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Do You Suffer from Blogger Imposter Syndrome?

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of June 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

imposterThis post on Imposter Syndrome and Bloggers was written by Clarke Scott from Positive Blogger a blog about leveraging Positive Psychology to improve your blog. Image by Steffe

Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome (or IS)?

Those who suffer Impostor Syndrome are convinced that friends or colleagues grossly overestimate their abilities. The ‘impostor’ feels they don’t deserve the accomplishments they have achieved, and fear that eventually they will be unmasked as a fraud.

Age is not a factor, but Joseph Ferrari, a psychologist at DePaul University, reports that most ‘impostors’ are women. According to Young, women internalize negative feedback much more readily than men.

So how does that effect you? Well, there are many good and even great writers blogging. But, blogging is not just about being able to craft a well structured sentence. It is also about building a community, providing value for readers, and humanistic things like communication. So, even if you are the kind of person that doesn’t suffer from Impostor Syndrome it is useful to know that there are people out there that do.

For those who do, it is equally reassuring to know that others experience the same fear as you. But how do those that experience IS overcome it? Below is it list that you can check to see if you suffer from IS, with another list below that on methods to overcome Impostor Syndrome

Taking the Impostor Syndrome Test

Answer Yes or No to the following questions:

  1. Do you worry about other bloggers finding out that you are not as smart as they seem to think you are?
  2. Does self-doubt stop you from challenges, writing longer posts or using social media like Tweeter?
  3. Are your accomplishments written off as a fluke, sheer luck, or that people just like you?
  4. Are you obsessive about doing things absolutely perfectly, so much so a normal post can take days to finish?
  5. Do you feel it was your lack of ability to do something right the first time round?
  6. Even your achievements are meant with the feeling that you may not be so lucky next time.
  7. Do you feel less capable than other bloggers?
  8. Does the fear of bad comments stop you from blogging?
  9. Do you ever think. I would love to be a blogger but, who would want to listen to me?
  10. Do you ever think. Maybe when I have something to say, then I will start that blog!

If you answered Yes to any of these questions than you probably suffer from IS.

Methods for overcoming Impostor Syndrome

  1. Stop living in denial. Acknowledgment will go along way to fixing the underlining issues, therefore if you suffer from IS tell yourself, that it is IS and not reality.
  2. Next time you feel IS kicking in stop and assess the situation. Try and separate overly critical thoughts and feelings from factual ones. This step is critical because you want to make sure that you can evaluate your performance without bias. Simply changing your habits to the other extreme, that is, thinking that you are the best at everything you do is simply the flip side of the same egocentric coin.
  3. At the beginning, place more emphasis on overcoming the tendency to be overly critical by assuming that you are being overly critical. By assuming that this will far more likely to investigate what is going on under the covers.
  4. Be sure to point out the times that you achieve something worthwhile. Learn to hear positive feedback. When you achieve something, perhaps a goal you’d previously set for yourself. Pat yourself on the back.
  5. Allow yourself to hear praise from others without letting ego takeover. Something IS suffers can completely disregard positive feedback. But know that this self-deprecating attitude can actually be pride, albeit a reverse pride. Nonetheless it is ego getting in the way. Truly humble people can hear positive feedback without ego taking over.
  6. Setup rules for how you will engage that inner voice when IS becomes manifest. You are trying to break old habits. Habits can sometimes be difficult to change, so rules on how you react when an IS problem occurs can be very useful.
  7. As part of the rules you follow, and by way of helping yourself break habitual tendencies, build standard phrases or affirmations that help implement these changes. For example, when an IS thought or feeling arises tell yourself it is just SI. That these feelings and thoughts are not inherently real, and that you have the capacity of change. Moreover, you WILL change!
  8. Imagine yourself overcoming IS. Feel that you have already over IS. Once you can do this with success, you have probably overcome IS.
  9. Given yourself a reward when you succeed in changing habits. Shout yourself a latte.
  10. Fake it till you make it: An old cliche but it is worth repeating. The process of overcoming any personal problems is about training yourself to react in an entirely different way. It is therefore a process, and the better you can fake it, the more quickly it will become part of who you are i.e. Not faking it. Try not to let IS overwhelm you by telling yourself you can do these challenging things, even if at first you don’t really believe it.

