8 tips to get over imposter syndrome

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) ‘Am I REALLY a writer? Am I REALLY an artist?’

Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is *wildly* self confident. The real one is scared to death.”

— Steven Pressfield “The War of Art”

I know the term itself should be self-explanatory, but here’s the definition of Imposter Syndrome:

“Referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I would add that it also refers to those of you who think, “What could I possibly contribute that’s meaningful?” (Answer: SO MUCH!)

Ok, first off, can we just talk about how crazy-ubiquitous this problem is? And not only that, but statistically speaking, the higher of an achiever you are, the more you suffer from it. How ironic.

Not that famous people should matter, but here’s a list of highly accomplished ones who say they suffer from Imposter Syndrome:

Tina Fey
Tom Hanks
Michelle Pfeiffer
Neil Gaiman
Kate Winslet
Chris Martin
Maya fricken’ Angelou
Emma Watson
and (gasp!) Seth Godin

Ok, yeah, nice….but what does this MEAAAN?? It means that it’s just one of those dumb parts of being a human who’s trying to do good in the world.

You’re not weird or weak for feeling this way.
You do not need to be fixed.

But you do have a choice.

Your choice is to continue to allow Imposter Syndrome to take up critical head space, or activate some new tools to help bring you back to centre when Imposter Syndrome is actively trying to derail you.

(I hope you choose the latter)

Eight Things You Can Practice (actually, twelve)

NOTE: I didn’t just pull these out of my ear. These are things I actually do…all the dang time…so I can show up fully in my work and for my clients. It’s a decision, and it works really well when you create thought habits that stick.

1) Catch yourself in the act

The next time your brain starts the familiar cycle of, “They’re going to find out…” or “Who am I to…?” – catch yourself and ask the question: would I say this to my best friend? Would I ask my best friend (whom I think is the absolute bomb), “Who are you to charge those prices? They’re going to find out about you, you know.”

No way! It’s cruel. Catching your bogus thoughts as they happen is one of the most important habits to adopt.

If you really struggle with this, I highly recommend getting Kamal Ravikant’s easy but powerful read, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

2) Call it out

I know you know better. I know that, logically, you know your Imposter Syndrome is a load of hokey. It’s that classic head vs heart argument, and I want you to train your head to win on this subject. So when you feel the feels welling up…the “Who am I to….” messing with your confidence, call it out.

The same way you’d call out a groper on the subway, (“Hey, stop touching that lady!”) call out your inner critic with a, “Hey, stop messing with me! I have work to do. And if it makes a difference for even one person, it’ll be worth it.”

3) Do something, take action

The funny thing about self-defeating thoughts is that they usually exist in a vacuum. If you’re doing something…taking action…moving forward…the self-defeating thoughts have to fight harder for brain space.

Next time you find yourself questioning your validity, shift gears and do something. Anything. Sit down and write. Call or text a friend who’s great at calling you on your stuff. Go for a walk (moving your body is a great way to snap your brain back to what matters). Whatever it is, don’t give your Imposter Syndrome the time of day. Your hours are too precious for that.

4) Remind yourself that you have a right to be here

You don’t have to ask permission. You don’t have to have “arrived” (whatever the hell that is). And you don’t need to display a certain status or credentials behind your name. You’re a full-fledged human with a rich inner world and a life of experiences unique to you that have informed your worldview.

Your voice matters. Your opinion and expertise on the things you love and choose to leverage are much more developed than the average person. You have a right to be at the table with all of the other varying degrees of knowledge, expertise and commitment.

5) Own your successes (and write them down)

Come on…I know you’re squirming and don’t want to feel like you’re “puffing yourself up”…but let me put it this way: you’re an adult. In order to get this far, you have to have succeeded at some things. It’s just reality. In order to have a couple of close friendships and a reasonable career, you must have succeeded at some things. There is absolutely, unequivocally nothing at all wrong with this. There’s nothing wrong with calling something what it is.

Your successes make up the very fabric of your story. They’re part of why your story matters. Your expertise has the power to help others. So own them!! Grab a piece of paper and write the words, “I’m proud of….” and then write the longest gahddamb run-on sentence of your life, starting with when you did something courageous as a little kid and going from there.

6) Practice bravery

The only thing between you and where you want to be is the practice of bravery. Successful, knowledgeable people aren’t always successful and don’t have all the knowledge. They are trying and failing all the time. They admit their weaknesses and call in the troops for support.

