How to Keep Your Blogging Confidence: A Look at Impostor Syndrome

March 11, 2015

I've been thinking a lot about the different reasons we might have reading and/or blogging slumps (because I'm currently in one).

There are a whole bunch of them out there: maybe you just came off of a really amazing or soul-crushing read and now have a book hangover; or maybe you're burned out on books and could do with a break; or maybe you're just reading the wrong book, or too many books, or too many of the wrong books!

Certainly these are things all book bloggers deal with that can have a real effect on how much blog content they're generating, but I want to talk about something different: an insidious thing called impostor syndrome. According to the definition I ganked from Wikipedia (italics are mine):
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.
(Note: I know there are some great non-lady book bloggers out there, but the book blogging community seems to be primarily made up of women. Humor me here!)

We most often hear about this phenomenon in reference to women who have high-powered or traditionally male-dominated careers, but it's absolutely applicable to blogging, too. Do these thoughts sound familiar to anyone?
  • "Are my judgments about this book wrong/stupid/unfounded?"

  • "Why would anyone take my thoughts about this book seriously?" 

  • "When will my readers figure out that I'm just winging it and call me out on it?"
I think these are somewhat normal feelings for new bloggers to have when they're first getting their legs under them and building up readership, but I would also wager that plenty of established writers have them now and again (or perhaps more often than that). After all, we're not Wonder Women here.

Whenever I start feeling impostor syndrome creep up on me, I try to remind myself of a few things.
  1. First and foremost, my blog is for me. Do I love having readers and interacting with them? Of course! It's one of the main reasons I blog. Ultimately, though, I write for myself. As Leah told a commenter recently, this isn't The New York Times. 
  2. Do I ever look back on posts and cringe? Sure. Does that mean I'm a bad writer/reviewer who should close up shop? No way! It means that I'm becoming a more critical, thoughtful reader and writer. I know that, as I move forward, I will be grateful for this ongoing record of how I've grown.
  3. I have yet to come across anyone in the book blogging community who was not supportive of other bloggers. I personally have not had anyone tear down my ideas or writing or be otherwise non-constructively nasty. I'm sure those people are out there, but I'm thankful to have surrounded myself with bloggers interested in positive, productive engagement. Bring on the friendly debate!
Here's a big thank you to everyone who contributes to such a vibrant, reflective community and helps me to feel like I have something worth saying.

Do you experience impostor syndrome? How about my male (or non-binary) readers? What do you do to combat it?

 Happy Women's History Month, everyone!

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  1. I'd never heard of impostor syndrome before but it's making all the bells in my head ring because ohhh yeah, I've been there.

    It's great that you haven't come across any jerky jerks :D Those people are to be avoided at all cost. I've made liberal use of the mute/unfollow button in the past for just that reason.

  2. Yup, it's a real thing!

    And I definitely know they're out there... thankfully, they've decided to leave my blog alone for now. I'll have to get familiar with my mute button when the day comes. ;)

  3. I've felt like this sometimes. Heck, a lot of the time. In the 6 years I've been blogging, I've run four or five different blogs, and I eventually reach the point where I just wonder why I'm bothering any more. It's especially hard when there's so many more book bloggers than there was in 2009. You have to wonder how do I stand out in such a small pond with so many fish?

    Probably the worst thing I've ever encountered was the whole idea stealing thing. I know stealing is a harsh word to use, but every month I used to do a round-up of all the books released that month - no one else had ever done that particular post from what I had ever seen, and I had been doing it since 2009, but within the space of a couple of months in 2012/2013 2 other bloggers (of the same genre) started the exact same post, and always posted it a few days before mine. For me, that was the beginning of the end of me being a particular genre blogger. I didn't want to be the same blogger as those who had copied my idea, because they couldn't come up with their own.

    Now, I blog for me. I only post reviews at the moment, and doubt I will ever do any sort of feature I've thought of (because I don't want what happened above to happen again) but I'm happy just reviewing. I'm happy being a little blogger, with no expectation and none of the stress that comes with accepting review copies. I'm finally a content blogger, and I'm doing it for the love of reading, and not anything else and that makes me a very happy blogger.

