To herald the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Olivia, the lead in Driving in Neutral doesn’t think there’s much to be afraid of in life, but I know what scares me. Author Ros Baxter and I share this particular affliction.
When Sandra asked about my phobias, my brain rattled off several likely contenders.
Dry July? Getting closer.
But lurking at the back of my mind was a question: how honest do you want me to be? Because the real bogeyman, the darkest, dirtiest mofo of them all – the one that dogs my steps and darkens my days – is the one I call Imposter Syndrome (not sure if that is the technical title): fear of being discovered to be an imposter.
Perhaps you know it? That internal voice that whispers doubt in your ear – about your capacities, your skills or your chances of success. It’s the voice that’s given life in all those dreams where you find yourself standing in a room of your most brilliant peers, naked.
Writers are better acquainted with Imposter Syndrome than most. After all, we have to send the dearest fruits of our labours out into the world, to garner all manner of criticism, harsh reviews, and even (sometimes), when words fail readers, mean girl gifs.
But there does seem to be one section of the population who are immune to IIS (Irritable Imposter Syndrome). Men. Many men, in fact, appear struck down by its opposite number: Inflated Ability Syndrome. You will recognise this one too – if you’ve raised, dated, lived with, married or worked beside a man. Whereas a woman will look at herself, in all her clever splendour, narrow her eyes and begin the litany of self-critique; men will pat their expanding bellies in a gesture of satisfaction and grunt: ‘You’ve still got it, buddy’.
For me, the only hope of salvation from this affliction lies in the realisation that we’re all imposters.
Glorious, gallant, getting-there Imposters.
Because who has ever really made it? Surely everyone feels a little undercooked in comparison to someone else. Okay, leaving aside JK Rowling.
So, what do you think? Is the fear of discovery one you can relate to…?
Ros Baxter writes fresh, funny, gene-busting fiction. She digs feisty heroines; quirky families; heroes to make you sigh and tingle. And a dash of fantasy from time to time. Two of her favourite heroines have more than reason to most to know about Imposter Syndrome. Rania from Fish Out of Water and Beached is a human-mermaid hybrid living on The Land as deputy sheriff of a town with no naturally occurring water of any kind. Lola from Lingerie for Felons is part time math professor, part time hellraiser, and her IIS is through the roof.