Throughout human history, impostor syndrome has plagued mankind. The first cave painters to modern writers and artists have felt the anxiety-causing bite of impostor syndrome over their great works. While I’m no great writer, I’ve dealt with it as well. In this post, I’m going to discuss my tactics for coping with impostor syndrome.
Clicking the publish button on a blog post, tweet, etc. brings me a good deal of anxiety. What if people don’t like what I wrote? What if people realize I don’t know what I’m talking about? What if people see through me and discover the fraud hiding beneath? What if that rejection causes an un-executable instruction in my code that crashes my operating system? And I’m left as a steaming pile of fried circuits and melted processors.
And my anxiety isn’t confined to the online world either. The tentacles of this impostor syndrome creep into my real-world life as well. Those same thoughts sometimes run through my mind when I talk to people. It could be at a professional event, a meeting, or with friends.
To make matters worse, I’m the King of Introverts. So impostor syndrome can push me deeper into the safe darkness of my shell.
It seems to me that the more effort I put into a project and the more I care about it, the worse impostor syndrome gets.
So far, I haven’t been able to end impostor syndrome. And based on other blog posts I’ve read, it may not be something one can ever overcome. But it’s something a lot of people experience, and I’ve learned that it’s something you can manage.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments. A persistent fear that others will expose them as a fraud accompanies their doubt. This state persists even in the face of external evidence of their competence. In short, despite their accomplishments, people believe they’re a fraud. And they think they don’t deserve their achievements.
How to Cope with Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome can make you avoid putting your work into the world. It becomes a persistent speed bump that’s always slowing you down. And the anxiety it causes prevents you from living up to the level of your talent. So, it’s in your best interest to deal with it before it becomes a problem.
Here are the strategies I’ve found to provide some relief.
Slay the Perfectionist Gremlins
It takes me a long time to produce a blog post because I want to make it perfect. I’ve gotten a little better with experience. But I still go through the write, proof-read, rewrite cycle more than necessary. I never feel like I’m publishing my best work. There’s always one more word to change or sentence to restructure.
The thing is, when your audience is a diverse group, you’re never going to produce the perfect product. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a blog post, a song, or whatever. Someone can always find something to nitpick no matter how much effort you put into it. So, you’re better off letting go of that desire for perfection.
Abandoning that perfectionist instinct will be hard at first. For me, I kept coming up with justifications for putting a little more work into my blog posts. You can make that section flow a bit better, so why not take one more pass through the whole thing? Why not take some time to replace that word with a better word? It’s never-ending.
But, one day, as I struggled to finish a post, something hit me. I realized that I wasn’t writing Strength and Reason to prove that I’m a great writer. I was writing to inform the reader. And I also realized that I can do that with good writing. Perfect writing isn’t necessary.
So, stop trying to be perfect. You’ll not only get more done, but you’ll feel better about what you produce.
Put a Stake Through the Your Ego’s Heart: Shift the Focus from You to Your Audience
Striving for perfection is selfish. I told myself I wanted to give my readers the best experience to justify my perfectionism. But, the truth is most readers only care about getting educated on a topic. They don’t care about perfect writing. They’re happy as long as the posts are readable and informative.
When I realized that readers don’t expect perfect, I understood that I had my focus on me, not on my audience. So, I shifted my attention to the reader. Now, when I write, I emphasize clarity and readability over other considerations.
The great thing was when I stopped focusing on my ego, it got easier to write.
Remember, your work is for your audience, not your ego.
Be Honest: Make Your Mama Proud
Authenticity wins people over because it makes you more relatable. But, presenting yourself as perfect and an expert in everything will turn people off. So, don’t try to be something you’re not.
People have a knack for sniffing out phoniness. And they appreciate it when you admit your limitations and imperfections. Don’t claim that you’re an expert in a particular area. Instead, be clear that you’re learning, and you’re doing it along with your reader. Be open to corrections and criticism.
I’ve found that including a list of resources or using footnotes in my blog posts makes me more transparent. When readers see that I’m researching and informing them on a topic, they know that I’m no more of an expert than they are. I’m just doing the service of gathering and presenting information I think will be valuable to them.
Be authentic and transparent. If you’re not an expert, don’t try to make it look like you are.
Own Your Successes, You Paid For ‘Em
Sometimes people find it difficult to accept their successes. They attribute wins to luck rather than taking credit for them. You may do this because you’re afraid of coming across as arrogant, or your parents raised you to be humble.
Whatever the reason, when you can’t accept your successes, you begin to think you don’t deserve them. You’ll start to question whether you have the knowledge necessary to be successful.
Remember, when you have success, it’s a result of your skill and effort. So, accept it when success comes rolling along.
The truth is, even if luck played a role, you still had something to do with it. At the very least, you took action to start the process that led to your getting lucky. So, own your successes. You had some part in all of them.
Be proud of what you produce and acknowledge the skill and effort that went into creating it.
Keep Pushing Your Boundaries
A lack of confidence is a significant cause of impostor syndrome. Build your confidence by pushing beyond your comfort zone.
Push yourself to keep producing content and putting your work out into the world. The more you create, the more success you have, the more confidence you build. As your successes pile up, you’ll come to view yourself as competent and capable.
Nothing destroys doubt better than confidence. So, keep pushing yourself forward.
Dealing with impostor syndrome isn’t easy. There’s an Internet worth of articles with tips and tricks to overcome it. I don’t know how to get rid of it entirely, but the above tactics worked for me to get it under control.
I hope you can use these tips to kick that nagging feeling of inadequacy to the sideline. And get back to producing high-quality work.