I’ve been experiencing a lot of self-doubt lately, I think it comes with the territory of trying to do creative things, and things that are new. This is particularly true when you are sharing it online for all the world to see, which involves opening yourself up to criticism but also in general to people’s opinions and evaluations of your hard work.
Before we get into how to deal with it, I want to define or describe what these feelings are like.
For me, self-doubt and imposter syndrome, is the nagging and sometimes overwhelming sense that I am not what I am selling myself as, that I’m faking it, or that I am generally really bad at what I am trying to do and that others are laughing at my attempts. And this feeling, and thoughts, can occur at work or in many different situations in life. But most often, they happen when I am writing and publishing my written work on social media and my website. Self-doubt and imposter syndrome can make us feel really anxious, insecure, depressed, unmotivated, and can prevent us from doing and pursuing the things that we love.
So what do we do when we feel this way?
- Know that it is normal to feel this way. While this might not help us kick the feeling, it is good to know that most people experience this at some point in their life, and its normal, especially when pursuing a new creative task, or a new job, to experience this.
- This feeling won’t last forever. Often self-doubt and imposter syndrome ebb and flow. You will have times when it is more present and you will have times when it is barely there at all. Sometimes just waiting for it to pass is enough.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. One of the easiest ways to discredit the self-doubt thoughts is to surround yourself with people who love you, and most importantly support whatever it is you are pursuing. They can help reassure you and tell you all the good things that you might not be able to see in that moment.
- Distance yourself from negative or unsupportive people. This one might be obvious after the last one but it is sometimes hard to do. Really think about how you feel about yourself and what you are doing when you are around specific people in your life. If you tend to feel crappy and insecure after talking to that person about your new endeavors, then maybe it is best to not spend as much time with them, or if you can’t avoid them don’t talk about your new project with them.
- Challenge the thoughts. Think of whatever that doubtful thought is and try to use logic and evidence to break it down. For example, “I’m a bad writer and my work will never amount to anything.” could be countered with, “I am improving in my craft every day and I am actively working toward my goals.” Replace the negative thought with a more positive and forgiving one.
- Ask if being bad at something would take away the joy it brings you. We live in a very competitive and achievement oriented culture. We are taught to be successful (rich, talented, beautiful etc.) at all costs. I think we should do things because we love them and they bring us health and joy, not because we are good at them or because they make us seem successful to others. You think you suck at painting? So what? You love to do it and it makes you happy; focus on that feeling.
- Remember, you are on your own journey. It’s cliché but it is 100% true. Each and every person is on their own journey and we are doing our best along that journey. Look to others for inspiration or ideas, but don’t compare yourself because you are likely doing very different things and working from different perspectives and situations.
- Learn more. Sometimes the best thing to quiet a doubtful mind is to just say “Hey, I don’t know everything so let me learn”. If your doubt comes from feeling like you lack knowledge or experience try to get it. Watch an informative YouTube video, find a course you can take, or read a book. Then you can quiet those thoughts because you are in fact actively trying to learn and gain more knowledge.
- Buckle down and keep going. Sometimes the best way to shake off sticky feelings of imposter syndrome is to just do it anyway. You’ll never get better by not doing it, but also sometimes once you get started you feel more confident in your ability. Because you realize you can do it and you are doing it. Life is short; don’t let these feelings keep you from doing the things you love.
I am in no way perfect at fighting these thoughts and feelings, they are sticky and they often come from deep formative experiences of embarrassment, bullying, or shame, as well as societal pressure so don’t feel bad if you have trouble shaking them.
I hope that these tips are helpful for you and that they help you to get back to what you really want to do. Feel free to come back and reread them if you are having one of those days and you need to be reminded that what you are doing is awesome and brave.
Have you ever experienced feelings of imposter syndrome or self-doubt before? What helped you overcome those feelings?