Here’s something you need to know about me…
I’m on very good terms with myself.
I don’t have many confidence issues. I’m good and I know I’m good. I am the only child of a single mom who genuinely believed that one day I would either a) marry royalty or b) be President. I failed to achieve either. But she still loves me.
For this reason, Impostor Syndrome is something that plagues me very, very infrequently.
Occasionally, on a bad day, I am struck by the fear that I’m really a crap, shallow writer and an amateur businesswoman, and that the whole house of cards is about to come crashing down around my head. But thankfully this is rare.
For me. Not so much for many others…
Creatives are especially vulnerable
Up to 70% of people have felt like an impostor at some point in their career. And it’s worse when you’re a creative. Creators experience Impostor Syndrome so frequently that our unique experience is sometimes assigned its own sub-category.
Dr Valerie Young, educator, author, and TED speaker, explains what makes the creative entrepreneur especially prone to Impostor Syndrome, saying:
“The nature of creative work makes everyone more vulnerable to feeling inadequate, and even more so if you are not classically trained.”
Classical training? Yikes. Not common to freelancers.
Most people with competence
Impostor Syndrome is believing that you’re not capable, even when there is evidence that you can achieve highly. There’s a feeling of fakeness and an accompanying fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Now, most people with competence have some Impostor Syndrome, because they know how much they don’t know. (It’s the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people wrongly over-estimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. You may know people like this.)
Here are 9 tips for working through Impostor Syndrome:
1. See it as a rite of passage.
It’s not unusual. It’s part of the job. Don’t stress about it. Accept it as a given.
Here’s what veteran freelancer Cath says:
“I wish I’d known that it’s okay to feel some level of self-doubt (especially at first) and that we all do, at some point.”
2. Talk about it.
Share stories. Focus on instances of failure as much as success. Develop a support system by talking to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. Find online groups where you can ask questions and meet others who feel the same way.
3. De-personalise criticism.
“That graphic design job was disappointing” is not the same as “You are disappointing.” For freelancers, our work is our life in so many ways. But just because the two overlap, does not mean they’re one entity.
4. Avoid comparisons.
Don’t compare your actual life to everyone else’s highlights reel (i.e. their social media). Allow your accomplishments to stand on their own. And audit your social media platforms for accounts that make you feel shit, and remove them.
5. Stop “shoulding”.
Many experts believe that Impostor Syndrome derives from perfectionism.
‘Shoulding’ (these are mine: “I should do more marketing. I should work harder. I should publish more. I should study. This video. That book. The other give-away. I should, I should, I should…”) puts you into a ‘stuck’ mindset, not a growth mindset.
Forgive yourself for not doing everything and not knowing it all. And move on.
6. Get better at taking compliments.
I’m. So. Shit. At. This.
When someone pays you a compliment, don’t undermine it or reply with why they’re wrong. A compliment is a gift. Accept it graciously, and move on.
7. Hold onto successes.
Here’s Kim Coles (I really love this one): “Ride the wave of your past wins to remind yourself of the road ahead.”
8. Say “I don’t know”.
And here’s Sam Beckbessinger (one of my absolute heroes): “The problem with Impostor Syndrome is it’s often self-fulfilling. You’re afraid of being caught out as an impostor, so you don’t ask questions, so you fail.”
9. Teach others your skills.
This is my favourite one. It explains why I’m on such good terms with myself, while also spending at least half of my time teaching other people.
That’s it folks. Markman, out.
Tiffany Markman gives good advice on freelancing. Want access to it?
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