Stop Feeling Like an Imposter, How to Gain Confidence and Credibility
Your Future is Counting On It
Are you terrified of embracing your full potential and going for it? If self-doubt has ever stopped you from achieving what you hoped for, you’re not alone.
It can manifest itself in those pursuing a career goal, a fitness goal, or those yearning for a satisfying relationship. It’s often felt deeply in people who yearn to be creative.
Self-doubt is one of the most common obstacles to performance in any area of life. It’s the red light that stops you from moving forward with your goals and prevents you from rising to your fullest potential.
Statistics say that approximately 70% of the population suffers from feeling like imposters at one time or another, and that is caused by the monster in our brains… self-doubt.
If you feel like a fraud, you’re not alone.
I was so happy to hear there actually is something called the “Imposter Syndrome.”
I’ve suffered from it for years.
Wikipedia defines the Imposter or Fraud Syndrome as:
… “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’”
In reading more, I was shocked to discover the syndrome was not identified until 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in an article they published after a study of high-achieving women. They discovered these women believed they were not intelligent and were “over evaluated” by others.
1978? What took so long? Centuries of writers, artists, musicians, and other Creatives have long expressed their feelings of inadequacy by claiming their success was “luck,” “timing,” or “deception.” And it’s not restricted to the arts.
People in all walks of life claim they’ve felt it, and for me, it rose up in the years I had to balance motherhood with my career.
The majority of those suffering from the imposter syndrome attempt to downplay whatever talents or achievements they have and work hard to discount them as though “everyone can do what they do… they just got lucky.”
I didn’t know until I researched it that others felt exactly like me.
For 26 years, I assisted my husband in writing screenplays for television and film, and yet I never declared myself a writer.
I labeled myself as a stay at home mom and the creative partner of David’s career.
I passionately loved writing. I thought about stories all the time, but I always deferred to my husband as “the writer.” I looked forward to our creative conversations and editing sessions. It fed my creative soul.
Even after I wrote two children’s books, I still didn’t call myself a writer. When people introduced me as an author, I felt embarrassed. In my mind, my writing took a back seat to his. He was the real writer. He was the one writing to support our family. It was his talent and commitment.
I thought I was just fine with it until…
I suffered two losses I didn’t expect. First my beautiful firstborn son, and a decade later, my husband died. With my husband’s death, I was suddenly the only one who could pick up the pieces and sustain a life for my three living children.
When I struggled to find a job and a career path, I chastised myself for never staking a presence in the writing industry. I never even thought to ask for screen credit, nor had I written a single script on my own.
I divorced my love of writing. It was like ripping out a part of my spirit and molding it into a new passion. It didn’t quite fit, but I did it anyway.
I moved my family away from Hollywood to an affordable town in Southern California.
My friends suggested I’d be good at real estate, and I didn’t hesitate. It seemed like a great option. I got in at just the right time… the market was on the way up. For a few years I won the awards and accolades as a top realtor, and yet, I felt like an imposter. I was new! I didn’t know what I was doing. I just showed up and learned to fly while I was building the plane.
Then, when the market crashed, my income dropped, and I battled with feelings of failure. If I had won so many awards and sold so many homes, why wasn’t I able to sustain a steady income?
Luckily, I had saved money from the first few good years and was able to support my family, my home, and continued working in real estate. Then, the market turned, and I celebrated the return of being a top agent once again.
Stop the Imposter Syndrome in Action!
But wait… isn’t that screwed up? Do you see how I negated everything I achieved by attributing it to a good market? Everything that felt like a failure, I attributed to a bad market.
I even said Luckily, I had saved money…
That’s the Imposter Syndrome at work.
It wasn’t luck at all… it was planning and resourcefulness.
In my previous account of the story, I didn’t mention how many hours I spent when I started in real estate with learning the contract, marketing, nurturing a client base, networking, ethics courses, and area expertise. I didn’t mention I’d get home at night after a long day and manage to cook dinner and ask my kids how their day was. I didn’t mention that I figured out a way to pay for my son’s hockey skates and pay the vet and feed bills for my daughter’s horse.
I worked just as hard… even harder during the real estate crisis. Where I was once selling million dollar homes, during the crash, I diversified and sold a lot of lower priced homes. It was the same amount of work necessary, but the paycheck was lower, so I had to close more inventory.
In my recounting of the “bad” years, I didn’t mention how many happy homebuyers I helped, and how many short sales I did to help sellers through their real estate struggles.
I didn’t mention how my marketing skills kept me in front of my past clients, and now years later I have an incredibly strong and loyal client base.
Women often downplay their accomplishments… but so do men.
I didn’t mention it because that’s often what we do as women. Remember, the Imposter Syndrome Study was originally based on successful women. And, the common through line were the feelings of not being good enough, smart enough, or deserving of accolades or successes. We don’t claim our power as we should.
Yes, there were abundant years and lean years, but I managed to make it work. My 14-year career experienced the cycles, but through it, I supported a home and even put my kids through college.
An imposter didn’t do that… a successful woman did.
There are so many women out there just like me who are doing it now and will continue to do it in spite of self-doubt and feeling like an imposter.
The secret to battling self-doubt and the imposter syndrome.
