Being surrounded by incredibly talented people and feeling totally overwhelmed seems to pounce on every creative person I know. At most conventions I go to, including DragonCon, sometimes I sit and think, 'Wow, everyone around me is so talented and accomplished and I am a potato who somehow toppled into this party by mistake.'
The feeling goes by many names but imposter syndrome is the most recent and seems to have connected with a lot of people. It's a feeling everyone seems to get in one way or another. Some of the people I admire most in the world have admitted they feel the same way; that at any second, someone is going to ask 'What are you doing here? You don't belong.' and that will be the end of your charade as a potato trying to make it in this crazy world.
What makes dealing with this even more challenging is that the voice telling you that you don't belong sounds so rational. 'Your friend has an agent and five books out. Your mentor has written 15 novels. What have you done?'
It sounds totally logical to you and that makes it seem all the more real. The feeling starts small and soon you're sitting in silence, scared to say anything in the conversation because what if that statement accidently outs you as a fake? Besides, it's not like you, little potato, can contribute to the discussion anyways.
There's not an easy way to deal with the feeling. If there were it wouldn't be such a phenomena effecting so many people in so many different industries. Social media certainly doesn't help either. On the internet you see the polished up, filtered and perfectly hashtagged life that someone is creating, not the three hours they spent that morning staring at the wall because they couldn't get a word onto the page.
Here are five things that have helped me overcome potato feels and start being a functioning member of the world again.
1. Do something. Anything.
It can be something as little as cleaning a part of your desk, sending an email you've been meaning to send, or reading a book in your to be read pile. Accomplishing something can help give you a boost of feel-good energy to get back on your feet.
2. Help someone else.
Somewhere out there is someone looking at you and thinking you're the most talented, lucky person in the room. Someone out there wants your help. Help someone and get out of your own head for just a little while. The space will help.
3. Write for 10 minutes. Or even just five.
Write anything, everything. It doesn't have to make sense; just write out anything that pops into your head, get it out of your head and into the universe. Try to write past the point that it's all negative.
4. Tell someone you feel like a potato.
Find that one friend you can confess to. Saying the words out loud helps take some of their power away, and I bet your friend will say they feel that way too. You're not alone.
5. No one knows what they're doing.
Really listen to the people around you. When I open my ears and stop wallowing in my own self-pity and potatoness I hear that my friends don't know what they're doing. They all have things going wrong and are trying to do the best they can with what they have.
There's no quick and easy cure for feeling this way, but it isn't a permenant place you have to stay in. You're not an imposter and don't let that fear stop you.