. But I think he's a little angry, and I'm sure nothing like this would ever occur to you."

If you feel slightly panicked that this imposter syndrome will forever cripple your self-esteem and your creative output, a quick internet search will reveal a multitude of articles on how to overcome it. In the mean time, keep on creating.

An encouraging thought from another writer asserts, "We were brought into existence because we were needed." (Ellen White)

You, with your particular set of skills and your creative expression, are needed. Don't let the inner critics keep you from making the world a better, more beautiful place.

And on that note, I'm going to go write something.



  1. Don't know how I missed this! I've also found myself having more of these kinds of thoughts the more of the world I've seen. I have a feeling this may be why so many writers/artists turn to the bottle - to silence those voices. The last quote is particularly relatable -in that case I must really, REALLY be a writer at heart... ;) Thanks for sharing :)


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