how I'm beating imposter syndrome

{one client, student, or reader at a time}

I feel like an imposter.

  • "I know I'm not the best."
  • "Why should I expect anyone to pay me?"
  • "Surely someone else could do a better job."

These are a few of the berating phrases the negative voice in my head tries to use to paralyze me. The question is, do they have any grounding?

"I know I’m not the best."

I didn’t write the poems in the book my heart poured out because I wanted to sell a book. I wrote them to pour my heart out. When people read them and loved them I was surprised. I am not the best poet; I know this. But apparently you don’t have to be the best poet in order to write poetry that will resonate best with a particular reader.

When my readers told me they wanted to hold my words in their hands, bound into a real paper book, I listened. They told me what was best for them and I did what I could to provide it.

I’m learning that “best” can be subjective. When it comes to making a product the way to make it the best is to figure out how to best serve a particular customer. I can’t be the best for everyone, but I can be the best for the people who choose me to serve them.

"Why should I expect anyone to pay me?"

When I was a a professional seamstress I designed a skirt that immediately became popular. Friends and then friends of friends wanted to learn to make it for themselves so I put together a single page of basic instructions and allowed people to freely copy and share it. I began to see versions of my skirt “in the wild” so to speak and while I was flattered I was also dismayed. Without detailed instructions people were making all kinds of poor decisions in the process of making their skirts. They were (mis)reading between the lines because I didn’t have the time to teach them any better. I had no one to blame but myself.

I spent too long pandering to the idea that I should give everything away for free or at deep discounts. It wasn’t sustainable and eventually I abandoned my sewing business.

After some time away studying what being a professional really means and how sustainable businesses run I returned to the popular skirt design. I decided to write a whole book of instruction using the skirt to illustrate the process of sewing a piece of clothing that the wearer will absolutely love. I set a price for that book and then I pushed myself to fill it with enough valuable content to justify the price and then some.

Asking people to — no, letting people pay me meant that I was free to serve them better through the things I created. Instead of stressing about how I was going to justify the time spent on projects I became free to focus on creating the best thing I could come up with.

"Surely someone else could do a better job."

Now I write for other creative entrepreneurs. To be more specific I write case studies that will get them great clients. This week enrollment is open for my course on the topic. So many times while preparing for this course launch I have felt inadequate. I feel like I shouldn’t even try because there are people out there who could do a better job than I am doing.

There is a pattern in the feedback from the students who tested my course: They say that I have successfully taught them the skills they sought in vain elsewhere. This is making me realize that while perhaps there are people who could do a better job, they aren’t. And so I forge ahead.

I’m beating imposter syndrome through shipping.

Maybe I can’t be the objective best, but by simply putting my work out there someone can decide I am the best for him.

Maybe I don’t feel like my work is worth much, but by setting the bar high I can push myself to make it worth it.

Maybe someone else could do better, but I can put out something good while we wait for them to make something better.

And you know what? By shipping — putting out work — I’m iterating and getting better and better. So maybe I’m not an imposter after all.

Maybe I am the best.