Imposter Syndrome wants you to play small. She wants you to think it’s just little-old-you in the big wide world of More Important People. But ask yourself this: who have been the most important people to you…personally? Who’s had the biggest impact? What experts or famous people fall into that category? And how many of them do you feel are brave? (*sips tea quietly*)

7) Remember that there is no pie

Part of Imposter Syndrome is thinking no one will be interested in listening to you or hiring you because you’re not saying or doing anything that hasn’t already been said or done a million times. This is classic “pie” thinking. As in, there are only X pieces in the proverbial pie and they’ve all been spoken for.

WRONG. There is no pie! The pie is infinite! There will ALWAYS be people out there who need what you’re dishing out. Always always always. I could give you a million examples of why this is the case but I’ll save it for another loooong blog post. Just trust me on this one, ok?

8) Be of service

Before you write this off as being too hippie-ish, hear me out. Because this is important. And it works. Imposter Syndrome tells you not to be a peacock about what you know…strutting around like some kind of faux-expert that’ll soon be exposed (not like you would!).

The way you get those thoughts to take a hike is to come from a place of service. Whether speaking with a friend, working with a client, or writing a blog post, always start from a place of, “How can I help?” Your expertise will flow naturally as the situation allows and you’ll build your confidence in the process. Remember, it’s often the most humble that make the largest impact. How can you help?

Bonus Ideas For Creatives And Entrepreneurs

9) Remember that there can never be too many {insert your job title here}

Oh lordy this is a big one: the idea that there are “already so many web designers/coaches/bloggers/book binders/etc”…why would we need another one? (i.e. you) Because there can never be too many.

Think of any other job from the traditional working world. Can there be too many doctors? Too many mechanics? Too many teachers? Too many social workers? Ok, maybe the answer is yes if you live in a small town. You got me! But the internet isn’t a small town. The internet is 3.2 billion people big. I looked it up. THREE POINT TWO BILLION. Even if only a 10th of that number is interested in what you’re doing or could afford you, that’s still a pool of three hundred and twenty million people. (I think this is where I drop the mic and saunter off?)

10) Never over-promise on your knowledge

This is an easy one: operate at your highest level of knowledge and be honest about it.

You don’t have to be an expert at every single nook and cranny of your area of expertise. If you’re unsure of an answer, start with “To the best of my knowledge…”

Here’s a real life example from my friend Clara:

“I run parenting programs with families and sometimes (often) feel like, ‘How can I impart wisdom about this when I don’t have my act together and don’t do many of the tips in the curriculum because I just don’t have the energy and I’m overwhelmed. Also, my spouse is not aware of the strategies so how can I convince others when I haven’t convinced my own.’ I can usually talk myself back out of it and say that I’m doing my best and support is what people are looking for and that’s what I give and I give it my all.”

Look, just because you don’t have something mastered, doesn’t mean you don’t bring value by sharing your wisdom and being supportive. This is a perfect place to use, “To the best of my knowledge…”

Furthermore, we easily forget that NO ONE has “arrived”. We’re all striving in our imperfect ways. And the fact that you’re helping people is what matters. The fact that you show up fully is what matters.

11) If you’re a service provider, be hyper clear on what your clients can expect from working with you.

Then over-deliver.

For the love of all things holy, if your services page or your client contract is wishy washy, please let’s fix it. Don’t make vague promises you can’t be responsible for (like helping people find happiness or meaning…what if they don’t find it? Then you’re fubar-d). Be specific. You need to have benchmarks both for your own feeling of satisfaction but also so that your clients can see the value in your work together. Struggling with this? Tell me more in the comments and we’ll hash it out.

The over-delivery part? That’s the easy bit. Whatever you “deliver” as your service, go one step further. Send a small thoughtful gift in the mail once you’re finished working together. Fire off an email with a few helpful links or suggestions or an introduction that goes beyond what your working agreement entailed. Send holiday greeting cards at the end of the year to all the clients you worked with. Small gestures from a place of sincerity go a LONG way.

12) If you’re a service provider and higher pricing is what has your Imposter knickers in a knot,

…gather your testimonials from previous clients and remind yourself how much you’ve helped them in order to build your confidence. Don’t have testimonials? Send a message out to previous clients with a couple of key questions such as, “What was the most valuable aspect of working with me?” and “What would have made it even better?” Then you have data to work with. When we know better, we do better. When we see we’re helping (via feedback), we’re motivated to help more and charge accordingly.

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