In my first ever blog post I mentioned that I have from time to time called myself a writer and cringed as I've done it. Nothing against writers. I aspire to writerhood. I've cringed because I've felt like such a fraud. Me, a writer? Nah!
I'm a psychologist, yes. There's a piece of paper to prove that and I've been doing that for such a long time that it feels ok. A mum. Yes. A couple of small boys call me that and I've changed enough nappies and cut up enough fruit to qualify I think, but a writer? That's all a bit new and rather uncomfortable.
When I wrote that first post a couple of people kindly wrote back and said that they too have felt like frauds doing what they do - at least at first. In fact this experience is so common that there is a name for it, the Impostor Syndrome. You may have heard of it?
The term Impostor Syndrome was coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in a research article in 1978. They were discussing the experience of high-achieving women who felt that they were not as intelligent or as competent as people seemed to think they were (and indeed as they actually were). A lot of research and media articles on the Imposter Syndrome have focused on women but it does appear to be just as common in men and it could be that up to 70 per cent of us have felt it at one time or another.
For some people their 'imposter' feelings can be so serious and ongoing that it leads to acute psychological distress, most commonly serious episodes of anxiety and depression. For most of us though it's just that uncomfortable feeling that we don't really know what we're doing and other people seem to think that we do.
This happens most commonly when we are embarking on something new and stepping outside our comfort zone.
So what's the antidote?
First, let me tell you a little story...
When I was about 20, on a weekend away with close friends, I fell into a deep and meaningful early morning conversation with a boy in the way that you can only when you're 20, slightly hungover and there's absolutely nothing in the world pressing on your time.
I can't remember what we were talking about but I clearly remember something he said...
'Guys know that if you say something confidently enough everyone believes you.'