I’m sure you’ve heard of the Imposter Syndrome by now. If you haven’t, that term is defined as “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement“. Even the “high achievement” term rattles my nerves.
For myself, the Imposter Syndrome feels like an unwelcome shadow. Although I work very hard, often, still, I wonder if I’m a fraud, as if certain of my professional skills had been feigned. I wondered when someone will expose me, or, horror of all horrors, push my rates to be way below market rates. How should I say it, hmm, often,
If you’re a professional, technically, you don’t have the right to not know what you’re doing. Obviously, you have to know! You’re getting paid for your work, you’re supposed to come up with the solution.
Here are 3 ways to overcome the effects of feeling like a fraud!
1. Reinforce your skills.
Be more ready than expected. Research. Learn. Apply.
A few years ago, I was approached to be the creative brainchild for a hotel’s campaign overhaul. There were a few reasons behind why I was the choice for the Creative Lead: the agency that approached me was confident of my skills and professional integrity; I had background qualifications in both design and IT. In their eyes, I would be the perfect bridge between the creative aspect and their technical team.
The thing that was true at that time was: I knew NOTHING about that field of study at that time.
To prepare for the project, I worked extra hard. I went to read up and digest everything I could find on that field, so that I could craft the creative solutions accordingly. I consolidated all the knowledge, after which, I applied methods to the problems. In the end, I became the expert. The agency was grateful. The client was impressed. The results spoke for themselves. I had taken calculated risks and even over-compensated with my time (the project was severely under-scoped). I went from being an Imposter to becoming the actual Expert in the field of study.
2. Manage expectations upfront, by being honest with your abilities.
The 2nd method that resonates with me personally as a professional service-provider is, to be honest about my skills, upfront. I don’t promise the sun and the sky to clients. For example, although I do web projects, I don’t proclaim myself to be a web developer. In addition, I will ask clients, before signing the contract, if they’re aware of how I do websites. Most of the time, their answers will be, “I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care.” Clients don’t care about your methods — they only care that you deliver the promised outcome. But I’m adamant that they know. I declare ahead, as with what you can see on my Services page, that what I do is WordPress theme customization, not code a site from scratch.
3. Acknowledge your limitations and reject work.
I do myself and prospects a favour by rejecting work that I’m totally not confident of delivering. This is the only way to be fair to everyone. I don’t lie to myself and others that I can achieve everything, and then die in the process of trying to deliver. It’s really not worth it. You’ll be better choosing the fields that you want to excel and invest the time in.
Do you get the Imposter Syndrome too?
What do you do to overcome it? Share with me!