Raise Your Hand If You Feel Like An Imposter In Your Own Life
I think something that successful creatives can agree on: no matter how many books we’ve published or art pieces we’ve sold, or how successful of an Etsy shop we have, there’s still a piece of us that wonders if we’re just winging it.
I’m taking a deep breath and raising my hand too.
I think when we all started on this creative journey, BEFORE we had any books published, or art sold, or Etsy shop, we were SO DANG LUCKY.
Naivete is nectar of the gods, because as we all know, just because you have some success, doesn’t mean you suddenly are skipping down the yellow brick road alongside Dorothy and Toto.
Why is it so hard for successful creatives (published writers, professional artists, solopreneurs who make money from what they make with their own hands) to believe they will be successful again?
This is the million-dollar question.
I wish someone would just tell us and we could quit feeling like imposters.
If only it were that easy.
We know that other people’s opinions of us are only going to get us so far. Like a grandma in a motorized wheelchair-scooter who is not in a hurry, that’s how far.
Bump into said granny in a wheelchair-scooter while riding your skateboard?
That’s the power we need, folks. That’s our rocket engines firing.
Mad granny chasing after a kid on a skateboard! Watch out, kid!
That’s how far we can get when we accept that we just might belong.
If I were that skateboard kid, I would be feeling so afraid for my safety and wishing I had left the little old lady alone!
So, here’s a few thoughts about recognizing imposter syndrome and what do to about it.
When does imposter syndrome show up?
Imposter syndrome lives in our expectations.
Say, you expect to revise a manuscript this coming week. You anticipate it to be easy. You even tell yourself (and others), “I’ve got this.”
And then when you sit down to revise, you realize it’s not as easy as you originally thought and while you had a plan, you now are not sure it’s the greatest plan, or you’re not exactly sure how this “plan” will come about.
Or, say you have a hard time at your significant other’s office party each year because you don’t get all the corporate slang and the idea that quarterly earning reports are interesting make you wonder why you’re even there.
Or you show up at a creative function and you just can’t bear the thought of rubbing shoulders with other “more famous” creatives.
It’s all about expectations.
You “expect” a revision plan to work. And it has to work flawlessly. When it doesn’t, you doubt your place doing it.
You “expect” that you will be the odd person out at a corporate party. You don’t expect to run into other “closeted creatives” there, because they are all nursing their half-sipped wine glass too and trying not to stand out at all. Because you don’t know they are also there, you feel like crawling into a heating duct to hide.
You “expect” that you will be the least successful creative at this event and that everyone will know it. As if you have a poster board around your neck that lists all your sales figures for books/art/made products. Because you feel so conspicuous as “not successful enough” and you are RECITING your sales figures to yourself, you seem distant, not really listening, lost in your own head.
Think about this. Everyone is an imposter at one time of their life or another. We won’t ever completely fit in or wonderfully revise or be able to stay with creatives at our level every single time. There’s a reason for all this discomfort, a reason for the expectations.
Urban Dictionary defines upleveling like this: “To transform and grow in an area previously stagnant.”
Even the word stagnant hurts me a little.
So I am an imposter. I AM!
This proves it.
Why do I have to uplevel anyway?
You don’t. But it’s not a conscious thing. You will uplevel even if you’re not paying attention.
Suddenly, your spouse’s boss comes over and asks you about your art show in a month. You stare at her, shocked. “How did you know?” She replies that your partner told her, and that she’d like to come. She ends up BUYING two of your pieces.
Suddenly, as you’re sitting and staring at a giant corkboard full of notecards, which in the future will be a finished book, even if you can’t quite see it yet, you decide to check Facebook, and lo and behold, a story on the news flashes by on your newsfeed and it solves the missing plot hole. Your cards rearrange themselves it seems, and you’re there.
Suddenly, you’re in the lobby of said creative conference, having a glass of wine and two people tell you that this is their first conference and how many times have you attended? You find out out later this is the interior design blog team who have two books out and are so famous, you’re a bit shocked you didn’t recognize them. They tell you they are not sure quite what to do first at this conference, so you become their buddy and you all end up becoming fast friends and supporting each other in the years to come.
