What am I even doing here? I’m not really a creative...
What do I have to offer- this other bloke seems to be way smarter than me!
I can’t do this. I’ve never done this thing before. It feels like lying to say I can do it.
Ah, imposter syndrome.
The constricting of the chest, the tightening of the muscles, the sweaty palms, the racing thoughts that just won’t simmer down...
Too real? Sorry not sorry, because those feelings are what we’re getting in to.
Your guide on this gut wrenching exploration of perceived inadequacies and doubt is Anna Hetzel (that’s me - copywriter and fellow fake imposter). I got really into CAPS LOCK in this recap because I got really excited about stuff. So, excuse my EXCITEMENT.
Sean Gorant completey succeeded in taking great photos.
Knows what bums you out
We’ll start here, becuase it was the point where the most people were nodding ferociously in agreement during Rise & Design.
Take a moment right now - really right now - to write down what triggers your imposter syndrome.
Here are some ideas:
“Oh, you’re so young/old/millennial!”
“You seem overqualified/underqualified.”
When someone questions your process
When the initial pitch seems like something outside of your perceived ‘expertise’
I’m making you go through this horrible exercise because it’s important to know what makes you start freaking out about your talent and ability.
When you don’t feel good in a situation or are feeling the imposter syndrome bug likes it’s the next big pandemic, take a moment and identify what makes you feel that way.
Once you name it you can start attacking it and problem-solving a way to shut that annoying brain up.
Because you can do this.
Social media- the pit of despair
We talked A LOT about social media in August - read the recap here.
What to take away from our discussion on social media within the framework of imposter syndrome is that you shouldn’t focus on the analytics or how many likes you get.
Define your own values and set the metrics for yourself.
Analytics are NOT indicative of the effect you have.
Get the heck out of your comfort zone
Ok so here is where I try and convince you that imposter syndrome is a GOOD thing.
Part of being creative is not doing the same thing day after day. We would wither and die at an office job filling out spreadsheets all day. We need stimulation, change, growth!
But the problem with trying new things is that we step outside of our comfort zone. We immediately feel as if we don’t really belong in that space, that we’re busting down the LEGO castle like Godzilla instead of building it up.
The uncertainly of trying something new is honestly what we LOVE about creativity. We are natural-born problem solvers, and that problem we’re solving almost necessitates imposter syndrome. What if we can’t solve it? What if we fail?
Look, we will all fail at some point. But that failure will help us grow, help us create, and help us be more vulnerable.
Ah, vulnerable. Allow me the pleasure of side-tracking for a second…
There is such value in vulnerability. If you don’t understand something, ask about it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough or that the client shouldn’t have hired you.
It means you CARE enough to learn more and to the do a really fricking great job. AND being vulnerable might even help the client feel more comfortable with you and treat you more, like, you know, a human.
It's a mystery!
Going off the ‘out of your comfort zone’ theme- let’s enter the realm of mystery…
We all have those little voices in head asking us how we could possibly know anything. It sends us into a spiraling panic, thinking that the end product will be the worst and the client will demand their money back.
But here’s the thing: success can come from doing shit you’ve never done before.
There is a mystical component of not knowing. Revel in the mystery of figuring it out. Love the fact that you are learning something new and that means you are growing as a creative AND as a professional.
Don’t hold yourself back.
Go be the best Creative Sherlock the world has ever seen.
And then hire me to write really super overly cheesy motivational lines for you.
Own your success and know your value
Let’s start with a knockout punch:
Your output does NOT equal your worth.
I could keep this section as simple as that, but let’s expand, shall we?
We put a lot of markers on success, and unfortunately success tends to be wrapped up in money or ‘influence.’
Own your success. Understand what you value and own up to it. Make a cheat sheet of awesomeness- list out your successes and put it by your desk to remind you of how AMAZING you are before a client call. Constantly update that.
The problem with value and success as a creative is that we have this idea that it’s supposed to ONLY come from PASSION and we are forced to decide whether we’re doing the work for economic or passionate reasons.
Why can’t it be both?
We chose this this profession AND this path.
It matters how you choose to show up
Here’s the scenario:
You have your favorite t-shirt that you wear everywhere. You’d love to even wear it to client meetings, but just aren’t quite sure if you should dress up, dress down, dress sideways, dress reverse….too many options!
Do you wear a button up for that one particular client? But what if wearing a button up feels just plain wrong to you, like a fake skin, like you’re pulling wool over the eyes of the client (pun totally intended)?
Here’s the thing- there is a beautiful spectrum of what it means to be YOU. Even if you have that most favorite t-shirt ever and ever amen, guaranteed (well, hopefully at least) it’s not the ONLY shirt you own.
There is a time to be casual and a time to be institutional. Meeting with clients is like dating.
You wouldn’t show up on the first date with ripped jeans covered in paint and a baggy worn out see-through shirt (I mean, maybe you would…).
Show up as YOU, but accept the spectrum of yourself. Sometimes it’s good to wear a button up as long as that button up still feels good.
The point being conveyed via messy analogies and metaphors is this: remember that they hired you for YOU.
Show up in what makes the most sense for YOU and YOUR brand.
Read this, if nothing else
No matter what happens to you out there in the big scary creative world, own YOUR creative.
Your identity is the core insulator. It can protect you from all that noise that flips your imposter syndrome switch.
Own your own creative self. Own your successes. Own it.
(are you sensing a theme yet?)
BONUS! What success means to fellow Rise & Designers
I took the liberty of spamming the Rise & Design slack channel (hint hint go join, it’s super awesome) to ask the Rise & Design crew what success means to them. Here’s some answers to get you really inspired.
Success for me means being honest and finding a sense of joy through it all! I think of joy as lightness or softness, not necessarily maintaining "happy" all the time (let's be real that's unsustainable). But happiness/success, for me, is identifying those joys along the journey.
So many possible definitions. Some things that feel good and might go into a success cocktail, in no particular order:
- earning genuine respect of peers
- getting to do interesting or meaningful work
- being supported directly or indirectly in a way that enables a life of the kind of work and experiences you want to have
- variety of work and play, with friends and family, significant others, whatever flavor that comes in
- time to unplug and celebrate, rest, relax
- being challenged not to rest on laurels, to be called to continuous evolution of skill, expression, even career or discipline
Success for me — what I value most — is managing to turn off the voice in my head that tells me who I’m supposed to be and letting my ideal self be defined by my true self. Virtually everything I do, good or bad, lets me grow and learn from my experiences. And the best growth for me comes from cultivating people you can trust to know you deeply and encourage you to follow your values.
Yes, that self-defining component of success is so important. I decided early if I could live off my work, have people recognize a style in me, and have fun on the job, that was it. I was doing something right. Years later, that’s all still true; factors wax and wane, but usually trending upward.
Success to me means being able to continue doing what I love the most- genuinely and passionately. Having the ability to be financially independent so that I can steer my own course and continue taking risks are important to me. I also agree with a lot of what Michael says: work/life balance is definitely part of that! Success is having full confidence in my abilities and not feeling like I need to measure myself to other people's careers. I'm not there yet but I hope that's how I will feel when I get there!
A not so cheesy motivational quote:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde
Much love and POWER,