Marissa Miller on Imposter Syndrome and Embracing Your Weirdness

Marissa Miller on impostor syndrome and embracing your weirdness

In Author Conversations, Beyond the Cover by Kevin Gray

Marissa Miller on Imposter Syndrome and Embracing Your Weirdness

Montreal-based journalist Marissa Miller’s recently published book pulls stories from her life, dissecting the events, relationships, and influences that shaped her over the past 29 years. From growing up in a Jewish community to experiencing personal hardship and navigating a fast-moving career, Miller doesn’t mince words or water down the details. Instead, Pretty Weird: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome and Other Oddly Empowering Lessons is an honest portrayal of her life — the good, the bad, and the humorous.

The series of true stories is sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, and always relatable. Throughout it all, Miller shows being too normal to stand out, yet too weird to fit in, might be where all the magic happens.

Here, we sit down with Miller to discuss her new book, impostor syndrome, and the value of telling it like it is.

Scribd: How was the transition from journalist to author? Was it difficult to string together 240 coherent pages when your day-job is centered around standalone articles?

Marissa Miller: I liken writing journalism and book publishing to working different muscle groups on different days of the week so as to avoid overtraining. I found it to be such a relief to get to work on my book at the end of a long day of reporting because it quite literally activated new regions of my brain that had been dormant throughout the day. I wouldn’t say I’ve fully transitioned to author, but I’ve simply added it to my list of new identities I need to adjust to.

Scribd: By all accounts (successful journalist, published author, parent to two cute cats) you seem to have your life together. What causes you to feel like an impostor even when the facts say you're not?

MM: My impostor syndrome stems primarily from not having had these things for the majority of my life. It’s taken me so much time for my brain to catch up with my accomplishments and begin to internalize them, so during that transition away from the weird kid who can’t go a single day without saying something horribly profane to becoming a journalist with an important message to send about self-acceptance, I lived in this liminal space of feeling fraudulent. The success deviates so far from the small and unremarkable life I expected of myself, and that rings true for many self-identified impostors. I also see it as a cognitive distortion I experience as a response to the way women are expected to be so humble about our achievements that we end up writing them off entirely as coincidence or luck. God forbid we threaten anyone by acknowledging our own competence.

Scribd: Pretty Weird is a brutally honest portrayal of your life and experiences. Why was it important to you to give readers this unfiltered look into your life?

MM: My book serves to be a reminder that everything you’re ashamed about, everything that makes you weird, is precisely what makes you worthy of love and success. It’s only when I learn about the completely unfiltered aspects of someone’s life that I can fully relate to them and feel seen, and that’s what this book aims to do. I wanted to erode the shame surrounding everything from mental health to rejection to assault, and the only way to do that fairly was to be a shining example to my readers. I’m sort of a martyr in that way, in that I completely humiliated myself among these pages. My goal is for these candid issues about everything from bodily functions to professional rejection to no longer sting.

Scribd: Beyond overcoming impostor syndrome, what other empowering lessons do you hope people gain from your book?

MM: We traditionally look at impostor syndrome as a response to professional success, but I wanted to showcase that it crops up in more insidious places, like our relationships with our loved ones and with ourselves. For example, I never thought I was worthy of treatment for my eating disorder, because I didn’t fit the common profile of what an eating disorder patient might look like, and I’ve long been unable to advocate for myself in romantic relationships because I was too preoccupied with making myself seem palatable instead of leaning into who I am. Nothing good ever comes from hiding who you are. I use strong language and paint difficult scenes in the book as an entryway into breaking these sorts of barriers. Soon my foul mouth will become the norm and we’ll all stop feeling so alone in our weirdness.

Scribd: Some of the world's most interesting people are “weird.” You argue that “you can be both weird and worthy.” Is weirdness a virtue? 

MM: I don’t know if it’s a virtue so much as a facet of our identity we all encompass. Weirdness is like a fingerprint that looks different on everyone, but it manifests the same way. It’s the part of yourself you’ve been taught to neglect or iron out to conform to social norms, but the part of yourself that makes you feel most at home when finally explored. It’s only once we connect with and accept our weirdness that we can foster deeper bonds, and, in my case, inspire others to get weird, too.

Scribd: Where does a 29-year-old with a memoir go from here? Do you have plans for another book or any other goals on your immediate agenda? Basking in your success is also acceptable.

MM: In true impostor fashion, I’ve been having a hard time basking because I’m putting so much pressure on myself to get started on my second book. Writing it was pretty taxing so I want to give myself a chance to reset before I fully dive in again — even though I do spend the majority of my waking hours mapping out my next book in my head.

Scribd: As you began working on your book, did you turn to any favorite authors for inspiration?

MM: The same way some people require porn to get aroused, so too did I need to read to get into the writing headspace. My literary inspirations have lately been a mixed bag of comedians, pop-culture critics, and journalists. I’ll devour anything by Samantha Irby, Chuck Klosterman, Haruki Murakami, Karin SlaughterMelissa BroderLindy WestGinny HoganAnne T. DonahueHannah Orenstein, and Greg Mania.

Read Pretty Weird now on Scribd!


About the Author: Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer covering all things lifestyle, including food, drinks and travel, and his work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Men's Health, and other outlets. The Cormac McCarthy canon sits at the top of his favorites, but he can't resist a good whodunnit.
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