‘I can’t’ ‘you’re no good’ and ‘you’re going to be found out’. I bet my hat (if I was wearing any) that your inner voice has said this to you at least once. But what if this is something it says on a regular basis. All. The. Time. What do you do then?
Honest truth: I’ve always felt like I was no good. Like I would never amount to anything. Heck, why was I even thinking that I was anything special? I didn’t shine in high school, nor in college, I was an average, overweight student. And yet, here I am running my own business making a full-time income doing what I love most: writing.
Cue Imposter Syndrome.
Back in school and growing up, I had no idea what this was, but I suffered from it. Badly.
Truth be told, I think most creatives suffer from this. Neil Gaiman sure did as he says in his famous speech. (Don’t know it? Watch it here! It’s the best pick-me-up when you have a severe Imposter Syndrome attack). Even though I have a lot of artist friends, I still have to meet the first one who is completely confident about his or her work.
And that’s ok.
There are so many posts out there that will give you action tips on how to beat your Imposter Syndrome.
This is not one of those posts.
You see, I think, no I believe a certain kind of discomfort is necessary to help you grow.
This man agrees with me:
I think there are two kinds of Imposter Syndrome. The one that knocks you out and makes you hide under the duvets for about a year and makes sure nothing gets done.
And the other kind.
Now this other kind looks and feels very similar. It will tell you you can’t, that you’re no good and that you are going to be found out. It will knock the wind right out of your sails, it will make you hide in bed and… kick the duvets off yourself angrily.
They say you can’t? You’ll show them you can #insertstrongword!
For me, this was becoming a writer. In journalism school, I was vanilla. My Dutch spelling wasn’t my strong suit. And my first staff job was just not right for me and didn’t play to my strengths. My Imposter Syndrome had a field day!
I wallowed. I was sentenced to a vanilla life and I was just going to have to make do. But I didn’t listen.
One day I woke up, looked myself right in the eyes and told the Imposter Syndrome to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Everyone said I couldn’t? I would prove them wrong. I would prove myself wrong!
Long story short: I did.
And so can you.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Look it in the eye, identify it
For a week, acknowledge your Imposter Syndrome. Invite it to hang with you. Let it speak freely (it will most certainly scream its head off inside yours). Notice when it starts protesting the most. What are the tasks, projects or moments in your life it seems to grab a hold of you?
Steven Pressfield who wrote The War of Art and Going Pro is not only a genius, he has a point to. He calls the Imposter Syndrome ‘Resistance’.
You see resistance will flare up right before you’re about to make a breakthrough.This might sound like a lot of bull and mumbo jumbo, but hear me out here.
Think back to moments where you felt scared to do something, or when you didn’t do something because ‘it didn’t feel right’. Where there moments where you pushed through that feeling and ended up with amazing things because you did it?
That feeling, that’s Resistance, the Imposter Syndrome or whatever you want to call it.
For me it became painfully obvious when I had a massive crying spell on my boyfriend’s shoulder (thanks for letting me love), feeling like the biggest failure in the world. Why did I think I could run a business?
Want to know what happened a week later? I landed a whole bunch of dream clients and could quit my bridge job.
Take that Imposter Syndrome!
Improve your skills
One thing your Imposter Syndrome will keep telling you is that you’re not good enough. That you don’t have the skills to pull it off and that you just don’t have the know-how.
Best thing to prove it wrong? To learn those skills and go do it anyway.
I always had a problem learning new languages. So I went back to uni to learn Old Irish. Because I always wanted to do that, because I wanted to prove that I could and mostly because I could do it.
And let me tell you, it’s such a big rush and kick to get back your translation exam with a big fat A on it.
Prove it wrong
Maybe I’m just a rebel, or maybe I’m just stubborn, but I always felt the need to proof anybody wrong who said I couldn’t. Even myself.
There are so many people out there looking to cure and get rid of the Imposter Syndrome. And while that’s understandable, I don’t think it’s right. I think it part of a package deal. One that will allow you and help you grow.
Just like the lobster.
The way I see it you have two choices… you can either let it stop you from doing anything, or see it as a big challenge and a hurdle to overcome.
I know which one I’d choose. What would you do?