To sum up then, Impostor Syndrome is the habitual tendency to underestimate yourself. To believe that even the success you have you did not deserve. It can be generated from low self-esteem or other related issues. It can stop bloggers from finding their ‘voice’. It can stop you from becoming the blogger you want to become and therefore it is worth some investigation.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I have the reverse syndrome. The “Mobster Syndrome”. I think they all underestimate me ;) :))

  2. I am so glad that I do not suffer from IS, I have enough issues didn’t need to add and acronym. I thankfully have a healthy sense of my abilities and being social on social media sites is fun and comes easily. This post was good for my self esteem, thanks.

  3. Thank you for sharing about this important topic! Very interesting! I’m just a little concerned with your Imposter Syndrome self-test to the extent that answering yes to even just one of the 10 means a person probably suffers from this syndrome — especially No. 4. I typically spend days on a single post but couldn’t answer yes any of the other 9 statements. However, I strongly doubt that I am suffering from this syndrome. I think we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions when we try to self-diagnose our problems. Having said that, it’s always a good idea to stay away from negative thoughts and try to replace them with positive ones.

    Here is a link to the 10 most common negative self-talk themes and how to overcome them: http://shanelyang.com/2008/06/18/10-harmful-thoughts/

  4. Interesting post. I succumb to IS and many of the women bloggers I know do too. I wonder why that is?

    I think my issues come from the intense need to be self-deprecating and not arrogant. I suppose I (and other women) need to find that middle ground. It’s OK for us to be smart and successful and it’s not a fluke.

  5. @veronicaromm

    thanks :)

    And your right sometimes just knowing what we don’t have is useful. In fact, Positive Psychology can tell you a lot about what qualities you do have and which ones might be a little low. That is what I tried to achieve in my free eBook and reporting website.

  6. Interesting that women suffer from this more than men… although it makes sense. Men are typically much more confident (read: arrogant) and women more humble, so they more readily internalize negative criticism.

  7. @Shanel Yang
    yep we do need to be careful. Positive Psychology can help in that regard because its about developing mental “wellness”

    @Melanie Nelson
    I think it is cultural to some degree. Although self-deprecation is generally thought of as the opposite side of the same ego-centric coin.

    I think it is useful to understand what we are both good at and not so good at. With level headed self-evaluation we can make improvements where necessary and rejoice in the strengths that come naturally.

    I’m high in the PositivePsychology strength of “Love-of-learnng” but, low in “Leadership”. Knowing this gives me comfor. I’m just not good at leading a group and that’s ok, I find it draining while “teaching” others, I find increases my energy! I get real joy from passing on information. This is seen as a signature strength in Positive Psychology.

    If your interested in getting out your signature strength read the eBook.

  8. I’m not so sure people think I’m that smart so #9 applies in a backhanded sort of way.

    I do understand what your point is though and think it’s a valuable topic to discuss. People need to know what they may be suffering with and how to overcome it.

    Thanks for writing such an insightful post.

  9. i just had a job interview that reminded me that I do have some valuable experience and expertise . . . enjoying that feeling was almost as good as landing the job!

    I think my Impostor Syndrome is lessening as i get older – and hopefully wiser.

  10. @Loraleigh
    thank you for the kind words :)

    learning through experience is certain a benefit of getting older.I turned 40 this week so hopefully this is actually true ;)

  11. Clarke,

    “Are you obsessive about doing things absolutely perfectly?” — This was my biggest problem on my initial few posts and I still have this issue. I need to work on this.

    Thanks for the great article.

    The Geek Stuff

  12. Nice, a real eye-opener for me as this is the first-time I’ve encountered such a syndrome.

    I’m not an exact match, but some of the signs do hit me squarely.

    Another point to consider in my self-evaluation sessions.

  13. @Ramesh

    I think we can all get something from this. However if you really want to get some insights into who you are try my free eBook and reporting website.

  14. 1)no, I know others think I know more then I do but that is their problem not mine, I try to correct others as I find out by letting them know I am a ignorant researcher rather then music expert. Granted I learn tons of things through my researches.


    3)I think of it as pure luck and keep working for more pure luck, more work is more opp for lucky outcomes.


    5)no answer

    6)As long as I keep going I will see more luck so every achievment is motivation to work for the next lucky break

    7)Oh [email protected]#$ yes I feel less capable then other bloggers but my believers/followers/fans/whatever other title fits see me as capable for what I do.

