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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome As You Pursue a Vocation

"You’re a fraud.”

Every creative is familiar with that internal whisper, the voice of imposter syndrome slipping its ugly opinion into your mind.

Imposter syndrome is the unsubstantiated fear that your greatest professional or creative accomplishments were somehow accidents or, at the very least, not as important as others perceived. In other words, imposter syndrome says you are incapable of doing the work you’re fully qualified to do.

In some ways, imposter syndrome can have benefits. It can drive us to try harder, study more carefully, and invest more energy into honing our craft. But more often, it holds us back from being paid our worth, pursuing opportunities for which we'd be a perfect fit, and speaking with authority within our subject matter.

Everyone loses when an expert plays down the value of their abilities. Below are some ways to overcome those internal doubts so that you and those around you get the most value from your creativity and expertise:

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

As a freelance copywriter, I’ve encountered my fair share of imposter syndrome. For me, it tends to occur during the project interview process. The experience of being vetted by a prospective employer brings to light my fears of being “found out,” as if I secretly didn’t have something valuable to provide the person on the other end of the call.

Instead of standing by my value, I might internally undermine it. When I sit down for an interview, my gut might insist I’m a fake, with little or nothing to offer the customer. In reality, I bring the experience of having written hundreds of published articles to the table. I bring niche knowledge gained from years of poring through industry books, university education about marketing and business communication, and thousands of hours writing and editing to hone my skills.

Yet, I still sometimes feel like a fraud.

The worst part is, I’m not the only one losing here. The customer loses value when I doubt what I offer their business. In my doubts, I may hesitate to present certain ideas, even if I have seen those methods work time and again through measured application.

Sometimes I focus so intensely on what I think the person thinks about my ability that I overlook the fact that they’ve specifically come to me to solve their problem.

At that point, it helps to pause my racing thoughts and restart here:

Acknowledge that You’re Not Alone

It occurred to me recently that when I’m meeting a prospective client for the first time, they often nervous-talk through our entire first phone call, especially if they happen to be the business owner or product creator.

I can hear the need to prove the validity of their product in the way they talk, even if I came to the project with full confidence in what they had to sell. There was no proving necessary, but I can tell by their nerves that they think otherwise.

The situation reminds me of a story from sci-fi author, Neil Gaiman, who says,

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, ‘I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.’

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”