Imposter syndrome (or impostor syndrome, take your pick; personally, I prefer the former!) is common among bloggers, and rightfully so.
I say “rightfully” not because I’m implying that bloggers should suffer from this paralyzing sickness of the mind, but instead because I understand why bloggers suffer from it harder than most other people in various professions!
You see, I’m no different. I suffer from imposter syndrome just as well when it comes to blogging. At my day job, I’m usually as cool as a cucumber. Because you see, I have a degree in my field. That piece of diploma handed out to me at my graduation screams louder than anything else that I AM QUALIFIED TO DO THIS THING!
Blogging? Not so much. There is no such degree in blogging. No diploma that was handed out to me saying I am now qualified to start a blog of my own, or blog for others, what have you.
Not only that I have no such degree in blogging, but I also do not have a degree that many people actually do have in–a skill that is paramount to bloggers–writing!
I’m comfortable when it comes to preaching to people about knowing how to build an email list, even though I have no such degree in list-building. I’m confident because the numbers speak for themselves. Same goes with using Pinterest to drive traffic or designing graphics that people like, etc. No degrees, sure, but data has just as much power as a degree, often perhaps even more power than a degree.
But writing? That throws me off BIG TIME! What’s the measure of good writing? My blog has an average of 80%-ish bounce rate. Which is, by most metrics, an average number for bloggers. But I can’t help but take it personally every now and then. Do people leave because they hate how I write? Is my writing not good enough for people to want to stick around?
Of course, that is not always the case, but the mind wonders none the less.
And yet, here I am, blogging away, and honestly, unless the world is falling apart right on my head, I hope to continue blogging as long as I am physically and mentally fit to do so.
So, how do I do this? How do I shoulder the burden of my imposter syndrome and provide an output at the same time?
That’s what I’ll be tackling in today’s blog post.
But first, let me tell you a little about me.
I’ve been writing every day for the last couple of years. Not everything I write sees the light of day, but at least a couple of articles make their way through to some blog (including this blog) or publication every single week.
People sometimes pay me to write for them, and while this is not a full-time gig, this writing thing, it does make for a nice disposable income source. As a non-native English speaker and someone with a background in science and engineering, this is a big deal!
And yet, I have a hard time attaching the “writer” label to myself. My “writer” persona lives entirely on the internet, and practically nobody I know in person (except maybe two people) knows the me who writes.
And if you’re wondering why that is, well, that’s because–aside from the fact that I’m a private person–I suffer from a terrible case of imposter syndrome when it comes to writing. That someone like me can make it in the writing business is unbelievable, and honestly, just the sound of it is almost preposterous.
And yet, here I am, writing away every single day.
What can be Done with Imposter Syndrome?
A doctor needs to diagnose an illness first before she prescribes a treatment. And sometimes, the illness itself is not sufficient for the treatment, the source of the illness can often be just as important.
For example, you can treat gingivitis, but if the cause of your receding gum disease has to do with a lack of dental hygiene, then rest assured, the disease will return with a vengeance unless you change your habits.
Cause: lack of dental hygiene. Cure: whatever the doc is doing and prescribing… Continued care: proper dental hygiene.
Let’s tackle Imposter Syndrome the same way.
Imposter Syndrome: Causes
For me, it’s my lack of confidence as a writer.
I didn’t go to school for writing. The only thing I had going for me was my love for reading.
I’m a reader. Have been one since I was a little kid. My mother is one herself, so I had the good luck to grow up in a household full of heavy and thick, hardcover novels.
There were grown-up books, but I had finished reading them all before the age of 10. My mother was now not only buying for herself, but she was also attempting to buy more age-appropriate books for me. But alas, she was too late. I might have been 10, but I had already grown a taste for grown-up books. You couldn’t possibly get me to read children’s books at that point.
So, I grew up never tasting the sweetness of middle grade or YA books. Adult stuff all the way through!
Anyhow, I went off on a tangent.
The point I’m trying to make is, the only reason I even attempted to write was that I wanted to write! As simple as that. My reader persona simply wanted to add her mark in the world by writing herself. But I cannot write the stuff I read. Not yet, at least. I don’t know where to even begin with writing a novel.
