You’re Not a Phony

When I first started writing this blog it was very difficult for me. I would sit looking at a blank screen for hours fretting about what to write. Generating ideas for topics was not the issue. My issue was the feeling of being an impostor. When you write about a topic people read it and believe it. They see you as the expert and I thought to myself, “Who do you think you are? Miss High-and-Mighty? What makes you think you’re an expert?” So I sat staring at the large, blank space reserved for my words of wisdom in WordPress. The curser blinked at me as if to say, “I’m waiting!”

I felt like a phony. Creativity was nowhere to be found.

If you look at my credentials, you will see that I have been in this profession for over 17 years, received several awards for my work, and presented at local and national conventions. Yet, I still doubt myself, and self-doubt hampers creativity. In my mind, an expert is all-knowing – they have seen and done it all. They know everything there is to know about their profession. I place experts on a high pedestal that I could never reach.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you struggle with feelings of being a phony? Have you avoided entering a contest for your photography, presenting an idea to management, sending your book to an agent, or speaking at a local professional group because you felt inferior? Do you feel that by putting yourself in front of others as an expert makes you an impostor because you don’t know everything?

The truth is that even “experts” have things to learn about their profession, and they are also occasionally wrong. And the deepest, darkest secret is that most of them do not feel like an expert either.

These impostor feelings can steam from shame, guilt, and poor self-esteem. Valerie Young, Ed.D., an expert on the impostor syndrome, commented in Entrepreneur magazine that “millions of people, from entrepreneurs to celebrities, have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments. They explain away their success as luck or timing. They feel this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.” This is common for creative and business professionals.

For me to get over my paralyzing fear of writing a blog post, I had to accept the truth that everyone has flaws and no one is perfect. I had to give myself permission to accept that it’s okay to not be “the” expert. I simply write to the best of my ability, and make sure the information I provide is as accurate as possible. If others want to see me as an expert, then that view is theirs to hold.

Another huge ah-ha moment was realizing that many people have the same feeling of being a fraud, fake, phony, and impostor. Realizing that people whom I consider very successful and experts have the same feelings I do was very freeing. Look at the article by The Creative Mind, Do Impostor Feelings Dampen Your Creativity? for several examples of famous people admitting to feeling like an impostor.

The moral of the story is to not let your self-doubts stop you from doing what you want. Do not let it stop you from having and sharing creative ideas. You have something to say, something to share. Share it and shine! For additional tips on stopping the critic in your head, read my early post Meet Grace: The Voice in My Head.