    I would rather have just ONE comment from a fellow blogger, telling me they enjoyed my review and/or the book I've reviewed than 1000 page views. I want friendships, not status.

    This is a great post Shaina, kudos for posting xx

  4. I love this post, Shaina. I definitely have impostor syndrome. I feel that way a lot of them when writing posts, which I know is silly because a lot of people seem to like and appreciate my reviews and posts, but I think it's just something that's hammered into the way women think and feel by our society. This post is thought provoking and really interesting. Thanks for posting!

    Thank you for the reminder to think positively. I do enjoy sometimes going back on my posts from when I first started and seeing how much my writing and reviews have grown.

    Also, we love having you here in the community, and I'm really glad you haven't encountered any jerks.

  5. Absolutely love this Shaina! And it's not at all where I thought you were going when I saw the title of your post. It's funny because the other day I added to my Post Idea List "On Feeling Legit (like how long do I need to do something to feel legit)" This was related to something quilty but it applies to pretty much everything I do. Even after blogging for almost 8 years I still question myself, my blog, my posts. Thanks for the reminder that we need to give ourselves more credit.

  6. Charlie (The Worm Hole)March 12, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    Those bullet points - oh yes. Especially the first; it's easy to think you've got it 'wrong', and easier to then forget that you can learn from everyone's views so they're all valid. Blend that with the third point and... yeah, bye bye confidence.

    I try my best to forget it and to remember that it happens to all of us.

  7. Great advice here, Shaina, thanks for this post. I just started blogging recently and really only did so because I would read a book and feel the need to write about it. At times I feel like I'm shouting into the void, but I also remind myself just what you do: I'm doing this for me. If others want to come along for the ride and we end up with a clown car community, all the better.

    As for whether men suffer from this malady or not, I would venture they do, but would be curious at what rate as opposed to women. This whole subject reminds me of an elevator conversation I had with a senior partner of my (then) law firm 20+ years ago. My friend Bill and I asked him how long it took before he felt like he wasn't just faking it every day. His response: "I'll let you know when I get there." And I can say that after 20+ years of practicing law, I still feel that way.

    On the plus side, and excuse me for rambling on here, I do think that feeling this way keeps us wanting to improve and learn and be better. There should be a more positive way to do it, but it does fight complacency.

  8. No doubt about the plague of impostor syndrome. I think most of us feel that tug between blogging for us and loving the sense of community/validation that comes from responses - it can be hard not to worry what people will think sometimes. Your reminders are great, though, particularly number 3...the community can whip itself into a bit of drama at times, but it's always very supportive.

  9. Great post, Shaina. It is SO hard sometimes not to worry about what people reading your blog will think, the judgments they might be making about what you write.

  10. I think I'm great at everything all the time.

  11. Just kidding, I think the opposite of that. Both in blogging and in my "real life" endeavors (college, career, etc.). Especially recently, it's been really hard for me at film school to say yes to people asking for visual effects help. I always think eeeehhh I'm probably not the best person to do that. And I feel that a lot with my book reviews, too. If you could see the number of abandoned book reviews in my drafts, you'd be appalled. It's definitely the community that keeps me going, though! If I can get someone interested in a book, I definitely feel a swell of accomplishment that keeps me going for the day.

  12. I completely relate to that feeling. Like, "Why do they think I'M qualified to do this thing?"

    I'm glad that the community keeps you coming back. I agree that successfully recommending a book is such a great feeling.

  13. Right? Even though we all make it clear that these blogs are about our opinions and thoughts... and yet, we still don't feel confident expressing them. =\

  14. Ugh, that does sound annoying! Certainly we all post similar content (we can only be SO original, after all), but it's a shame you were so blatantly copied. It would have been cool if it became a link-up-type post instead of a competition.

    I agree that I love comments far more than views, and I'm trying to be better about responding. It's so easy to get caught up in generating a new post rather than continuing the conversation on old ones.

