Imposter syndrome: “A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”
Have you ever felt like you’re living a lie?
Like you’re trying to cover up the fact that you don’t really know what you’re talking about?
That you’ll eventually be “found out?”
Maybe you’re actually quite knowledgeable and have significant industry experience, but you just can’t seem to shake off the pervasive feeling that you’re a fraud.
If this sounds like you, you’re likely suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.
But don’t worry. You’re not alone.
I’ve experienced it myself. A lot.
It’s a fairly common phenomenon that affects some of the best and brightest minds on the planet.
Some famous people who have struggled with these feelings include Tina Fey, Seth Godin, Kate Winslett, Maya Angelou, and Michelle Pfeifer to name a few.
The imposter syndrome makes us feel like we’re cheating. This feeling can, in turn, cause us to reduce the quality of our work even if we’re not consciously aware of it. I’ve seen the imposter syndrome turn would-be marketing rockstars into timid underachievers.
That’s where the imposter syndrome often hits the hardest. It keeps content marketers, specifically, from producing top-tier content.
How do you create amazing content even if you feel like an industry imposter?
Here are some tips.
Change your mindset
I think neurosurgeon and author Henry Marsh nailed it in his description of imposter syndrome:
Part of you knows you’re not as good as you’re pretending to be, but you have to come across as being relatively competent and confident.
Deep down, many people are just balls of insecurities. One day our confidence is on, and the next day it’s off.
Some of us have a tendency to judge ourselves a bit too harshly. We may feel unfit at times and struggle with feelings of inadequacy.
But the truth is that everyone is winging it to some degree.
Everyone experiences self-doubt at some point. It’s a normal part of life.
And if you really think about it, feeling like an imposter at times isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That’s because people who never experience self-doubt may feel overly competent to the point that they’re unable to realize how incompetent they really are.
There has even been extensive scientific research that proves that “incompetent people think they’re much better than they actually are.”
It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Here’s a graph that illustrates this phenomenon:
Feeling like an imposter can actually provide you with the fuel to keep improving and stay on top of your game.
The key is to not allow imposter feelings to rule your life.
Eliminating them entirely probably isn’t realistic, but you should definitely try to minimize them and ensure they don’t get out of control.
I like this quote from Valerie Young, author of the book Imposter Syndrome:
You don’t need to try to eradicate the impostor feelings – but you also don’t need to obey them, either. It’s a matter of ‘changing your thoughts, slowly over time’, and taking risks in spite of the inner voice telling you you’ll fail.
Call yourself out when these feelings emerge
Self-awareness is a critical first step to changing this type of thought pattern.
You need to catch yourself when these feelings emerge and become aware of them.
I recommend doing a little self-reflection from time to time so that you’ll know just how pervasive your imposter feelings really are.
Once you get in the habit of calling yourself out, you’ll be in a better position to slash through those ugly feelings and move forward.
Recognize you’re not the only one who feels this way
It comforts me to know I’m not the only one facing something or dealing with a particular challenge.
Just knowing there are other people in the same boat offers a certain sense of relief.
As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of people who feel like imposters.
In fact, there’s a laundry list of incredibly smart and talented people who’ve felt unworthy.
Many people—artists, musicians, authors, and even business tycoons—have dealt with this. And even at the height of their success, many continue to struggle.
The bottom line is you’re by no means the only person who has felt like an imposter.
Try not to stress out too much if you feel like an imposter.
Acknowledge your role in your success
Have you experienced some degree of success in your business, marketing campaign, content writing, etc.?
Well, guess what? You obviously had some role in that success.
Maybe you’re not where you’d like to be or still have a lot to learn about your industry before you could be considered an expert.
But regardless, you are, to at least some extent, directly responsible for your success.
Acknowledging this fact is very empowering and can help you get over self-doubt.
This doesn’t mean you should be arrogant about your success, but you should definitely give yourself a pat on the back every once in awhile.
Stop with the comparisons
It seems we’re living under one big microscope these days.
With social media, personal branding, and digital portfolios, everyone’s affairs are seemingly out in the open for everyone else to see.
Constantly comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to become discouraged and generate feelings of being an imposter.
It can be disillusioning when a primary industry competitor seemingly has it together and is completely killing it without a flaw.
But this is often an illusion.
We naturally put our best face forward in the world, and what you see on a social media profile or website doesn’t necessarily align with reality. Everyone struggles in their own unique way.
For all you know, a competitor may be a complete charlatan, and their experience doesn’t hold a candle to yours.
Although a little comparison can be healthy from a self-motivation standpoint, too much of it can kill your confidence and is futile.
That’s why you should remember that you’re completely unique and have something of your own to bring to the table.
Think of yourself as a work in progress
It’s impossible to know everything.
Those who think they are total experts are often the most delusional and provide very little value.
I’ve found I can increase my confidence and feel a lot better about myself when I simply acknowledge that I’m a work in progress.
I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. Rather than beating myself up about them and holding myself to unrealistic standards, I prefer to have an attitude of embracing mistakes and learning from them. That allows me to avoid being crippled by the fear of making them.
After all, everyone is learning on the fly to some extent and making it up as they go along.
You don’t have to know every single detail about your industry in order to provide great content.
Remember: the more you write about it, the more you’ll learn, and the bigger of an authority you’ll eventually become.
As time goes on, you’ll inevitably make more and more progress.
Make it about the content, not you
I think the easiest way to get over imposter syndrome is to place your focus on providing value to your audience and not make it about you.
Trying to position yourself as an authority or expert will put additional pressure on you.
It’s like you’re trying to prove to yourself that you actually know what you’re talking about.
A better approach is to just work on creating real value.
Having the mentality of legitimately trying to help someone shifts the focus from you to your content.
As a result, you’re able to churn out amazing content without placing unnecessary stress on yourself.
Concentrate on originality
Every single person has their own unique ideas, insights, and take on things.
If you really want to get over your imposter feelings, be hyper-diligent about being 100% original with your content.
Doing this accomplishes two very important things.
First, it ensures that you maintain a high quality level.
When you consistently take an original approach and create content like no one else, it’s almost guaranteed to translate into quality.
In turn, it’s likely to receive plenty of shares, and you’re going to be rewarded by Google with better rankings.
To prove it, here’s a breakdown of the top ranking factors of 2016.
As you can see, original content takes up a large slice of the pie chart:
Second, originality is the ticket to eventually gaining the respect and admiration of your audience and peers.
When you’re less concerned with “being found out” and more concerned with creating high-quality, original content, you’ll increase your odds of getting positive results.
This can create a positive cycle of increased confidence, which leads to better content, which leads to even more confidence, and so on.
If you feel like an industry imposter, don’t sweat it. It’s an issue that countless people have dealt with and will continue to deal with.
The important thing is that you catch yourself in the act and change your mentality to effectively combat the issue.
By developing a healthy mindset and focusing your efforts on your content, you should be able to weaken any imposter feelings and move past them.
At the same time, you can use it for fuel to maximize the quality of your content.
If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome, how did you deal with it?