So, I started a blog.
But it still bugs me that I’m not a bonafide writer. That’s why, even if writing is such a huge part of blogging, I have a hard time attaching the “writer” label to myself. “Blogger” is all that I can manage.
But even so, just because I don’t call myself a writer, doesn’t mean I don’t feel insecure. Every time I look at my blog’s bounce rate, or a blog post doesn’t get a comment, or an email I send out gets a few unsubscribes, I start to question my ability as a writer. Surely, if only I was a better writer, people would stick around for more great stuff to read! — I tell myself. Even though the rational part of me knows that is not the case, that even someone like Jon Morrow or Melyssa Griffin get some unsubscribes every month, and that perhaps even Seth Godin doesn’t always succeed in everything he does, I can’t help but feel this crushing insecurity.
As for you my friend, you may be suffering from imposter syndrome for various reasons.
- Maybe you’re like me and you don’t feel confident about your writing.
- Or perhaps you’re a great writer, but you don’t know how to do the rest — the marketing, the list-building, the traffic-driving, or the tech-y parts like setting up your blog with WordPress… a blogger is so much more than just a writer after all!
- Or maybe you’ve had abusive parents or partners who have told you that you’re no good so many times that you actually started to believe it.
- Maybe your own friends think that blogging is just a hobby. They don’t understand why you spend so much time meticulously sticking to a writing schedule, why you spend so much time researching the best social media automation software, or why you spend hours reading other people’s blogs about blogging because you’re thirsty for knowledge. They don’t understand why you’re so adamant about succeeding as a blogger. “Isn’t it just a hobby?”–they wonder. But of course, you know better.
If you want to kick Imposter Syndrome in the butt, the first step is to figure out WHY you feel you’re not sufficient, or good enough, to succeed as a blogger (or whatever it is you’re struggling with, really).
Once you know the reason, it would be easier to figure out a plan to get over it.
Imposter Syndrome: Cure
No matter the cause of your illness, the result is usually the same. It’s that you allow yourself to stand in your own way to success.
- You don’t publish an article because you think it’s not good enough.
- You don’t tell people how to solve a problem, because you wonder why people would listen to you of all people.
- Or you don’t write because it feels like a waste of time when surely, no one’s going to read it let alone like it.
- You don’t blog because there’s no way you can learn to do the techy stuff, or drive traffic, or build a list!
There are other symptoms, but these are the most prevalent among bloggers.
How do you find a cure?
Well, first, figure out the cause as mentioned under the preceding sub-header. And then, unlearn the things you have learned in your subconscious.
That’s your first step.
You think you are not a good writer? Well, what the heck?! Everybody started somewhere. Writing is just another skill. It can be learned. Sure, some people are born with talent. And if you weren’t, that’s fine. Plenty of people were born WITHOUT talent, but they simply worked their ass off to make up for talent with learned skills. You may not become the next Hemingway or Bradbury or Morrison or even Gaiman, heck, you may not even become Seth Godin or Melyssa Griffin or Pat Flynn… but you know what? There’s one thing I can GUARANTEE YOU!
That, if you’re struggling with blogging, you can at the very least, become just as good, if not better, than one blogger you know of (I’m assuming you do because you’re reading this blog) — and that is, yours truly right here!
Yes, if I can get anywhere at all with blogging, my dear friend, so can you! There’s just one thing you’ll need to do – put in the work!
Unlearning something that’s been instilled in you, either by yourself or by others, isn’t easy. it takes a constant mental workout. But that’s the “continued care” part, and we’ll tackle more of that in the next section.
Basically, to unlearn whatever negative things you have come to believe about yourself, you need to constantly tell yourself that what you know is not true. That’s the first part of the “curing” process.
The second part has to do with action.
Now, do please pay attention here:
YOU MUST TAKE ACTION.
Do the opposite of what your inner voice (not the good one, the evil one) is telling you to do.
Your evil inner voice is telling you that there’s no point in writing because no one is going to read what you write? Well, and excuse my language here, FUCK IT! Just do it! It’s OK if nobody reads. In fact, no one will for the first few months. That is pretty much guaranteed. If you can get more than a hundred email subscribers within the first three months of blogging, well, know that you’re one hell of a lucky blogger.
