top of page
  • Writer's pictureZara Oteng


I have spent years stalling myself. Hundreds of days, thousands of hours.


When my therapist mentioned imposter syndrome, I recognised myself. Still, I was surprised when I caught my reflection in the mirror she held up to me.

I do not know how I got here. I have always thought of myself as confident. On the exterior I am outgoing, I like to laugh and make jokes, and I find people fascinating. I have big dreams, and in many ways I see no reason I shouldn’t achieve them. So there is this outward, surface-level confidence regarding my personal faculties – I know that I am friendly, kind, capable, pretty. But somewhere, painfully embedded within my innards, resides a tangle of self-doubt and low confidence, radiating waves of uncertainty, until that became the dominant creed. Until it ultimately debilitated me.


Over the last few years, this anxiety about my self-perceived ineptitude and unworthiness grew into somewhat of an uncanny monster, shrouding me in a private darkness.  It wove its tentacles through almost every aspect of my life. Until recently, I worked hard to maintain a façade of self-belief and strength, unwilling to allow even those closest to me to see this vulnerability. But I was unable to bear the weight of the pretence, so I dropped the charade.


My writing work has been deeply affected. I have found it almost impossible to write, though certainly not for lack of ideas. Instead, I am often overcome by an irrational fear and a sense of disgust with my work. It is never good enough, as though I expect every sentence to resonate with brilliance and wit.


Once I stopped pretending, I was able to interrogate the fear. Inside it, I found all sorts of limiting beliefs, among them: I will make a fool out of myself; I will ultimately fail, I am unqualified, insignificant, untalented. Imposter syndrome is a contradictory, delusional beast. Rationally, I know those things are untrue. But every time I tried to write, I heard the whispers of a big, bad inner critic, tearing down every attempt. The critic is bigger and badder than any bravado I might have and its grating voice tells me I’m not good enough to call myself a writer, that my work lacks substance. It tells me that I need to be brilliant, and that my work is not.


That I am not brilliant.


But the wonderful thing about writing – indeed, about existing – is that it doesn’t require brilliance. With this realisation, I was able to discount this particular argument the inner critic put forward.


So I here I am, starting small with this blog post. Even now, I am not so impressed by it and I really want to be brilliant. But it is honest, it is liberating, it is something. So for the time being, I can put ‘brilliance’ aside. I am striving to return to my work as a writer. For me, it is more important that I establish a meaningful relationship with my work and creativity, one not wholly defined by perfectionism, not so entirely stifled by self-doubt and self-denial. I cannot continue to languish, torturing myself by not permitting my self-expression, then being further lacerated as I fall through the shame-spiral for suffering so.

110 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Feb 23

Leaving aside concerns about ‘brilliance’ (& its definitions) this is an extremely lucid and well expressed piece of writing, genuine and vulnerable yet incisive. And concise. No real ‘flab’ or filler. So there’s that…..🙂

PS I’m a BA Hons Oxon in English and History and have taught English language and literature at A level ☺️

Zara Oteng
Zara Oteng
Feb 23
Replying to

Wow, thank you! I will gladly take this feedback, since you have expertise in this area. It means a lot, I appreciate it. X

bottom of page