166 – Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome has killed more great works, more companies, more careers and possibilities than almost anything I know. When we begin something that we want to be skilled at, we understandably feel like we don’t deserve to call ourselves by the title that would accompany our work. Musician, actor, sculpture, entrepreneur, programmer, writer… We add qualifiers like “I’m working on becoming an actor.” Or “I work as an accountant, but my side hustle is composing.”

Do I have to make money at it before I can call myself what I am? Do I have to wait until the title is bestowed upon me? Who makes that decision?

Now, there are some things that have to be credentialed before you are official. Just because I want to become a doctor, does not mean that I can just throw a stethoscope around my neck and start seeing patients. But for most other things, you are the only one that needs to decide.

Why do we do this? Why are we afraid to take on the title of what it is we’re doing? If I am making music, am I not a musician? If I get up each morning and type even 100 words on my book, doesn’t that make me a writer? I think it comes down to the worrying about the opinions of others. We feel like we’re an imposter because we think there are some criteria set or that we have to reach a certain level of proficiency before we can assume the title.

But who has set this level? In most cases, we ourselves are the ones that have set some imaginary level. We have decided what we think makes someone a writer, a musician, an athlete. The good thing about that is that we are the ones that can change it. We are the ones that can decide what that level is and make it be more generous.

I say that we do it Bob Ross style. If you are painting, you’re a painter. If you’re out there in your running shoes putting the miles in, you’re an athlete. Every time you pick up that guitar, you’re a musician. If you are actively doing whatever that goal is, that’s all that matters. Even if you only get down a few words each day and they are terrible. Even if you struggle to play the only two guitar chords you know. Only got a mile into your run before you had to walk? That’s okay, you are a still a runner.

When we’re working on something we love and are pushing ourselves to stretch and create and become better that we before sometimes all we can do is just keep moving forward as best we can. When we’re starting out we need to remember that the quality or the quantity of our work isn’t where we want it to be, but that we’re doing it is important. And if we keep on doing it, we will get better. I think the saying “fake it till you make it” is descriptive of how we need to handle imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is just worrying about the opinions of others, and that is something, as the Stoics remind us, we have no control over. What you do have control over is if you’re going to keep going. So pick up those brushes, lace up those shoes, and keep pounding away that those keyboards, and don’t worry so much about what others might think.


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