The cuckoo is more than a hooting bird that pops out of an ornate clock. It is a real bird, and it is a brood parasite. The cuckoo invades the nest of smaller species of birds, laying its own eggs so that those poor new bird parents now sit atop large eggs. Eventually, these eggs will hatch, and the baby cuckoos will take food meant for the other birds’ young. It’s a clever bit of trickery and laziness on the part of the cuckoo: someone else does all the work.
What does this have to do with impostor syndrome? It means that those of us who feel this are not cuckoo, if you’ll forgive the pun (and I will not blame you if you don’t!). We are not handing off the fruits of our labor for someone else to take over. We are the builders of our own nests and the birds which sit atop our own eggs. In this case, the nests are words, and the eggs are stories. If we handle things with care, the eggs hatch into a finished manuscript, and we send them on their way to fly. Nobody else does this in our stead: we are the bird-makers.
So why do we doubt our ability? Why should we question or envy others’ successes? As creatives, we must coddle our own stories. No brood parasite is coming to take over our words, and we are not rearing something that is not our own. We made these tales.
Impostor syndrome threatens the foundation of our creative endeavors because we sometimes indulge our roiling anxiety that perhaps we didn’t work hard enough. Maybe someone else should have taken over. Maybe we aren’t who we say we are. How could anyone NOT see that we’re frauds? Maybe we’re cuckoos, after all.
We’ve all felt it: artists, writers, musicians, any creative person has at some point felt impostor syndrome. We’ve thought we got away with something naughty, and we tricked people into buying into what we’re selling.
The funny thing is, that’s exactly what advertising is. So why should we creatives not lean into that aspect more than we do? We have to sell our work. Sure, in the dream scenario, teams of people and whole companies pitch in and sell our work for us. But in this day and age, no one is immune from the need to self-promote. It need not feel like trickery to do this. So what can you do if you feel like it is?