Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Image by Wild Vibes via Unsplash

My “day job” is as a freelance writer and editor: copywriting, copyediting, marketing, articles, and blogs are all in my wheelhouse and I have a range of clients. I’m lucky to be busy enough to pick and choose who I write for, usually managing to choose clients whose values align with my own. This means I’ve written articles about sensible eating versus fad diets, how to be more environmentally friendly in a range of industries, and plenty about animal care.

You would think, with such a portfolio, that Imposter Syndrome would be a thing of the past. I don’t know if it’s a trauma response or an integral part of my anxiety, but it just simply won’t give up. Even writing about myself in such a positive manner makes my skin crawl, just a little.

Today was a prime example. I had a new client who had requested some revisions on a piece of work. I hadn’t had chance yet to see what they required, but my assumption was, and always is, that they hated the piece and wanted it all changing.

There is no evidence to back this up. Rarely have I ever had a client loathe what I’ve done. It’s usually just tweaks or some new information they want adding. But the awful anxiety of not even wanting to read what they’ve asked for in case it’s soul-crushingly critical is so real.

Eventually, I tapped on the piece in question and downloaded my revision requests. It was praise for a great article and simple a request to make a minor (but client-critical) adjustment. The wave of relief that washed over me was palpable. There was never anything wrong with my work and their request was more than reasonable and in line with our working relationship. So, why do I always assume the worst?

Just to be clear, this blog doesn’t provide any answers! A previous therapist suggested I always keep my portfolio to hand so I can remind myself of the physical evidence that I literally make a living off folks liking my writing. But it doesn’t help.

So my question is, do you suffer from imposter syndrome? And if so, how do you deal with it?

NaPoWriMo Day 14 – Water

Image shows several oracle cards, the foremost being an image of red-stained water against a pale brown bank, with the text “Water” beneath. The cards are accompanied by amethyst, a wand, and a small cauldron.

Uisce

I hiss like a hungry kettle

My faltering Gaeilge

Always practiced at the altar

In honour of Her

Uisce arís

Not even knowing

If it makes sense to say

Water again

Water again

Red and flowing

Life and dreams

Surely, hardly

What it seems?

Looking for hidden meaning

Trying to understand

Trying to catch the reflection

But breaking it into

Ripples

With my clumsy fingers

Uisce

Water

I see the card again

Roll my eyes at myself

Head to the kitchen

With a glass.

NaPoWriMo Day 9 – Luck

Image shows the oracle card “Luck” showing a bronzed, double edged knife with the hilt strapped to a wooden beam or spear shaft with another wooden beam, wider, running behind the blade.

Luck is a double-edged knife

All last week

It pointed up

Lurking at the back

Point threatening and insecure

Making me unsure

Then out it pops

Right way up

Point down

Knife strapped firmly to the wood

Some good luck, at last

I think

But then, it’s a rough day

Shouting, carrying on,

Uncertain in relationships

Mental health askew,

So, is this luck?

Am I a lucky duck?

Or did I dodge something

Even worse?

(quack)

NaPoWriMo Day 12 – Memory

It’s come up twice now

Memory

The white wispy shape

Ephemeral

Moving away faster

Than I can grasp

And honestly

That’s okay

I don’t need to remember

Everything

Then all these faceless

Photos

Pamphlets

Shirts and ties

Opinions

Camaraderie

And worse

And I cursed memory

I didn’t want to remember,

Not really

But then I saw that smile

And felt just a little

Kinder.

NaPoWriMo Day 8 – The Queen

She is sovereignty

Walking the land

Owning it

Loving it

Guiding it, somehow

She sets the boundaries

She is the boundaries

Firm, kind as she needs to be

Unwavering, a favourite word

May I waver not

Though the firmer I set my boundaries

The more bitter the bullets that bounce right off

But after all

That’s what boundaries are for.

NaPoWriMo Day 4 – Piety

Red Kite, Harewood, photo by me.

