The Born Freelancer on Imposter Syndrome

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

the born freelancer

Freelance writers and imposter syndrome

I’ve read a lot recently about the many different types of people who experience “imposter syndrome”—the feeling that they don’t truly deserve or have the right to the success they have achieved. It might be fleeting and occasional or consistent and ever-present.

Freelancers, as a group, might be particularly susceptible to it.

Almost every freelancer I know has confided in me that they have felt like a complete imposter at some time or another.

I have too.

Why would we feel this way?

How can we alleviate it?

My worst experience of “imposter syndrome”

I was, once upon a time, working for a popular television outlet albeit as a lowly junior freelance writer. I heard that there was to be a big party to launch a brand new show with a young rising star. More importantly there would be lots of free food and drinks. Trust me, to a young struggling freelancer, it was the availability of free food and drinks that made me decide to attend.

So I went along to a fancy hotel ballroom and was granted admission. As I surveyed the crowded room I was immediately panicked. Everyone seemed at ease and comfortably chatting, laughing and boasting loudly about their work. I didn’t know anyone and I felt a complete fraud. What right did I have to be there?

It was, looking back on it, my worst experience in which I felt the extreme depths of depression and despair caused by “imposter syndrome.”

That is, until I spotted a nervous-looking woman standing all by herself near the food table. A kindred soul? I hesitatingly started up a conversation and much to my relief she seemed happy to chat. We quickly agreed it was an awful party, that neither of us knew anyone, that everyone else seemed to be happy and confident and that we both felt like fakes and imposters.

It felt wonderful to know I wasn’t the only one there who felt out of their depth and like a complete fraud. Belatedly I asked her name and what she did.

She looked at me quizzically and then smiled.

It turned out…the party was for her and her new show. She was, in fact, the “young rising star” who was to go on to much critical acclaim and success.

But all that was in her future. At that exact moment, she Inexplicably felt the same way I did.

The takeaway

Looking back, all these years later, I realize probably almost everybody at that party felt like a fraud. It’s just that they were better at hiding it and pretending they didn’t feel it. Perhaps that is another way to combat it.

As for me, I felt unexpectedly empowered that day. If a “young rising star” could feel the same way I did, then somehow I instinctively realized “imposter syndrome” (as we now call it) was something so irrational, so absurd and so ridiculous I could no longer allow it to have any sway over me.

To this day, if I ever catch myself starting to feel like an imposter at any time under any circumstances I just remember that party and the perspective it ultimately gave me. The feeling soon subsides.

If you too occasionally feel it, I hope you now know you are not alone. And that it can be overcome and/or successfully managed.

Although not an officially recognized psychiatric disorder, “imposter syndrome” can also become debilitating for some sufferers. Should you find it continuously undermining your work—or any other aspects of your life—you may want to seek professional counselling.

What about you? Ever felt like an imposter, professionally? Why? What did you do to alleviate your feelings? Let us know using the comments feature below.

Posted on May 8, 2023 at 6:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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