And How To Combat It
An inalienable fact about Autistics is that we tend to struggle at life more than the average neurotypical.
This is particularly true of female Autistics, who face greater barriers to get diagnosed, and find it harder to ger support when they are. It doesn't particularly help that common co-morbids of Autism are the Trauma Twins: Anxiety and Depression. As such, on the occasion that Autistic people find themselves succeeding, we promptly find ourselves taking up arms against Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon most predominantly marked by feeling inadequate to or unworthy of their success or the nice things other people say about them. Another hallmark is to continually downplay their achievements and struggle to accept compliments without trying to minimise, which can sometimes come off as false modesty. While certainly not limited to Autistic and other Neurodiverse people, Imposter Syndrome is probably the most common in that demographic.
I've written before on Vocal about my own struggles as an Autistic woman. The struggle to get diagnosed, the struggle to find and keep a job, the struggle to work out social cues and the ever-changing acceptable topics of conversation. The hard work I've put into writing and publishing my books and my articles on Vocal and Medium, and how discouraging it can be to have that go seemingly un-noticed.
As it turns out, I'm not that much better when it comes to having my work recognized.
In early 2019, I published the first novelette of what would soon become a series, based off a Tumblr Screenshot about the unfortunate Costuming Department responsible for clothing time travellers. The first time I brought it to one of my Medieval Faire bookstalls, thinking LARPists and Historical Re-enactors would get a giggle or two out of it... I sold out on the first day and got swarmed on the second day by people asking when the next book would be out.
At that point, I hadn't expected it to be popular enough for a second book, but promptly got to writing. The series gradually became a small but consistent seller.
The screenshot itself crops up with a certain amount of regularity, allowing me to promote myself for a few extra sales, and early last year, I started opening the Facebook comments to find a reader had beaten me to it.
Suddenly, ratings on that series started to climb, along with sales and kindle pages read.
I had no idea how to handle this. The series had started almost as a joke, and continued mostly when I was stuck for inspiration on other books and needed a laugh. How had it reached such popularity? Didn't the readers know that I was a mediocre writer who had never won a competition since High School, when I was in an English class of spectacularly uninterested Jocks and Science nerds?
What was going on?
Less than two weeks ago, on March 19th, I published my third Jane Austen Variation. The inbuilt audience meant that my first Fantasy Variation, "Changeling Child"(2021), and the short story anthology "The Paths Not Taken" (2022) had both reached about 30 pre-orders, and had a month or two of decent sales before tapering off. Not bad for an Indie Author steering away from the Steamy Romances and more popular storylines, but hardly the fame or success reached by some of the more Big Name Fan Authors.
The pre-orders for "Every Possibility of Future Happiness" had been slow to gain momentum, being a rather niche subject, and I told myself that I'd be happy if it matched the success of the other tow.
At the risk of sounding like Buzzfeed Clickbait, I could not believe what happened next!
Over $300 in royalties for that book alone! More than 50,000 Kindle pages read! All of my previous records; utterly annihilated! What was going on?
Imposter Syndrome hit, and it hit hard.
I was going to get flooded with 1-star reviews from readers who liked the cover but hated the story, wasn't I? I'd be inundated with refunds, worse than that damn BookTok craze last year. This had to be some kind of system glitch, right?
Luckily, my current day job is full-time, so I could only check my stats on the commute to and from work. It's been nearly two weeks since my book went live, and I'm still reeling. Even with my more popular releases, they only reached a quarter or a third in the first month, of what this book received in less than half that time.
Ultimately, there is no one way to deal with Imposter Syndrome; simply finding a way that works for you.
- Remind yourself of all they reasons why you do, in fact, deserve success or recognition. Your brain can, occasionally, be persuaded.
- Tell yourself that even if the people handing out awards have clearly lost their minds by choosing you of all people, that's a Them Problem, and nothing you can help. Take your blessings as they come.
- Dame Fortune is called 'fickle' for a reason. Enjoy the good things while they last.
- "You are a person, and you deserve to be recognised for your accomplishments". Repeat as needed.
If you find another way that works for you, use that as well.
If you're struggling with Imposter Syndrome or depression, reach out. If a therapist is beyond your means (I've heard horror stories about the US Healthcare System), there are free helplines and charity organisations that you can call instead.
If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.
About the Creator
I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).
I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.
I live in Sydney, Australia
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
This story is a beautiful example of how passion and determination can help overcome difficulties and find happiness. I recommend everyone to read it.
There’s an excellent two part documentary on the BBC IPlayer (apparently useable outside UK) called ‘Inside our autistic minds’. Highly recommended for anyone struggling to understand it.
I honestly really enjoyed reading this alot. I found out I am on the spectrum. I got diagnosed later as an adult, while my boys were both diagnosed around their third birthday, and I definitely feel like there's a lost generation of people who were told that it's just behavioral problems rather than addressing the band aid. Definitely following you for future content. Thank you!
Great job! An important article about several under-discussed topics. We should normalise having this kind of discussion, as I think it’s more common than many think. Especially for women who are either misdiagnosed, missed entirely, or diagnosed late it life, it can be helpful to see representation and helpful tips like these. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on the top story!
Congratulations on your success,also very quality content
Thank you for this, Nat. Though I'm male, I was not diagnosed until I was 56-57. They were testing for clinical depression. The same test is also used for OCD &, yes, I have the trifecta. How you describe Imposter Syndrome has been me my entire life. The last award I received (Lions Club Citizen of the Year), I responded by saying something like, "I hate to think what that means about the rest of you if I'm the best you've got." That poor behavior has haunted me for over five years now. When I was in college, one of my classmates accused me of fishing for compliments & that she wasn't biting. Ever since then, over 40 years now, I have felt worse, asking myself with every self-deprecation if I was really just fishing. At the age of 63 I don't know if I will ever get to where I can do any better than blush & say thank you. So let me say this to you. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable & sharing this with us. Not that it needs to be proven, but this one article demonstrates quite clearly that you are more than worthy. And, as you already should know, you are not alone. Congrats on top story. Blessings.
Fantastic!!! Congratulations on Top Story too!!!
Outstanding Nat. You deserve it all and then some. You will forever be one of the greats to me and it's so heartwarming others are finally noticing too! Congratulations x100 🎉💛🎉
Congratulations on your top story. Fascinating article. 💖
Congratulations on your success and Top Story. Both very well deserved. No Syndrome involved.
Awesome read 📖 ✨❤️😉💯Congratulations on Your Top Story❗😉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉
Congratulations again Natasja! Your success is definitely deserved! 💯 ❤
As a late dx autistic person I can relate! Between learning to unmask and dealing with imposter syndrome, sometimes everything can be overwhelming. Thank you for sharing and congrats on the book!
Congrats on the book. As a late diagnosed autistic person I definitely feel the imposter syndrome of anything going well.
Congratulations 🎊 on your book royalties and congratulations on top story!
Congrats on top story! Well deserved, amazing story!
Congratulations on Top Story and on the success of your publications. Very exciting indeed.
Well Done, Bravo, well written and very interesting
Great article! Congratulations on your Top Story!
Congrats on the TS