You’re Not Who You Say You Are?

Sunday 30 July 2017

I’m rather interested in a concept that’s getting a bit of publicity at the moment because the likes of Emma Watson and a number of other high-profile personalities are mentioning. It’s called the Impostor Effect or the Impostor Syndrome, it’s a ‘proper’ psychological phenomenon, and apparently, many of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives.

Here’s a lil background on Impostor Syndrome:

  • It’s used to describe high-achieving individuals who are unable to internalise their successes and have a persistent fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as a fraud.
  • Clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes first used the term ‘Impostor Syndrome’ in 1978.
  • Even though external evidence points to the competence of people, those ‘suffering’ from Impostor Syndrome believe that they are frauds and don’t deserve the success they have achieved.
  • Often, those successes are written off as being due to good luck, good timing, or because a sufferer has made others believe they’re more intelligent, competent, talented than they really are.
  • High-achieving women, it is believed, are more likely to exhibit symptoms of Impostor Syndrome than high-achieving men.
  • Pauline Clance would prefer to rename it as Impostor Experience because almost everyone experiences it at some point in their life, as opposed to it being a syndrome or mental illness.
  • Common signs can include: perfectionism; overworking; undermining your achievements; fear of failure; and discounting praise.
  • Valerie Young has categorised imposter experience into five subgroups, so we’re all able to discover which type of impostor we think we are: perfectionist; superwoman/man; natural genius; rugged individualist; expert.

Now, if I’ve piqued your interest as well, at this point, I’m hoping that you’re starting to look back on your own life to see if you’ve been through an impostor experience at some point. I know I have – regularly – and I tend to fall into Young’s categories of perfectionist, and rugged individualist. When I work, be that my day job or my writing, everything has to be perfect, I find it difficult to delegate jobs, set ridiculously high and unachievable standards, and I’ll stew on outcomes for days. Rugged individualist me refuses to ask for help until I’ve got well beyond the point I should have asked for help (despite telling the booger eaters that they need to ask for help early on so that someone can make things clearer or easier for them!), I really don’t need anyone’s help – really, I can do everything by myself because it will be better then, and if I do sort of point out I need help (unusual, and not often) I frame it in terms of what needs to be done to complete a project instead of saying ‘hey, I need a hand here’. But that’s always been me, ferociously independent from birth.

So why has this got me fascinated right now? Well, I’ll often enter competitions with the preface, ‘I’ only did it as a joke’ or something along those lines. That way, when I’m told I suck, it’s not really that important, even though it is. For example:

  • Hey, you came third in that state poetry writing competition. Yeah, I only entered as a joke, just to see what would happen.
  • Oh, you won that playwriting competition at university. Yeah, I only entered that as a joke, and y’know, the play was something I wrote ages ago (actually, I whipped it up especially for the competition but I’m not going to tell you that).
  • Your blog is great. I especially love when you go on a rant or write your opinion about something. Yeah, just thought, y’know, I’d post this stuff for me. It’s okay, I guess.
  • You’re freakin’ funny, like really, really funny. Oh, no, I’m not. Kids laugh because, y’know, they’re kids and they’ll laugh at anything.
  • Your writing is really good. It’s okay, but it could always be better.

Anyway, I’ve ended up here because I did do something out of my comfort zone recently, that I actually did on purpose, not as a joke to see what would happen. I entered an international screenwriting competition with a piece I’ve been working on for a few months. I’d planned to write six episodes of this story, and then send it away to a production company, the name of which I shall withhold at the moment, in the hope that I might be able to get some feedback, or, heaven forbid, be in with a chance of having the work commissioned or worked on by a writing and production team that I greatly admire.

I emailed the pilot episode, requested judge’s feedback, all knowing there was no way I’d get beyond the first or second round. And it’s true. My script didn’t get beyond the first or second round – and surprisingly, I’m okay with that. I got some great feedback from the judge, most of it not revolving around how stupid an idea I’d had for a story. In fact, the judge commented that I had some interesting core nuggets to work with, and I’m delighted with that. My story idea doesn’t suck after all. A relationship in the story is apparently a stand out for dialogue, and it’s not the relationship that I expected. Honestly, the relationship that apparently stands out is a relationship that I wasn’t entirely happy with scripting because it felt like sh!t to me. Turns out my sh!t is someone else’s gold. The judge did say that the script seemed more a first draft, and that’s 100% true. I was being incredibly cocky sending in the first draft of the story, because I really wanted to find out what a professional in the industry thought of my rough, raw work. Turns out, I’m not too bad. I mean, I’m not entirely fantastic, but I don’t wholly suck either. And I’m good with that – particularly as the judge liked my twisty, cliffhanger ending to the pilot. I really liked leaving the episode hanging the way I did. If you’ve read any of my stories, you’ll already know how much I enjoy leaving readers and characters hanging. Nothing’s changed with my scripting either. Still love a twist.

So, I’m almost back to square one with this particular script. I intend not to finish all six episodes, but to finish the fourth, that I’m currently almost at the end of, and then go back to edit the pilot. Perhaps, with more time and thought put into the pilot, the next version of the script will sit better with industry professionals? And at the very least, the best thing I’ve got out of this experience is that an industry professional has read my work, and thought that the raw idea has something to it.

Turns out, my thinking that I’m waiting to be found out as a fraudster with my writing might just be unfounded. Might be. Between you and me though, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. 😉

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About Danielle

I like to write. What more is there to know?
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