I tend to struggle with imposter syndrome.
"Imposter syndrome" generally involves feelings of self-doubt and incompetence, feeling like a fraud, feeling like you don't deserve to be somewhere or do something, etc. Usually these feelings are unfounded, or they may even be in contrast to external, objective success.
WebMD points out that Imposter Syndrome isn't an actual mental health condition, but the term is used to describe a pattern of thinking and a common feeling and experience that many go through.
For lots of people (myself included), imposter syndrome is often linked to your profession. Most of the time I enjoy my work as editor and I'm just focused on writing my articles and getting the paper out every week. But sometimes I start to feel like I don't fit, especially when I start comparing myself with others.
This becomes more obvious for me during the Wyoming Press Association's annual convention, which I attended in Casper this past weekend. This was my second time at press convention. The first time was two years ago, as a reporter, and I felt out of place then. Going as an editor this time, I was worried it would be even worse. I didn't study journalism in college, I don't have as much experience as many who started out at school newspapers and internships, and I sometimes still don't know all the lingo. And at press convention, I'm in a room full of journalists and editors and publishers, many of whom have been in the industry longer than I've been alive. So yeah, I start to feel a little like I don't belong there, a little like - well, an imposter.
I want to be clear, this feeling has never come from other people. No one at press convention has ever snubbed me or looked down on me or not treated me with respect and kindness. In fact, they've quite literally given me a seat at the table. This year when I was late to the editor's roundtable session because my previous session had gone long, I was about to sneak in and sit down in the back corner of the room to listen, but Robb Hicks of The Buffalo Bulletin, who was moderating, instantly motioned me to come join, and others moved over so I could pull up a chair.
Still, I went into press convention already expecting to feel like I wasn't good enough to be there.
This idea got externally challenged the very first night when I walked along the display of first-place winners for the annual Pacemaker Awards contest and saw the Green River Star logo, and my name beside it, come up multiple times. The most Pacemakers I've won in a year before is two, and I've only ever gotten one first place. This year I got five Pacemakers, four of which were first place.
I'm not trying to brag about myself or my achievements. I honestly feel uncomfortable about it. While my love for writing, and my ability to write, is one of the few things I am confident in, I still don't want to come across as boastful or even falsely modest, and I still don't know how to handle praise when others give it to me.
But this year, earning those Pacemakers felt important because it felt validating. It showed me that I did have a place at that convention, and it reminded me that even if I don't have a background in being a journalist or an editor, it doesn't mean I'm not out here doing it anyways. And of course there's always more to learn and room to grow, and that's good, but it doesn't mean I have to be at some high level of perfection to deserve to be present at all.
And the bigger thing is, it's not just about me. Just because my name is on those articles, there's no way I could have done them alone.
I'm only able to write great articles because I have great stories to tell, and they're not my own. They're the stories of our community, of our local government leaders, of our local entrepreneurs and artists, of our friends and neighbors.
And I could never get those stories told without the help and support of my team at the Star, especially Jackie, who works so hard to wear all the hats and keep everything going for us.
And the fact that I work together with all these wonderful people every day to share information and preserve our history and tell their stories - that gives me a place of belonging and purpose, a place where my strengths can join with the strengths of others to create something bigger, a place where I'm not an imposter.