    I'm glad to hear that you've found your happy place with blogging, and I hope it continues to be that way for you! :)

  15. Drama definitely does happen, but I've almost NEVER encountered people just being uselessly nasty, like insulting someone's writing or thoughts rather than responding in a more constructive way. The closest was that comment Leah got recently. I'm glad my blog has been a troll-free zone thus far.

    It is a tough balance, and I'm glad so many of us think it's worthwhile to keep trying. :)

  16. No problem! I'm glad you could relate... well, not REALLY glad, because that means you're doubting yourself, but I'm happy you got something out of my post. :)

    I've never tried quilting, so I can guarantee you are a far more legit quilter than I will ever be. The one you made for your sister and her husband was gorgeous, by the way!

  17. That's the only way to deal with it, I think!

    It's funny how common this idea of being "wrong" about books comes in... perhaps from all the lit analysis we have to do in school? Certainly there are points that you can support with more evidence than you could others, but to say that someone's reaction to a book is wrong seems... odd.

  18. I'll try my best and remember your advice. There are a lot of judgemental people ugh! I got judged by a blogger who became furious about my review…it was so ugh! I couldn't contain the fury I had within HAHAHA not to sound too dramatic HAHA

    Blogging should be about yourself not for other people. Sometimes people get it wrong. *Sigh

  19. This is something Amanda Palmer talks about a little bit in The Art of Asking. I don't really have this problem with blogging, at least not consciously, but I do come up against it in other areas of my life. I tend to ignore it and keep doing what I'm doing until the feeling passes, or at least gets a little quieter.

  20. Samantha @ Bookish SerendipityMarch 16, 2015 at 5:50 PM

    Great discussion! I definitely blog for me but as my blog started to grow, I started to think more and more about what my readers thought. I certainly get Imposter Syndrome every once in a while, but I'm getting better at dealing with it!

  21. HAh! You have reminded me just how grateful I should be for my self-confidence sense of entitlement!! 😃 I never catch myself stressing about what anyone thinks of my posts. This is all about ME, for once!! 😃 That's what I love about blogging! Nice post!

  22. There definitely are some judgmental people out there, even in the blogging world. :( That's ridiculous that someone got that upset about your review. It's easy enough to close a window if you don't like what you're reading...

    Absolutely right that it should be for you above all!

  23. I got started for the same reason you did! My blog started as an outlet for my thoughts on what I'd read and as a way of helping myself remember my books. I found myself reading a whole lot and not retaining as much as I wanted to. I'm glad that we've both managed to find community in putting our thoughts into words. :)

    That's such an interesting story! I do think that more people than we might think feel like they're "winging it" when it comes to work/hobbies/life. Perhaps the reason impostor syndrome seems to afflict women more is because there's so much more (spoken or unspoken) pressure for women to prove themselves as competent, whereas men may be given the benefit of the doubt more freely.

    And yes, I fully agree that it helps us fight stagnation! I just wish it didn't come with such awful mental repercussions. It's quite the balancing act.

  24. Just seeing this comment and first I want to say "Yay" for you finding a blogging space where you're contended. I love the 1 interested commenter v. 1,000 page views thought and I feel the same way. Having said those things, I'm a bit sad you're not doing features you've thought of, as I'm guessing they would be interesting content. When the downside outweighs your ability to stay content, something is wrong with the system. I hope you'll reconsider at some point, but until then, stay happy!

  25. Definitely would if I could, trust me!! :)

  26. I think the difference is that not only am I my own boss, but I've been writing for years, so I have the self confidence and assurance that I know what I'm doing. Also, my blog is mostly opinion based. While readers can disagree with my opinions, they can't say that I don't know what I'm writing about.

  27. Those are some really good points. I'm glad you've got at least one thing in your life that you feel very sure about! I hope to get there someday. :)

  28. I consider it an intense modesty problem, bordering low self-esteem. I wouldn't call it a syndrome though. For me, i either come off as hating everything I do or being egotistical to mask the fact that I hate everything I do. It's a problem, I know.

    When I blog, I don't usually think about my accomplishments but when I don't get comments on my posts and things I work hard on, that's when I start to feel a little bad. I question if people like the stuff I write or if they just put up with me.