Why? Because when you always keep your sight on “why” you will have the inspiration to continue. My “why” were my children. I wanted to give them the life they deserved. They already suffered the loss of their brother and then their father… but their lives had just begun. They had a whole life ahead. It was up to me.
Women feel it for sure, but men feel it too. Later studies showed that the imposter syndrome affects both men and women in equal numbers.
Imposters don’t just take up residence in the business or corporate world. Feeling like an imposter is very common in those who choose or desire a creative path. Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
Yes, even Maya Angelou, creator of some of the most memorable written works doubted her talent and abilities.
If this is you, too, you are not alone.
It’s no wonder people struggle with credibility even more today. We are so exposed. We’re vulnerable and afraid to put our work out there for fear of being judged and declared an imposter!
And yet, our creativity calls us as it lives and breathes inside of us, luring us to set it free. Your desire for self-expression won’t quit. You can suffocate it by ignoring it, but not for long. It will rise again when you see others doing what you wish you could.
I recognize it because that was me. No matter how accomplished I became in real estate, the writer in me wouldn’t go away. Without it, I was not capable of expressing my fullest creative potential.
We can avoid it, but not for long… Self Expression, Credibility, and Esteem are part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.
These needs, according to the hierarchy, are as critical to well being as love and belonging.
Self-doubt is a big reason your personal fulfillment is interrupted! When it controls you, you start doing things that cause your dreams to fail.
It’s easier to run away from what’s calling you by finding distractions and excuses, but it is possible to course correct.
Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art says you can turn self-doubt into an ally if you let it:
“Self-doubt is an indicator of aspiration. It reflects the love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it.”
Writing was a part of me, always. My creative longing was satisfied when my husband was alive, and I’d work with him on creating and perfecting his scripts. At that time, it was enough to feed my creative desires, and it allowed me the freedom to be a mom to my young children.
But the lure to follow my creative potential was undeniable. Even after writing two children’s books, I could never call myself a writer. My husband was the writer. I was his muse and creative consultant.
Your calling doesn’t go away…
Looking back, my books did well in the book world, and yet I called it “lucky,” “great timing,” and “unique subject matter.” It took 2 decades of yearning to write again before I finally acknowledged my calling as a writer was not going to go away.
I questioned, am I good enough? My husband was no longer there as my creative partner.
Many feel these same feelings. You might question your credibility by saying you don’t have a resumé, a Ph.D., or a Masters… but lots of high school and college dropouts have achieved greatness in their creative journeys.
The secret to putting an end to the imposter syndrome.
And here’s the secret… they aligned themselves with their calling and focused on why they were doing it.
Think about how amazed you are when you hear a fine pianist or see the work of an artist who is self-taught. Aren’t you in awe?
"'Self-taught’ means ‘I have natural talent’!”- Danielle LaPorte, author
You are the expert on what you do, and your spin on it is unique to you. No one else can do what you do!
Don’t be ashamed of being self-taught. Feel pride, and remember… you can fly the plane while you’re building it. Writers are not instantly great writers, but even Maya Angelou likely cringed as she read her early work.
When I began my fourth book, it was the hardest thing I’d ever written. It was a book for parents struggling with the loss of a child. It was the story of my child, my loss, my broken heart.
There are lots of books written for grieving parents, but no one had told my story of recovery, or offered hope from my perspective. I had survived the greatest loss a parent could imagine, and yet somehow I survived. I knew my story could help others.
Who was I to write such a story?
Self-doubt? You bet. Who was I to write a book on grief recovery? I struggled for the longest time. It prevented me from doing the work. But, when I understood “my why” I discovered that I was the perfect person. My son had left me with his legacy; his life mattered. I profoundly believed my experience of loss was waiting to be shared in order to help others.
I’m proud of my book… and although it’s not a best seller, it was never intended to be. We, who have lost children, are not a massive audience. My book was meant to be an intimate resource for healing for those suffering parents. (How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen, A Parent’s Step by Step Guide to Healing after the Loss of a Child)
Once I released my creative work to the reader, I noticed I was healing my beliefs about myself. Every time a parent contacted me having read my book, it was validation I was not an imposter. In fact, I had written something meaningful.
Something else happened, too. I began claiming the role I had in my husband’s life. Our creative partnership is one of my personal accomplishments. It feels good to recognize it.
And… I now call myself a writer and it’s the best feeling in the world.
As humans, we have the power and capability to change our beliefs. You can shift beliefs of self-doubt by focusing on “your why” and doing the work. It’s time to discharge the self-doubt monster from your life. Once you do that, it will no longer have the power to keep you from realizing your full potential.
You are not an imposter.
You’re not an imposter. There’s no reason to hide. It’s time to fully claim your accomplishments, abilities, and your unique brilliance. When you do that, you no longer have to hide your greatness.
What is greatness? It’s the satisfaction of knowing you’ve aligned yourself with your calling and even though you had doubts, you did it anyway.
You are a shining star… claim it. Your future is counting on it.
If you’ve got creativity on your mind… I have a free gift for you. This is a short ebook on how to establish some simple habits to set your creativity on fire: How to Develop the Creative Mindset
**Previously published on ThriveGlobal.com**