Social scientists defined Imposter Syndrome in the 1970’s. It referred to that dreadfully unnerving feeling of being unable to internalise success.
Some of us have a difficult time accepting our accomplishments. Some to the point where we feel fraudulent.
Imposter Syndrome has been linked to the self doubt of high achievers. It’s found itself nestling in the bosom of shame.
But no matter where it resides, it comes from the eerie feeling your complete lack of ability is about to uncovered by other people.
We wait with baited breath for the trap to be sprung.
Ah-ha! Gotcha! You suck after all!
Yet the other people never uncover this lack of genius or ability. In fact, they often treasure these abilities as unique. In fact, many of the people we expect to find us out admire our work. They are in wonder of the things we share.
We wait for someone to uncover what we’re doing because to us, what we have done or about to do is common place. There is no giant parade of amazement we walk through. It makes logical, reasonable and creative sense to choose to work the way we have. We’ve made a decision, cast our lot, auditioned for the part and gotten on with the job.
The fact that it is not remarkable to us doesn’t make it any less remarkable to someone else.
Always remember that the person looking upon the work doesn’t always know the inner workings. And that what may seem simple and common place to us may be worlds away for them.
Give your audience more respect for trusting in you. Don’t play down the gift you give by giving into your Imposter Syndrome.
While you may not feel like you’ve created the earth shattering work they expect, you may well have. It just isn’t for you. It’s for someone else. How lovely!
Creeping around the journal of any creative thinker is hundreds of half chewed creative and business ideas. Many of these half sagging refugees of a mind’s never-ending need to produce will never find their way to production. Let alone daylight and public consumption.
Most of them have the same common foundations. Started when the idea was fresh and exciting. Abandoned a week or two later and when it’s realised it wasn’t an idea worth continuing.
Why that idea wasn’t worth continuing was because it became it felt phony. And it felt phony because the content didn’t feel challenging.
When we spend time rehashing the simple things, we don’t engage our own neural processes. The mind becomes bored and feels as though it’s time is not well spent. We crave entry to the flow, where we’re challenged, engaged and invited to achieve.
So when we’re doing something that seems rudimentary, it feels as though we’re letting ourselves down. Choosing the right idea for our level of skill is paramount.
It may not seem the most intelligent thing for commercial production. After all, we’re often enamoured with the idea of making easy money. But our brain will prohibit us from cheating. And that’ll be through self doubt and boredom.
You have to find the hook that engages you to feel confident with whatever you’re creating. Balance that desire to share what you think will work with what also gets your creative rocks off.
Stretch your brain. It wants you to.
Who exactly are we comparing to when we feel like an imposter? Maybe it’s our own expectations of what we think we should be achieving but are not.
Or perhaps we’ve been spending way too much time peering over the fence at other people, wondering at their magic.
Whatever the case, there has to be a measurement we’re mentally tying ourselves to that we somehow don’t match up to.
Shouldn’t the question be why?
It’s a natural evolutionary process that we compare ourselves to others. Yet if we decide comparison takes precedence over other inspirations, it will stunt our ability to evolve as a creative person.
Who cares if someone has more social media followers then you do? Or if someone launched their umpteenth website, product or gallery opening?
Proliferation doesn’t equate to quality. Their bank balance is not your bank balance. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. Their body of work may not be worth leaving behind.
What would you want written on your tombstone-
I was good at stalking another person and obsessing over their ideas
I amazed myself with what I could achieve?
In a society seduced by analytics and tangible measurements, don’t be tempted to squeeze the things that matter neatly into an Excel.
The money, celebrity or volume of work produced by one individual would not matter during an alien invasion. If the world broke in half or if giant squids attacked, no one would care how pretty your Instagram was.
The skills you acquire and the way you have spent your time determine your worth.
Falling for easy praise can take us completely off course. It’s enough of an elixir that it sees parent-pleasing children study degrees they don’t want. It entices creative practitioners away from innovation and towards the low hanging fruit for their bank account. It turns people who chose self employment for freedom into slaves to their desks.
Don’t get drawn into a boring game of measuring self worth against what you do well for people as opposed to what you want to do. It’s a rotten way to decide what your legacy should be.
And that’s probably a damn good psychological reason why some of the work you do causes such intense Imposter Syndrome. You might be pretending to be something you are not for some pretty questionable reasons.
Make the life you lead one you enjoy. After all, it’s your bloody life!
Not everything we do in life is amazing. Sometimes we fail to entertain ourselves. Other times, there’s a running commentary of all the polite questions we should have asked but never got around to. We feel sensitive and vulnerable. It concerns us that what we add to this crazy, large world may be a tiny cog.
But isn’t that the beauty of the world? That we can take something we know how to do and affect such a big change in others? That we can study our guts out to become someone where all that skill and hard work becomes second nature? Or that our native wells of talent are such we only ever truly see the ripples of their depth through another’s complimentary stone?
We feel the sting of the Imposter because we stand alone. We forget our connection to the wider scheme of things. We look at our own abilities in relation to the world as one person in a big space. And we doubt.
So hung up on our frailties and failures, we fail to see admiration. We wait to get caught out in isolation because we ignore that we are part of a larger, more intricate and far more exciting machine.
What you or I do today may have some meaning now. Or it may never have meaning. Not in our lifetime, anyway. But that doesn’t mean we have the right to dictate the terms of the meaning extracted by others when and if they do.
It doesn’t mean we should sell our abilities short and settle for the easy path. And it doesn’t mean we should measure it against other people or our desire to please them.
Not everything we will do in our lifetime is amazing to us or others. But that doesn’t make us imposters. It simply makes us fairly deeply thinking human beings.
Isn’t that a good thing?
Tags: business, creative pursuits, ideas, imposter syndrome, motivation, mythbusting, work
After growing up in a dusty farming district where happy moments were few and far between, Rebekah packed a bunch of books and headed off in pursuit of education, the sea and a sense of anonymity that simply can’t be found in a town of 200.
Keenly aware she was an outsider, Rebekah attempted to discover happiness via five universities, island living, and all the wrong kind of activities before she triumphantly discovered she was potentially the happiest marketing nerd alive.
Rebekah has carved out a career through connecting people. She spent over seven years working in the dating industry, has worked agency-side in the tough Asian advertising world, and now freelances in marketing and content creation for community, social enterprise and startup ideas.
When she isn’t listening to prog and post rock as it pours out of her partner’s guitar, she’s connecting women as the Head of Disruption for Discordia Zine, marketing and writing as Unashamedly Creative, advocating for freelancer happiness via the Freelance Jungle, or being reminded that life is random, creative and silly by her Labrador, Gibson.
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