Stepping Stones Blog

Fear of Writing (Part 3)

After a few weeks of contemplation on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that my basic fear of writing is:  I’m not good enough.

While on the surface this looks similar to a fear of failure – there is really more to it.

I have always cared what others think of me… some would argue (and I am starting to agree) that I care too much.  I become lost – not sure of who I am, what I believe, or what I stand for.

This became clear to me on a recent morning walk.  I looked out the window at the ominous sky, and deduced storms were imminent.  I told my husband that I was afraid to venture outside.

“What are you afraid of?” he innocently asked.  “We are not at risk for thunderstorms; you would only get a little wet.”

Well, yes… that was the point.  I would get a little wet, or perhaps a lot wet.

In the end, I decided to take an abbreviated walk in the hopes of beating the rain, but this conversation continued to replay in my mind.

I am afraid of getting wet.  Why is that such a problem?  It certainly isn’t a matter of life or death. I wasn’t afraid of lightning striking.  I wasn’t afraid of catching a cold.  I wasn’t afraid of slipping and hurting myself.  I wasn’t afraid of ruining my clothes.

I finally decided that what I was afraid of was the passerby’s who would look at me and wonder, “What is that woman doing?  Doesn’t she have enough sense to come in out of the rain?!

It is not only what others think that scares me, it is how I perceive others critically judging me that paralyzes me — and I feel this way about most of life’s endeavors:  Writing – Teaching – Photography – Travel.  In virtually any situation, I can easily provide the critical commentary of imaginative spectators and stop myself from moving forward.

I recently heard the term, Impostor’s Syndrome, and when I read the definition I felt as though I had found my label.  There is a certain comfort that comes from knowing my affliction is not so unique (weird); there are enough people who suffer that it qualifies to have a name.

The CalTech Counseling Center defines Impostor’s Syndrome as:

A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates the opposite is true.  It is experienced internal; a chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

BINGO!!

Chronic Self-doubt?  More like never-ending.  Intellectual fraudulence?  My greatest fear is that others will find me foolish.

It is basically feeling that you are not really successful, competent and smart; that you are only imposing as such.

This was my feeling throughout my teaching career.  My college degree was in French and Political Science.  I was a fraud teaching English and knew someday others would realize “the truth”.

Many administrators tried to put these fears to rest. “Certified does not mean Qualified,” they would say.  “And you are qualified.”  To this day I still think they were just being nice.

I may have started a walking routine, but I am in no way a dedicated jogger.  They would go for a run no matter what the weather (and I would admire their dedication), but a “pretend” walker would be foolish to do such a thing.

Who am I to call myself a writer?  I have no real experience and not sure I have anything worth sharing (or the skills to share it).  I am just pretending and not doing a very good job.

These are the voices that scream at me all day long.

But I am stubborn enough to fight back.  I may listen to the words – I may even believe them – but I refuse to quit.

Next week I will discuss my plan of attack to silence the voices and accept the claim that I AM A WRITER.

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2 Comments

  1. cathyensley

    Yay, you! Go for it! I think you’re a wonderful, thoughtful writer. I haven’t read your fiction, so I can’t speak to that. But your nonfiction is thought-provoking.

    I’ve always been someone who’s slipped in through the back door in any job I’ve had over the years. I’ve also felt I’ve been an impostor and indeed was one. But I kept quiet about it!

    When I got my job as a children’s librarian, I had almost zero experience and no M.A. in library science (although I did have a M.A. in English LIt). It was my effervescent passion that got me the job. After the 10-hour job interview, the hiring committee said, “I think we’ve just found our children’s librarian.”

    When I go after something, if I have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain, I’m unstoppable.

    You should be too. It doesn’t matter what you perceive others to be thinking. You’re making up a story about it, and it is not serving you at all.

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