    8)I get 0-0.2 comments I don’t fear bad comments I would love bad comments. Though I do get feedback from the forums I participate in and through E-Mail sometimes and don’t fear that.

    9)Yes and no, I know tons of people who haven’t even heard of me yet would love to hear from me. I continue to blog for both for those who have had the priveledge of reading my posts and those who will find my posts years from now. It is not about me but people who find what I write useful.

    10)I already started that blog just started another one and about to get the 3rd one up and running. Looks like one of my readers will actually be running the 3rd one though.

    Looks like I don’t suffer IS as much as I thought hmmm. I constantly though hear about how much I am an expert in one subject or another and I know I am not so self diagnosis says I greatly suffer from IS.

    Looks like I may suffer but can overcome great post Darren

  15. Believing in yourself sometimes might be the hardest thing to do.
    Be positive on a persistent basis will help to achieve what you need, and it can be applied on blogging too.

    Thanks for this precious article and questionnaire.

  16. @aizal

    no worries. I glad you enjoyed post and the questionnaire.

    Did you see the interactive flash charts on the reporting website? Did you find them useful?

  17. Interesting post! I’m relieved I don’t suffer from that impairment. I am so ready to become the first ever Six-Figure Left Thumb ProBlogger!

  18. I’m a very new blogger – and I’m freaking out…lol. I’ve realised that if I want to blog I can’t be anonymous anymore. I have to ‘show may face’ and ‘own’ the comments I make. This puts a whole new dimension on what I say and how I say it. Blogging makes you have an accountability – especially if you want to build a ‘product’.

    Well – it seems that I suffer greatly from IS. (I should be in the hospital! lol) At first I thought ‘Oh, no – how can I fix this’, but then I realised that ‘suffering’ from IS is only a (necessary) short term thing that I suppose all beginner bloggers go through. The reason why we go through this is because we KNOW that there is always someone better than us out there. It makes us second guess ourselves. But that is what drives me – to be better, no in fact – I want to be the best!

    So, welcome to my ‘coming out’ comment on Problogger. (I’ve been watching you all for a very long time…lol.) And I look forward to being a contributing member of this community.

  19. Yes to 7 out of 10. But technically couldn’t I just be a crappy blogger and have answered 7 out of 10 as a yes too?

    I think I just came up with #11. You took this test and saw it as an indictment of you blogging skills.

  20. do you have a question and answer section like shoemoney ?

  21. @Adi
    No but there is an eBook and reporting website that might answer some questions. or just contact me directly.

  22. Great let’s invent another ‘Syndrome’ and allow people that have real problems to hide behind it. What you’re describing (and go some way to acknowledging at the very end) is self esteem issues with maybe some other problems such social anxiety thrown in for good measure.

    One or two of your suggestions could indeed be helpful to people with mild cases, but for anybody ticking yes to more than 4 or 5 of those questions, they’ll be unlikely to offer any help.

    In my experience it’s seldom not enough to tell people what to do, you need to tell them how to do it.

  23. Ha! I agree with DOOOM!! i believe people underestimate my brillance!

  24. So interesting. As a 31-year-old lawyer I’ve read a lot about imposer syndrome — it’s very common among women, particularly successful ones.

    I have different kinds of IS for my different jobs, I think — for my day job (lawyer at a BigLaw firm), I’m crippled with self-doubt and second-guessing — a simple e-mail can take 2-3 hours to send. As a anonymous fashion blogger, though, I’m totally fine with the writing and intellectual stuff — but I’m terrified that someone will figure out who I am and say, like, “THAT girl was trying to give advice on fashion? She always looked so weird.”

    So, um, yeah. But great post in general; thank you!

  25. This is a great post, so interesting, I thought that the fact people are hiding behind a computer will help them get more self confidence, but after being in the internet marketing world for a year, i must say I see all types.

    Thanks for sharing

  26. Hi Darren,

    I really like this series.

    I would also like to add something that I have found that fits into a description of an Imposter Blogger – bloggers who try to imitate other successful bloggers.

    I would rather read bloggers who are themselves and are true to their own, unique voice. I understand that people want to be popular and get tons of comments, but bloggers need to understand, and you mention this, is that good blogging takes years to master.

    Thanks for all your insights.

  27. I’m sorry, I just realized Clarke Scott wrote this post. Sorry Clarke. It is a very good post. E

  28. Fern R says: 06/25/2008 at 4:52 am

    “I have different kinds of IS for my different jobs, I think — for my day job (lawyer at a BigLaw firm), I’m crippled with self-doubt and second-guessing — a simple e-mail can take 2-3 hours to send.”