It’s not easy, being green

She laughs, and tosses hair of flame

Whilst directing me to clean up

Alder trees

Wasteland

Abandoned buddleia

Whilst nudging me up the hillside

Starting compost piles

Feeding the birds

And not just the “pretty” ones

As I place bacon fat

On the grass

And duck inside away

From probing beaks

Of magpies, crows

Jackdaws now the spring has

Yes, sprung

And today, a kite

A red kite

Tail forked in flight

But straight and serene

Sitting on my fence

A bird once considered

Nothing but a pest

Then a rubbish cleaner

Scavenger extraordinaire

Now a valued member

Of our ecosystem

We learn, we understand

She sits, she eats, she leaves

My garden is clean, her babies are fed

I nod to the sky

To the land

To the liminal spaces between

To Her

And while I wonder

About honour and worship

A pair of robins

Start a home

Oblivious.

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NaPoWriMo Day 1 – Restless

Card from The Morrigan’s Oracle by Morpheus Ravenna and Hannah Storyteller

Starting is such sweet sorrow

Picking up that pen

In a fit of restless

Energy

It feels right, twixt finger and thumb

Yet sad I am

Sad to stop the dream

The wonder

The wander

The drift around the room

Sorrowful parting from

Solitude and silence

Into activity and work

But why become a writer

If you can’t turn the dream

Into something real?

Wander no more? No, wonder on,

My mind

Be restless, all over the page

Show me what you’ve got.

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NaPoWriMo Day 2 – Stillness

I’m currently building a deeper relationship with my tutelary deity, an Mórrígan, based on studies with the Irish Pagan School and my own observations and experience. One tool I’m using is a deck of oracle cards by Morpheus Ravenna and Hannah Storyteller called The Morrigan’s Oracle, and many poems this month will be based on the titles of these cards. I shall try and include pictures, when I remember!

How many times she has told me

Stillness

How many times they shout

From their papery prison

Voices heard by means of escape

Open the doors

Let them out

Stillness

Sitting in my hand

Then on the skull,

The jar

The wand

Resting there on my altar

Stillness

Yet in my mind I fail

To embrace their message

Is it any wonder

This time

The card comes out

Reversed.

NaPoWriMo 2021

You may have already noticed that I’m partaking in NaPoWriMo 2021, the annual poetry writing month that inspires writers of all abilities to try and compose a poem every day. Recently diagnosed with CPTSD and suspected ADD, I’ve discovered that my always terrible time management may actually be linked to one or both of these conditions. Embracing that, I am posting my poems, and indeed, this introduction, in no particular order! I have a rigid schedule for my paid work which I find exhausting, so to allow myself to randomize the writing I love is actually very freeing.

This first poem was actually written pre-NaPoWriMo and the only poem I’ve performed live in many months. I don’t normally explain my poems, as I think it’s kind of like explaining the punchline of a joke, but I hope it’s clear that this poem is about my own anxieties around our returning freedoms, and how we may or may not adapt to them.

April Fool

I’ve been tricked before

Thinking that the rain had gone

Then soaked by selfish

April showers

Thinking that the sun was stretching

Cranking it up to 11

So I left the jumper in its

Yearly cocoon

But Sol was still

In bed

I’ve been fooled once,

Shame on me

Twice,

Shame on me, me, me…

Thinking that the snow

Was done, that Cailleach’s cry

Could not reach my ears

Thinking that seedlings soft and

Fragile

Could pop outside for a time

What an April Fool I’ve been.

Now can we pop outside

Is it truly time

To stretch our roots and tendrils

Back towards the dense forest

Leaving our individual copses

Ours stands, our hedgerows.

While March Winds blew

Through aching leaves

We longed for May-time flowers

Are we truly built

To wait, to want,

To withstand April showers?

NaPoWriMo Day 5: Mystery Haiku

“Why is this?!” I asked

The cards answered, “Mystery”

Guess I asked for that.