Sometimes when I open my laptop, prepping myself to do work, I find that I can’t. If I’m writing, I have no good ideas and nothing I want to say feels good enough anyway. I am behind on my deadlines and know I need to get work done. The weight of my degree, tutoring job and writing fellowship suddenly feel immensely overwhelming.
Intrusive thoughts that make me feel like a fraud inhibit me from managing my workload and often spike my anxiety. It’s called imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome refers to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a fear of being exposed as a fraud. Sometimes I feel this way, but not always.
On good weeks, I manage to go to class, meet all my deadlines, stay up to date with academic readings and uphold a social life. Often, during these weeks, I am optimistic about my future in journalism and how much I can take on.
However, my good weeks are frequently followed by a bad week. And when I’m feeling demotivated, I find myself on social media, which is the worst thing to do. On social media, I look at other people and their achievements and end up feeling even more incapable and inadequate.
Over time, I’ve found that focusing on certain things helps me to move past these stages of self-doubt.
1. Write lists
Writing a list of all my deadlines calms me down. Lists help process workloads as well as select and prioritize what tasks need to be done and when. While my workload previously felt abstract and overpowering, lists offer something more concrete. This curbs my anxiety and makes me feel less incapable.
2. Focus on simple tasks
Sometimes, when I’m having a really bad week, not even lists can motivate me to focus on big tasks. Not doing anything doesn’t help either, particularly when you have a huge workload to tackle. When I don’t have the creative energy to write, I focus on simpler tasks that require less brain energy. This could be doing the dishes or tackling small administrative tasks like replying to emails. Getting simpler tasks completed makes me feel more productive as I regain energy to start working on more daunting projects.
3. Go for a walk or bake something.
These are my coping mechanisms for stressful situations. When I’m anxious, sitting still only heightens this negative energy. I enjoy focusing on physical tasks because it distracts me from my worries while keeping me busy. Afterward, I am usually able to return to my work feeling a lot more relaxed.
4. Remind yourself that you’re worthy.
For me, Imposter Syndrome is temporary. And so, I remind myself that I won’t always feel this way. I also remind myself that my energy and excitement for my work will return. A writer friend of mine told me that when she needs validation, she looks at emails or tweets from editors and colleagues where her work has been complemented. You could keep a notebook where you write down good things people have said to you. Whether you look inward or outward for positive affirmations, what’s important is that you are reminding yourself of your worth.
Doing these things helps me to overcome self-doubt. Your list may be different. Remember to be kind to yourself because, I promise, you are more than enough.