Impostor Syndrome: Publishing Edition

I’ve been struggling to put this post into words, I think because it explores me personally rather than the industry, so I can’t quite get the words out. I’m not so good at getting personal, especially when it comes to mental health, but I feel like this is a rather common experience for people both in and out of the industry.

People don’t say it enough, but I think getting into publishing is a combination of skill and luck. Your CV, your interview, and your experience definitely outweigh the luck factor, but it would be foolish to say that it doesn’t exist. There’s a whole lot of “right fit for the team” in this industry, and I’ve been rejected from roles with this sentence. That sentence is where I think the luck factor comes in, right hiring manager, right time so to speak, and I often wonder if it was a different set of managers would I have been hired.

This, I think is where my imposter syndrome originates, I had struggled for a year to even make it to interview, but suddenly I had what I thought would be “my dream job”. It has dogged me throughout my career so far making me feel like I should be contributing more, to prove to myself that I deserved the door that opened for me. I still think about it now, that maybe I should start my own newsletter, make a booktube, or at the very least contribute to some of the other publishing stuff floating around. There are so many people in publishing out there doing marvelous things, and some of them aren’t even in the industry yet! But before lockdown I was an incredibly busy person spread slightly too thin, and the idea that I was a fraud for not being more involved seeped in.

My imposter like feelings also stem from the fact that I’m absolutely rubbish at asking for help. I’m the lone ranger type, whispering “sorry I work alone” and walking off toward the horizon, and it’s something I’ve been trying really hard to work on. I often feel like I’m not doing my job properly if I’m asking for help, even though I’d be telling any new starters to never be afraid to ask, but it’s not advice that I’m particularly good at following. Then if I do go on to ask for help I’ll phrase the question with “this may be stupid but” or “I might be being dumb here”, putting the idea in their heads before they’ve even seen the question. Don’t do this.

When I moved into my new assistant role it really exacerbated these feelings. I’d worked closely with the Online Products before joining the team, and so expected the move to be a breeze, but instead I was confronted with the intricacies of running an extensive list of online products. The challenge of learning something completely new really highlighted the issues brought on by my struggle with imposter syndrome, and so I knew it was time to do something about it.
So, here’s what I do to talk myself out of feeling like a fraud in the workplace:

  • Check myself: is this feeling of doubt a reasonable response to my current situation? If not, then I try to pause and look at why I’m feeling this way. Usually my brain is having a good ol’ overthinking session, and it helps remind me that I’m not actually a fraud.
  • Write it down: to contextualize the situation I like to write down why I’m feeling inadequate. For me, taking the thought out of my head and putting it on paper, often shows me that I’m making the feeling worse by overthinking.
  • Talk to my boss: yep, I’ve started doing this. Not directly because I can’t quite admit it, but if I’m worried about something like moving to working primarily from email instead of Trello, they help explain that I am actually doing a good job. They also give me positive affirmation which is something that I hadn’t realised I needed, but it definitely helps combat these feelings.
  • Strengths ‘n’ weaknesses: I think being aware of these is important for a variety of reasons like career development, interviews, and personal growth, but knowing my strengths and weaknesses also helps me combat imposter syndrome.
  • Press pause on social media: you may have noticed that I haven’t been on twitter quite as much, this is because I’ve been actively reducing my use of social media. I’ve been comparing myself to others way too much lately, and unsurprisingly this hasn’t helped with the whole imposter in the industry thing, so I’ve been trying to actively distance myself from the cause.
  • Fight the negative: this one doesn’t always work as I think I’m inherently negative, but I’m trying really hard to push back. I’ve been actively trying to not use the words dumb, stupid, or even silly when describing myself in emails to colleagues. Instead I’ll acknowledge any perceived mistake without talking negatively about myself and get on with fixing it!

Imposter syndrome is so strange, and I don’t think I’ll ever be free of it, but some of the things I’ve been doing to push back against these thoughts have been working. This post is a lot longer than I’d planned but when it comes to this issue I have so much to say, it’s rough and seeps into every aspect of my life making me feel like I don’t belong, so challenging these thoughts has become so important when I can’t talk to others in person.

More Publishing Content from Me
Work Experience Diaries:
Inside Story | Vintage | Seren | University Wales Press 
First Month Publishing Update | Three Month Publishing Update
Six Month Publishing Update | One Year Publishing Update 
When to Quit: Publishing Update | Two Years in Publishing 
Publishing Editions:
Publishing Skills | Dealing with Rejection
Remote Interviews | SYP Podcast ft. Me | Making a Sideways Move

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