Reality Blog: Face Your Impostor Syndrome Fears… and Win

Accusing Fingers Pointing at Scared Man - Imposter SyndromeI feel like I’m picking up some momentum lately on my journey to the writer’s life.

I’ve landed a new client and have been getting more work from a different one. I’ve gotten a couple of referrals, and I’ve seen interest from some of the prospects I’ve cold-called or cold-emailed. And I currently have proposals out for a few projects that have the potential to keep me very busy for the summer.

It feels exciting and promising — but along with joy, I also have a real sense of fear.

Fear that I’m not really capable of making a living as a copywriter… fear that people will figure out I have no idea what the heck I’m doing… and that they’ll lose all interest in working with me the second they realize I’m a fraud.

I suspect some of you may know what I’m talking about. It’s commonly called impostor syndrome.

And it’s not at all helpful. It takes up mental space and can hold us back, so we need to learn how to deal with it. I’ll give you some tricks for taming it — but first, here’s a quick look at why people even get it to begin with.

We Feel Like Impostors Because…

  • There’s pressure to achieve. Whether it comes from our families, friends, clients, or ourselves, we often feel obligated to do well at everything we try.

  • We’re new at what we’re doing. People often have trouble distinguishing the difference between being new and being incapable. I’ll talk more about this in a moment.

  • We have a real sense of humility about our work. The humility becomes fear when we start believing we have nothing of value to offer.

Do any of these resonate with you? Knowing some of the reasons people experience impostor syndrome can help you think about how to start combatting it. Different things will work for different people, but here are some concrete steps you can take to get control of yours.

How to Overcome Your Impostor Syndrome

  • Recognize it for what it is. Knowing that your fears are illusions will help you let them go faster.

  • Don’t lose perspective. Try not to overdramatize or create false meaning where there is none. It’s irrational to generalize that everyone hates your writing because no one comments on your article or blog. See if you can catch yourself making these leaps in logic by picturing someone else telling them to you. If you’d think someone else was being unreasonable, then you’re being that way yourself!

  • Figure out what got you to this point. Sure, you may have had some sort of luck that contributed to your situation. Even so, there’s something about you that helped get you where you are, whether it’s a talent, a skill, or simply knowing when to seize an opportunity. Determine your role so you can celebrate your success — and remind yourself of it when you start to feel these nagging fears.

  • Know that you’re in good company. Though impostor syndrome was originally deemed a female trait, research has found that both men and women get it. Luminaries like Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Seth Godin, Sheryl Sandberg, and Sonia Sotomayor experience it, which means anyone can.

  • Remember that trying something new doesn’t make you an impostor. It makes you someone brave who is trying to contribute to the world. The fact that you haven’t done something yet has no bearing on your ability to do it. With writing, we need to be aware just because we haven’t done a certain kind of project before, doesn’t mean we can’t. And by becoming knowledgeable, we actually prevent ourselves from becoming impostors!

  • Change gears. Step away from whatever it is that you’re doing that makes you feel like an impostor. Start an activity you enjoy doing and that you’re good at. It doesn’t have to be business-oriented — it could be maintaining a garden or completing a crossword puzzle. But doing this other activity (set a time limit for yourself) will help remind you that you are a capable person who knows how to solve problems.

  • Keep a kudos file. Hopefully you already have testimonials, because they’re important for your marketing. If not, start collecting them. For our purposes, they can be from anyone: clients, colleagues, managers, friends, or family. Gather these testimonials and keep them in a file. Make sure it’s easy to access so you can read through them when you need a shot of confidence.

  • Write it down. Hey, you’re a writer! So do your thing by venting on paper. You don’t need to share your impostor syndrome experience with others unless you want to. But separating yourself from it in this way can help you see it more objectively.

  • Move on. Nothing is foolproof, and I still feel like a fraud at times, in spite of these tips. When that happens, I just force myself to move forward regardless. It’s okay to feel like an impostor. What’s not okay is letting those feelings prevent us from taking action. We have to decide that we can handle being uncomfortable — because whatever we’re doing that makes us feel like impostors, is going to be worth it.

Do you ever experience impostor syndrome? What do you do to get past it? Don’t be shy — please share with us in the comments below.

Keep Striving,
Candice

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Candice Lazar

Candice Lazar is a copywriter and marketing consultant. Her specialty is copy that helps clients develop long-term relationships with their customers.

7 Comments

  • Thank you for this article. I bought my Accelerated Copywriting course from AWAI in 2008 and put it aside with thoughts of picking it back up when this or that was over…………..etc. I picked it back up again last summer and had been working on it daily, until another life situation came up. Now; a year later I started working on it again today and I have had all of the above thoughts over the last few years which is why I set it aside each time. Now I will no longer feel like a fraud or failure.

    • That’s great, Liz. I appreciate your comment and am glad you found this helpful! Be kind to yourself, and enjoy the Accelerated course.

      Best,
      Candice

  • This is a goldmine of an article. Like others, the imposter syndrome is a challenge for me. In your list of the reasons we feel like imposters, you explain that “We’re new at what we’re doing. People often have trouble distinguishing the difference between being new and being incapable.” This really helped clarify where my perspective can be improved. Your suggestions for overcoming the imposter syndrome are great. I’ve jotted them down for easy reference later. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Becky! That one is a huge sticking point for me as well. When I’m not feeling very confident, I try to remember to remind myself that “just because I haven’t, doesn’t mean I can’t.” It’s kind of an affirmation.
      I’m very happy you found this useful and hope it continues to be a good resource for you.

      Candice

  • I struggle deeply with imposter syndrome. The feeling is reinforced when I talk to a prospective client on the phone and hear the question, “Who have you written for” or “What projects have you done before?” Sadly, I deal with this feeling by signing up for another AWAI course. Accelerated Copywriting to Infinity membership, to Dan Kennedy’s certified copywriter for info marketers, to B2B and now Circle of Success. I’ve completed all of these courses and still find myself hesitant to venture into the competitive world of copywriting. Thank you for the good information.

    • My pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You are one of the most educated copywriters in the world. Take what you’ve learned, create your portfolio, and start putting yourself out there. You’ll have to fake your confidence at first, but it will start to become real over time.

      Best of luck!
      Candice

  • Candice, I didn’t even realize there was a name for this, so this helped me open it up and look at it. Thank you!

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