On Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome seems to be in the air again. I’m not sure why, but the inevitable outcome involves large groups of accomplished people agonising over their struggles with it. This is a pity because not only does it spread like a psychological virus, freighting entire communities in spasms of self-doubt, I don’t think it even begins to account for the imagined *and real* challenges writers, scholars and other ‘thinking’ people face.
Me, I kind of like Misha Glouberman‘s response to Imposter Syndrome in The Chairs Are Where the People Go: that sometimes when people feel like imposters it’s because they are in fact imposters. Not only is the statement refreshingly honest in its invitation to self-reflection, I think it can also serve as a useful trick to get people ‘unstuck’ from unwarranted self-doubt.
I also like a lot of what American science fiction writer John Scalzi says in this essay (focused on writers, but applicable to other fields of endeavour), which he sums up as “if you write, you are a writer.” Period.
I encountered the idea of imposter syndrome as a graduate student in the late 1990s. I remember trying it on for size and setting it aside. It didn’t fit me. Something else did — something I couldn’t name; something that was (not coincidental to graduate school) becoming a force of active destruction in my life — but it wasn’t imposter syndrome.
Me, I am intensely intrinsically motiv