Do you know that feeling when someone compliments your work and you either splurt out a “thanks but it’s just…” or desperately try to explain how you should have done it better? Is your art always “it’s just” and “it’s only”… Is everyone out there better than you at what you do?
If imposter syndrome was a person it would be regularly taking me behind some bike shed and calling me a little bitch whilst beating me for lunch money.
It gets me good.
For anyone who doesn’t know what imposter syndrome is, it is “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”” according to Wikipedia.
I think everyone in any kind of creative field has felt this at least once and some of us are plagued by it.
About a year and a half ago, my best friend came round and patiently listened to me ramble and rant for hours about how I was going to start a blog, make a website, start an Etsy, get my life together. I had 6 months’ worth of posts planned out, I had bought and registered a domain and was fully intending to wow everyone with my amazing blogging capabilities….
… and then I decided that I didn’t know quite enough about setting up a blog, so I subscribed to a bunch of podcasts, took a free online course, bought a business book or two, joined some facebook groups and made some more plans.
… and then I felt like I didn’t have anything to write about, despite my 6 month plan of amazing things I was going to do, but I thought I could maybe do some how-tos or tutorials instead.
… and then I slowly got consumed by the idea that no one would want to see what I was doing anyway, and even if they did, if I showed them, then they’d realise how much of a fraud I was, how simple it really was to make the things I do and I’d be irrelevant, useless and worthless.
Looking back now I’m amazed at how quickly this downward spiral went from procrastination to self-hatred.
No matter how many business and blogging and entrepreneurial books I read, how many podcasts I listened to or how many plans I made, nothing was silencing that “maybe you’re just a bit rubbish” voice.
This past December I did some soul searching.
I did a lot of it so: SOULSEARCHING TLDR: I’m a bit rubbish at a lot of things. It shouldn’t stop me doing them.
I’m rubbish at cooking, I love it but I burn myself a lot and, although I make edible food, it sure isn’t 5 star. I still cook nearly every day and I still burn pizzas a lot.
I’m rubbish at housekeeping. Anyone who’s seen my house will testify that it’s never tidy. I have two young kids, two cats and just no motivation for housework. I still do it… sometimes… when I HAVE to.
I’m rubbish at small talk, at pretty much any kind of sport and even basic maths.
I’m also kind of rubbish at making things sometimes. There’s days where I just can’t get the thing to do the thing I need, that I’d thought I had the masterful idea for and planned out perfectly. It’s not uncommon for me to have a full break-down-weep in my studio because “the thing won’t do the thing”. I go away, research what I might have done wrong, what I would need to do to make it right and then I usually go and right it. But this all happens privately, there isn’t an audience and I don’t need to tell anyone about it.
Despite how honest I try to be online (because who really needs any more Instagram hotdog legs on beaches?) I don’t like to give away this part of the process in case it invalidates the finished work.
So here’s my top 3 tips on how to get from crippling imposter syndrome to no-fucks-given freedom
(I’m not quite there yet myself, but these are the things that are helping me)
PUT AWAY THE SELF HELP AND HOW-TO BOOKS- as great as they can be, and damn, I can give you a list as long as my arm of my favourites, there needs to come a time where you step back and stop listening to how to start a journey of some kind and just skip to the end. Learning how to do stuff is great but there’s no finishing line. Education is limitless. Take a deep breath, decide you’ve learnt enough for now and that you’ll learn ON the journey, not before.
Theory is great, but it needs to be balanced with practice.
I know nothing about SEO… I vaguely know it exists and it’s something to do with the right keywords in the right places? But at some point I’ll learn how to make it work. I have a huge SEO for dummies book that I’ve been planning to read through BEFORE starting the blog… for as long as I’ve owned this domain. A year and a half. I’m on page 10. It’ll be at least a decade before I make my way through that …
SET A DEADLINE- AND THEN TELL EVERYONE- When I was doing all that soul searching in December I realised that a piece of advice I had heard over and over again was to make yourself accountable. To set a deadline and let everyone know because then you would be beholden to it. I had never done it as I was so scared of ‘letting people down’ (I’m not sure exactly how) or showing myself to be flaky, untrustworthy, unreliable, all those kind of things.
So I made a deadline, January 2019 to open the Etsy. That meant I had to get off my arse pretty sharpish to make stuff to actually sell in this Etsy. I also had to quickly work out how to actually make a website that I liked the look of (I’m a visual person so it can be crap, as long as it looks nice). That quickly turned into a week of sobbing at my laptop because I couldn’t make one thing ‘move from there to there’ or ‘make that bit a bit bigger’. But I got there. It’s very bare bones but it’s there. The Etsy launched on January the 31st, because I said it would launch in January… It launched with three items and I’m adding more as often as I can. I had dreamed of it opening with a whole collection of 10-15 products around the same theme, and then I’d work on the next collection. That didn’t happen, but its ok, it’s there. I said it would be there, it got there. Fuck perfectionism.
When you think your reputation is on the line, it’s amazing how quickly you step it up. Perfectionism be damned, as long as it’s delivered on time and it’s good enough.
Break down your end goal to actionable steps, make a good estimate on how long each step will take and then announce your deadline, otherwise that deadline will just fly past you without you even noticing. Use that crippling anxiety for good, instead of letting it stop you doing the things, let it light the fire to make you do the things on time.
GIVE LESS FUCKS- this has been the biggest one for me, and something I’ve been working towards for the majority of last year.
I care a lot. I care about welfare, about people, about the environment, money, family, about everything, and that’s great. These are things that I care about the answer to, or care about the situation or state of. Caring about those things is what gives you your integrity, your morals and you personality.
You know one thing you shouldn’t care about?
Whether people like you or not. What they think about you. How you’ll be perceived. Care about your product, care about your performance, care about your goals. Don’t care about if people think what you’re making is stupid or weird. Don’t care about how people perceive your success, they’re not on your journey and success is very different to each person.
Don’t care about what they think, care about what you do.
I think giving less fucks is like working out, or meditation, or self care, you really need to practice it daily to see the results.
And just accept that in the beginning, you’re going to be a bit shit, and that’s ok, and it’s also ok for everyone to see that. But you won’t get any better until you try. And in order to get better, you need to take that imposter syndrome in a headlock, get real close to its ear and whisper all the things you’re going to do to it if it doesn’t leave you alone and let you do the thing. Then take its lunch money and invest it in yourself.
SO DO THE THING
Whether its starting something new or stepping up what you’re already doing, set a deadline now; a month, a week, realistic but soon.
And then come tell me all about it! Leave a comment or dm me on instagram (@caged_crinoline) email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send me a goddamn carrier pigeon.
Feel the fear, feel like a fake, feel like everyone will make fun of you, and then go do it anyway, ‘cause who gives a fuck about what they think? Not you, because you’ll be too busy DOING THE THING.