When I was studying my undergrad degree I had a lecturer (he was also the Dean of the law school for half of my studies) who would be present in the room before we started one of his exams.
He would spend the first ten minutes, as we all found our seats and prepped for the three hours ahead, to give a piece of tailored advice to every student in the room. In my five years of studying, I had four subjects with him, which meant four exams and four pieces of advice.
For me, my advice was always the same:
Back yourself, Dominique. You know what you’re talking about, and it’s just your belief in yourself that lets you down.
His advice was always right. I had such a doubt in my ability in not just the exam, but one day I’d be found out as a fraud and I didn’t belong studying law, let alone a double degree.
Fast-forward six years beyond graduating and unfortunately, this doubt in my abilities is still ever-present just resting dormant until I need to put myself out there.
I’ve spoken about imposter syndrome in a previous blog I wrote when I received a promotion. I worked really hard to apply for the new role and was told by a former manager I must have gotten the job because of my ‘pretty smile’.
Whilst I was able to recognise that was complete BS, and that my smile did nothing to get me the new role, kicking off my second year of my master’s degree has dug up those feelings of self-doubt and lack of ability once again- yay for me!
I’m currently doing a summer fiction writing elective, and am loving everything I’m learning. The first half of the course required a balance of theoretical readings, coursework and discussion on a forum with my peers. However, the second half required me to write a 3,000-word fiction story with any theme and genre of my choosing. After the first draft, we were asked to submit the piece to the discussion board and have our peers and lecturer critique it before handing in the completed version a month later.
Immediately my head was flooded with self-doubt and my confidence began to drown. My mind began racing and I felt anxious about putting my work onto a discussion board for people to poke holes.
Many of the course readings in weeks prior spoke about the importance of receiving feedback, and rarely, if not never, will you write a perfect story in one sitting. You need to write the first draft, then scrap most of it and write it again and again until it seems somewhat authentic. From here, you’ll ask for feedback and you’ll soon learn there’s plenty more work to be done.
In theory, I understood feedback wasn’t just a necessary component of the course, but also would be in my aspiring career to write books and stories in the future. The only way I can improve my writing is to keep writing, take feedback (whether I want to hear it or not) and try again.
From these feelings of self-doubt and lack of confidence in my abilities, I decided to harness them and take inspiration to write my short story about a woman whose self-doubt is personified into a ‘friend’. Whilst the feedback I got from my peers after the week of reviewing was overwhelmingly positive, many pointed out their disbelief in the main character just accepting the criticism of the ‘friend’ without fighting back a little more. And I actually agree with this beyond the story itself.
I too should fight back on this idea that I can’t do something or I don’t have the skills or experience to execute it as well as others might. Instead of imposing a sense of self-rejection, I’ll just roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty and see what comes from it.
I entered a short story competition that Facebook has been spamming my feed with for weeks now (well done Zuckerberg- you win!) not for the prospects of receiving money and the glory of winning- despite me being fiercely competitive with everything I do- but to force myself into being uncomfortable and seeing what I can create from that feeling of uneasiness.
If I don’t progress past the first round of the competition at least it came from trying something difficult and I’ll have a short story to add to the portfolio.
For anyone reading who suffers from self-rejection and imposter syndrome, like me, I hope this blog has shown that first, you’re not alone but also that you’re wrong. You are talented and capable of doing what you set your mind to. It may not always result in what you were working towards but what you learn along the way is just as valuable.
One quote Florian often says to me is “shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”, so here’s me telling you to put on your space suit, leave the self-rejection behind and get ready for greatness that’s out of this world.
PS- I will upload the short story to my professional portfolio after I submit it next month for marking.