It starts as this unnameable feeling in the pit of your stomach, somewhere between regret and bad fish tacos: you don't deserve this.
You're a fraud. A phony. You've tricked the world into buying your obviously slipshod and poorly-crafted version of events (seriously, did they even kick the tires beforehand?), but only for a brief window. Soon they'll find out: you shouldn't be here. You should have never been let in the door. They're not only going to laugh you off the stage, they'll spit on you as revenge for having tricked them in the first place.
Which is only fair, theater tickets are expensive.
Also, when I say "you," I clearly mean "Jilly Gagnon," so please, don't punch me after you spit on me, as payment for the insult. I'm sure you're exactly where you belong.
I, however, suffer from imposter syndrome. I think a lot of us feel this way every so often--like we were the fluke that some glitch in the system let through--and it's brutal. Not only because it's like a constant drumbeat of self-doubt, but because it means that everything you're doing--all the hard work, and the minor victories, and even the major ones--counts for nothing.
Just be cool. They'll never notice.
The only thing that really counts is that they will find you out. Sometime very soon. And then all of it, no matter how much "it" you've built up along the way, will be pulled out from under you, like the rug in some Three Stooges movie.
And it's not just one thing. One day it's only attacking your writing, the most obvious battlefront, then the next you feel like your friendships are hollow, or that you don't like the things you like enough, or like your mom doesn't even like talking to you.
No joke, last week I believed, for four straight days, that my mom probably didn't like me much. Which leads me to believe that maybe my anxiety disorder is playing into this just a TITCH.
I don't know how you grow out of this, or if you ever do. Tons of my college friends tell me they feel the same way, as do loads of my writer friends, even the successful ones.
It's not all bad though. Because when you feel like an imposter, you keep having to prove everyone wrong. You can't rest on your laurels for even a moment, because someone is probably going to realize they want those back any second now, and then you'll have to start all over again. And the whole shame-spiral thing gives you this cool haunted look that reads really sexy in photos.
If anyone has tips on figuring out how to actually occupy the weird, me-shaped carapace that I usually feel like I'm cowering inside, I'd love to hear them.
Until then, know that when I immediately shut down a compliment, or confess failures rather than discuss "successes," or otherwise seem like a complete downer (which I am, but sometimes it's funny, right? Maybe?), it's not fishing.
I'm just trying to keep my cover from getting blown for a little while longer.