So, prepare to have some of your best articles not being read by anyone, and know that that’s TOTALLY FINE! Keep writing anyway. Not because you want other people to read, but because you want to change the narrative of your life that you’ve written (often with unwanted help from others) so far.
I’d say that you should chant the mantra “I’m good enough. I’m good enough. I’m good enough.” But personally, I’m not good with meditations and mantras. So, I just do the work. I’m a workhorse. I thrive in pressure. The more work I put on myself, the easier it is for me to shove the evil inner voice aside and just do the work and get the work done.
To sum it up, know that everything is learnable. Marie Forleo has her catchphrase; everything is figureoutable. My catchphrase is that everything is learnable. So, know that if you think you’re not good at something, it’s nothing but your fear of failure.
You can learn! And learning starts with your intention to learn and then doing the work. If you have your heart in the right place, if you’ve decided to learn something, and if you put in the work, YOU CAN DO IT TOO!
- Set a goal. For example, let’s say you want to blog once a week. Give yourself plenty of time to write and edit and proofread, and make sure you publish on the pre-designated day. If you miss for external influences every now and then, that fine. I often miss my deadline because I have other priorities. But the idea is to get the work done, and personally, it’s difficult for me to do anything if I don’t have concrete goals.
- Write it down. Setting a goal doesn’t mean that you’ve actually set a goal until you’ve written it down. If possible, do it with a pen on paper. Start carrying a notebook around. I’ve found that I have a harder time skirting my duties when I write them down in the old fashioned way, as opposed to setting a reminder in my digital calendar.
Imposter Syndrome: Continued Care
The thing with imposter syndrome is that you can’t ever really get rid of it completely. It returns at moments you least expect it to.
For example, I’d like to say that I have overcome my insecurities (not fully, but enough to get the work done) as a “writer” enough where I can confidently say that yes, I can write a piece that will get read, and some people will even like it! Not everyone, but some. And that’s enough.
But, recently I decided to start working on my very first e-course, and the imposter syndrome returned with, what felt like at the time, a vengeance! All of a sudden I was thinking of all the other similar courses out there and I started to wonder why anyone would bother paying for my course when so many other, more experienced people have the same things they offer?
It’s a challenge.
But fortunately, I have more tools at my exposure now than I did even a few months prior.
- My blog is read by at least 300-ish people every single day even though there are other, more experienced bloggers blogging about blogging! That tells me that I have something to say that resonates with some people out there.
- I have readers emailing me, telling me that they’d love for me to create a course. Even when they know they have other options!
- Once I’ve killed (or should I say, semi-killed?) an imposter syndrome once, I naturally develop a certain amount of confidence to do it again. At the very least, I know that even if I can’t beat it, I can work around it. Remember, all one really needs to do is do the work.
As I continue to work on my course, I’m not thinking about how many sales I’ll make. I’m simply doing the work. I will do everything in my power to create a stellar course, and then I will do what I can to sell it, yes, but even if I can’t sell as many as I’d like to, that’s fine. I have something to prove here. It’s not that I can make xx-number of sales, but it’s that I do what I have set out to do–finish the course and market it as best as I can.
To that end, I am researching every day for techniques to launch a successful course. But whether or not they work is irrelevant at this point. This is my very first course, so all I care about now is getting it out there. And when I do, I’ll have accomplished something–I’ll have proven it to myself that I can do it too!
Continued care is really just continuing to do the work every single day. If you find yourself relapsing to old ways of thinking, take a break. Really, just take a break! It may just be a long and hot shower, or maybe it’s a week-long vacation. If neither is possible, just go to a park and sit on a bench and try and take in the beauty of the everyday mundane things. Watch the people, hear the birds chirping, listen to the rustle of the tree leaves, listen in on people chattering… whatever, really. Just give yourself a break.
And then come back, and remember that you’re good enough, remember that everything is learnable and–as Marie Forleo would say–figureoutable, and then DO THE DAMN WORK!
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