Imposter syndrome or not-good-enough-itis is just bullshit.
It’s you thinking you can predict the future …WHEN YOU CAN’T.
Knock it off, creatives!
Aren’t we bored of this yet?
This “okay, so I’ll do this and then this will happen and then this will happen.”
How about we try “Okay, so I’ll do this and see what happens. What could happen? I’m so excited to see what will happen.”
We’re short-circuiting our ability to change our self-talk, with this little sneaky thing called imposter syndrome.
Or as I call it because I like to call imposter syndrome names: Not-Good-Enough-Itis
Not-Good-Enough-Itis has issues. Severe, really quite severe issues.
And he preys on creatives all the time. It’s like when he hooks into one of us, he is so happy. He’s got one of us separated from the pack. And he’ll try to take us down.
How do we fight back?
We remember how fear of failure tried to waylay us with all that crappy self-talk.
“See, we told you. This is you failing. You did a terrible job. You didn’t think it through. You didn’t research enough. You reached too high.”
When you get targeted by Not-Good-Enough-Itis, you’re going back into your closet, the very back, into an old shoebox you hid underneath all the other shoeboxes, and you’re digging in it, until you find a cassette tape. This tape is dusty, it’s old, you’ve been able to live without it for awhile now, but here you are, trying to find it.
You’re going to put it back in the tape player. You’re going to roll tape.
You’re going to listen to that crappy tape and believe it.
That’s all we are?
The first moment things get tough and we go crawling back to where we came from.
And don’t judge. You’ll just be next.
I can’t tell you how many creatives say to me “I don’t think there is anyone else who understands this.”
Or “Every time I try to tell the truth to myself, I just don’t believe it.”
Or, and this is the best, “My critique group looks at me like I’m crazy.”
Can we get over this brave face stuff? Can we call it what it is?
Brave is turning Facebook into Realbook. (Yes, I say we rename it. Mark Zuckerberg, are you listening?)
Or you’re the one trying to revise a manuscript. “Great, I’ve stared at this board for so long. I don’t see how I can make this change. I see how it improves it, but I don’t see it yet.”
Facebook would be: “Am revising. Send wine.”
Realbook would be: “I am taking the wine away from my Muse. I don’t know how yet, but I know I can do this! Time for the magic sauce.”
You’re having a crappy day just anticipating your wife’s work party. “Great, I’ve got to show up and try to pretend I care. No one cares about me!”
Facebook would be: “I have to go drink wine with a bunch of suits!”
Realbook would be: “I think I might run into a secret creative tonight. Wish me luck!”
Or you show up in the lobby of the creative conference hotel, take one look around and say to yourself, “This place has bad vibes. I am going to drink away my sorrows.”
Facebook would be: “3 pm and I’m drinking. Who’s in?”
Realbook would be: “I’m going to see if I can find one person who might be more afraid of this conference than me. Hey, you two, what’s the name of your blog?”
It’s all about expectations. It’s all about the self-talk tape we play, on a loop, on our head.
Not-good-enough-itis and imposter syndrome wear masks and sometimes smell bad. They might drink too much, but they definitely know how to shut the work down.
“Watch Real Housewives! Not Master Chef, that’s too inspiring. Not The Voice, you’ll just get ideas.”
So, where are we now? I think you now have met the rude man, Mr. Itis. Isn’t he a treat? And you’ve met his wily sidekick, Imposter.
Not that impressive, however.
I’m much more impressed with what you will do in the next few days.
Promise me something?
Can you identify just ONE expectation and can you try to create some magic around it? Turn on the positive self-talk radio station, look for the luck, and don’t beat yourself up when you fall.
JUST JOIN THE CLUB!
I can’t wait to hear what sort of magic shows up for you. It’s going to be EPIC!
And now I must go deal with Not-Good-Enough and Imposter. The two of them are going to take a long walk off a short pier . . .
If you have a comment, or want to leave feedback, check in at the Facebook page.
If you’d like help creating more ideas you absolutely love, contact me about creative consulting services.