    As someone with a JD but who has decided not to practice, I can totally relate!!! I always feel so surprised when I find a source that supports what I was saying…I think to myself, “I was right all along, who knew?!”

  29. @Ellen
    no worries :)

    Thank you to every one for all your kind words, and to the people that have contacted me directly to say thanks for the post. At the time of writing this post, I didn’t realize how much this post would ‘speak’ to people.

    Positive Psychology says: we all have strengths and weaknesses. It puts forward 24 positive strengths such as curiosity, love of learning, social intelligence. We will be high in some and low in others. Once identified we can then leverage our innate strengths or what Positive Psychology calls our signature strengths, while working on the development of the strengths that we are low in. Yes, we call all develop and improve our low strengths.

    I have written a free eBook for bloggers to help identify those strengths and I have built a reporting website so that individuals can see their own scores and compare them to other bloggers. You can get the eBook and signup here http://positiveblogger.net it is completely free.

    Positive Psychology has a lot to say about mental ‘wellness’. By understanding ourselves better we can gain confidence in who we really are and so IS episodes become less frequent.

    Thanks everyone for the comments :)

  30. Tooooooo funny! The timing of this post is so perfect for me. Every Tues I post a tutorial on my blog, and today’s doesn’t show the “finished” product nicely all done up like I normally do. Why? The edges were not to my standard and I was terrified that viewers would see me as a fake and not good at what I do. I know my high number of hits say I’m good at what I do, but I still won’t believe it, or my husband. Not even your article can change my mind. Guess I’m in your “women’s” stat alright!

  31. @beth
    understanding why we do what we do is good for all of us regardless of gender.

    as a aside point:
    Also, doing things RIGHT is different to being obsessing over it to the point that you become unhappy. If doing things right makes you happy, gives you energy rather than sucking it away. This would be a case of the mind being prudence. And prudence is one of the personal strengths asserted by positive psychology.

  32. Clarke, you have no idea what astonishingly good timing this is! Thank you so much, superb post.

  33. My pleasure Sue, I glad you got something from it :)
    Actually I enjoyed writing this post…I like being helpful

  34. I like reading the comments here. Yes Clarke you hit a nerve and that is great. I wonder if it is in fact true that women suffer this more than men. I have some male blogger friends who always want some feedback before they post, so to me that seems like they may too have IS. I have a master’s in Psych and my blog http://www.theadvicegirl.wordpress.com deals with self esteem issues. Thanks again.

  35. Phew.. glad to know I am not suffering from any of these. But I guess the main reason the majority of us can be in that group of self confident bloggers is that most probably we are talking about things we know about or things that we have a vast knowledge about. Afterall it’s obvious that one goes a long way when they are holding the hand of truth..

  36. @Wakas Mir
    Actually there are people with PhD that suffer from IS, while others have the courage-of-a-stupid-person. It is not about knowledge, rather self confidence, awareness and perception.

    @veronicaromm gender shouldn’t be raised here. Because the studies only report the information. However, there are many men suffer form IS also. It just happens to be something according to the studies that women suffer more from it than men.

    This is not about putting women down. There are differences in gender, and there is empirical data proving this. It doesn’t follow from this statement that one gender is better than the other. Simply put, all humans, regardless of gender, are all equal in terms of our human value but, we are different in terms of our cultural, psychological and physiological makeup.

    I think men suffer from COSP far more than women, if that makes you feel better. The above comment is an example of that :)

  37. The Impostor Syndrome is the underlying feeling that you are not as smart, skilled, or talented as people think you are. It’s a dread that people will find out you are faking it.

    How do you know if you suffer from The Impostor Syndrome? In his book, The Impostor Syndrome: How to Replace Self-Doubt with Self-Confidence and Train Your Brain for Success, John Graden outlines some possible indicators:

    1. Do you sometimes not speak up because you feel people will realize you’re not as smart as they think you are?
    2. Do you find it hard to accept praise?
    3. Is it difficult for you to take credit for your accomplishments?
    4. Do you feel like a fake and fear you are going to be found out soon?
    5. Are you a perfectionist who is terrified of making a mistake?

    Find out more about The Impostor Syndrome at http://www.JohnGraden.com

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