Imposter syndrome – it’s a sneaky little b***d, isn’t it?
We all suffer from it, and it usually sneaks up on us at the most unwanted time.
You’ve just finished your novel, you’re about to send it to the printer, and *PING*: Are you sure? Really? Who do you think you are to be writing a novel? I’d think twice if I were you… No one’s going to read it.
You’re just about to press share on a sales post about your latest offering, and *PING*: Seriously, you’re posting about this? Who are you to sell to people? They’ll think, Who does she think she is!
Your finger’s hovering over the ‘Publish my book’ button on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and *PING*: Really? You want everyone to see your work? Ha ha ha ha! People won’t read it; they’ll think it’s crap!
Do any of those scenarios feel familiar?
They do to me. In fact, just before I sent my book to the printer, I got it so bad that I deleted the email and shut off my computer. And my book stayed on my hard drive for four years. Four years!
It stayed there until I was having a coffee with a friend one day. Talk of work came up, and she was just about to hit print on her third book. Having helped her with all of them, I was excited to see it published.
“What about your book, Lex? How’s it coming along?” she asked.
It was then I told her of my reluctance to hit print.
She put down her coffee, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Lex, get out of your own way!”
She was right.
The next day, I got home and sent the book to the printer.
Five years later, I’m getting testimonials from people saying how much my book has helped them become an author, and I realise I should have published it years before.
So, how do you get over imposter syndrome?
Well, the first thing to do is to recognise it for what it is: your ego keeping you small. It’s also irrational and lies. Imposter syndrome likes to keep you safe and doesn’t want you to put yourself at risk of being seen or being too big for your boots.
However, to make a difference in the world, you need to be seen. You need to get out of your own way and put your head above the parapet – so here are some ways to do that.
Once you’ve identified phrases like…
“Who are you to be…?”
“Who do you think you are…?”
“It’s rubbish; people will laugh at you…”
You need to understand them to be irrational thoughts to keep you safe, and then you can do something about it.
The first way is to reframe the reason you’re doing the thing, whether that’s publishing your book, making a sales post, pressing print, sharing reviews, etc.
Then rephrase the common “What’s the worst that can happen?” as “What’s the best that can happen?”
Instead of thinking, My book’s not good enough, try, My book’s the best it can be, and that’s good enough!
Instead of I’m rubbish, try, I’m doing the best I can, and that’s enough. (If you struggle with this one, just go and take a look at your emails or social media messages from the happy customers who’ve told you as much.) Getting outside validation can really help when you’re feeling doubtful. Keep a file of positive things people have said about your work or screenshot any lovely comments on your social media.
But be careful you don’t seek other people’s approval all the time – it can be a bit of a trap. Only you can fully champion your work. It’s no one else’s responsibility, so it’s a matter of balancing testimonials and self-belief.
Getting into the habit of recognising your imposter syndrome and then replacing the voice in your head with positive phrases will help, but like with any new regime, you’ll need to practise and actually do it.
Another powerful way of looking at it – and this is something I teach all my coaching clients – is that you’re doing your future readers a disservice by not sharing your work/story/knowledge. When I put it like that, light bulbs are switched on.
I’m not saying that imposter syndrome will disappear just by reading this article, but if you can recognise it for what it is, learn to rephrase the voice and then do the thing anyway, you’ll find your imposter syndrome moments will be fewer and fewer, and you’ll actually start doing the things you’ve been stopping yourself from doing.
Just don’t blame me when your future fans want more!