An awkward dance with the devil
This author and poet writes about how she deals with impostor syndrome—which she calls her “dance partner”—and how it affects her craft.
by D.A. Andrews
The first time I held a pen was an awkward experience. I remember learning to write cursive—something the teachers were beginning to think of as a lost art. The pen felt heavy in my tiny fingers, and everything I wrote was barely legible. I was unsure of myself, unsure of my hand to be able to use this piece of equipment to create anything. I just knew that I wanted to learn, and with trial and error, I eventually got it. However, the business of being unsure of myself never quite seemed to go.
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Impostor syndrome (IS) is a funny little thing: never quite settling in at certain points, and settling in incredibly too well at other times. Nevertheless, it’s always there in the background—at least it is for me. My cycle, at least, starts with a glimmer of hope. That one moment when you go, “A-ha! I have an idea.” It’s when our dance begins. I put one step forward, put pen to paper (often finger to notes app) so the thought does not evade me and IS takes one step back. It’s at this point I feel like I am leading the dance.
Each day I think I don’t deserve this—to see my words in articles, interviews, reviews, and worst, in my own books.
The procrastination sets in next. I close the app, shut the book I jotted notes in, and never think of the idea again until I feel it’s time to write. This is where IS starts to take the lead. It’s slow at first, sort of like a calf beginning to take its first steps. And then it just knows: what steps to take, what areas to lead me, what moves I cannot particularly resist. It gets surer of itself as the music continues. As I pick up my pen and begin writing, the slow steps turn quicker. And when the manuscript is complete, it gets more confident until it seems I have been left on the floor and IS is leading a sort of twisted (albeit interesting) conga line of doubt, depression, and anxiety around me.
I suppose it’s present at this very moment. Gently coaxing me to sing its praises instead of shining light on its scarier qualities. Like how it gets louder upon completion of a project you should very well be proud of. How it set in for six months after my first book and again for the past four months since my second. Each day I think I don’t deserve this—to see my words in articles, interviews, reviews, and worst, in my own books.
Ever since I learned the name of my dance partner, its power over me isn’t as strong.
It’s one thing to think that you don’t belong. It’s another to think that you are a fraud. It’s even worse to have both thoughts at the same time about something you created with your blood and sweat. I can’t say that I always allow it to take the lead. I used to allow it to bring me to tears. Often I was quite sure that I never deserved to publish, that my words were not important, and who would ever want to read my work?
Don’t get me wrong, I still have these thoughts. But ever since I learned the name of my dance partner, I suppose its power over me isn’t as strong. And I believe I have my therapist to thank for that sentiment. Because when something inside me has a name other than my own, it’s much easier for me to see it as something I have and not something I am.
So, I suppose we may be dance partners for life. There may be times it takes the lead, there will be times I do. Regardless, this dance is only that, a dance with something else that is not me. I don’t particularly know where it began, why it started, and I gather therapy will help me find out. But it’s slightly comforting to know that maybe, just maybe, IS isn’t telling the truth.
D.A. Andrews was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Throughout the years, she has developed wide interests in various aspects of life, such as coffee, weddings, books, and psychology. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, with a BSc in marine biology and psychology (honors) and is currently pursuing her MBA. She considers herself a nomad at heart and changes cities and apartments quite as often as she changes her clothes. She is currently resting her head in Brunswick, Georgia, with her black cat (and familiar), Luna.
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