“It must have been a fluke.”
“It was nothing.”
“I just got lucky.”
“It could’ve been anybody.”
“You’re not good enough. You never were, and you never will be. Anything good that happens is purely by coincidence or having been being privileged in some way.”
Moreover, at any given moment, people will find out what I actually am–an impostor, a fraud–someone who just got lucky.
Perhaps you feel a similar anxiety to my own. Maybe, you worry, any day now, your supervisor at work is going to call you out on your incompetence and let the department, the company, hell, the whole world know that you’re a complete and utter fraud. Maybe, you worry, your school advisor is going to call you in and say that there has been a mistake on your standardized testing scores, that you aren’t fit to be at school at all.
You could be very likely grappling with a case of Impostor Syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome was initially identified by Dr. Pauline Clance in the 1970’s as she made observations during the therapy sessions she conducted for a predominantly high-achieving, female clientele.
“Despite objective evidence of success, these women had a pervasive psychological experience believing that they were intellectual frauds and feared being recognized as impostors. They suffered from anxiety, fear of failure and dissatisfaction with life.“-– International Journal of Behavioral Science
Moreover, the proof of success is shrugged off as good timing, luck, or as a result of manipulating others into believing they’d been more competent than they believe themselves to be. Impostor Syndrome is not a display of humility, but an actual inability to internalize accomplishments and abilities.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that it’s quickly becoming a chronic condition for all genders as modern job culture and technology create a high-pressure, competitive environment for establishing a professional identity.
Defining, and then securing, a professional niche in today’s market can be overwhelming and intimidating, triggering impostor phenomenon symptoms.
This can be partly attributed to the unpredictable career outlook and this anxiety has, quite naturally poisoned my fledgling writer’s confidence. The seeds of doubt began regarding successful blog posts. I’d convinced myself that anyone with an internet connection and a penchant for voyeurism can eek out a personal website.
And as far as the small readership I’d acquired, I thought that, aside from those who were bound by blood, those who were accessing the site were simply reading because I was a looney toon and their loyalty either stemmed from sympathy or perverse curiosity. The only explanation was that I was the daily car crash for the RSS feed.
When I started getting professionally published, I’d still find reasons for WHY. I began manufacturing highly specific rationalizations for why any given publication would agree to publish my work.
But none of the reasons were that I was any good.
I felt like a fraud as a writer and I also felt like a fraud as someone who supposedly should be an authority on x, y, or z subject I was writing about.
I began work tackling those aspects of my Impostor Syndrome which most affect my freelancing productivity. Here are the tips I followed:
1.) Get some perspective:
Your audience–be it readers, customers or clients–have options. They chose YOU. It’s a waste of time comparing yourself to all the other people who might be more qualified than you.
2.) Admit when you don’t know something:
I’m realizing that it’s okay to be in the constant state of improvement and learning referenced previously. From an instructional or authoritative standpoint, we’re only at risk for being exposed as a “fraud” if we half-ass it on information which we are not clear about. So no B.S.-ing, basically.
If you aren’t a level-one expert on a particular subject, it’s okay to admit it! Let your audience know you’ll find the answer, and get back to them once you do have it.
3.) Take a self-awareness assessment:
How realistic is your way of seeing yourself, your abilities and accomplishments? Examine the list of said accomplishments and acknowledge them. What skills have you developed? What are the qualities you have that attract people to you and have gotten you this far, already? Celebrate that!
4.) Reality check your inner strength:
Take an inventory of any hardships you’ve overcome by making a list of some personal setbacks on a whiteboard which challenged you, but by overcoming them, wound up making you stronger and more resourceful.
Don’t forget to count those learning experiences in your skill-set list in #3.
Keep track of your accomplishments with a planner or journal. Engage in positive self-talk through stream of consciousness writing. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar in this exercise-just let the pen flow; you will be surprised at how healing and restorative this practice can be.
Remind yourself how capable you are. That power is within you. Honest.
6.) Hang out with your Warriors:
Surround yourself with positive people who reinforce you and your strengths. Also important: Keep your distance from those who make you feel inadequate. Although it may not be intentional, some people tend to bring out the comparison monster in us, trigger negative thinking, and ultimately contribute to our lack of confidence.
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7.) Keep the Positive stuff around:
Using sticky notes with positive quotes is a tactic that works for some people. Others are motivated by keeping a “Feel Good File” full of client raves, recommendations, praise and thank you’s. This file can be digital or physical. Better yet, do both.
What suggestions would you add? What methods do you rely on to keep from negating yourself?