How To Let Go Of Imposter Syndrome So You Can Crush It!
Imposter syndrome can cripple the best of us. But what about when you’re trying to pivot and change careers, take on a new project, or start a side hustle?
In this post I’ll discuss imposter syndrome, what causes it, and how you can overcome it with some simple tips you can start using right away.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people believe they’re not good enough. That they’re tricking other people into thinking they’re capable at whatever it is they’re doing. If you suffer from imposter syndrome you likely feel like an incompetent fraud who just got lucky.
There are varying degrees of imposter syndrome, and if you want to find out where you are on the scale you can take the Clance Imposter Scale survey.
What Causes It?
Even though imposter syndrome makes you feel alone, the truth is that it’s a very common condition.
I feel it whenever I try something new. In fact, I think almost everyone has had a moment in their lives where they’ve felt like a fake doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
Studies have shown that 70% of people have experienced it at some point. An article in Psychology Today lists some contributing factors such as:
- friends who aren’t supportive
- having more responsibility
- a lot of stress in your life
What It Does To Us
Imposter syndrome can affect our performance and self-confidence. It makes us feel like we’re not good enough.
When I first started proofreading I was petrified with the thought that I didn’t know what I was doing, regardless of how much I knew. I had just finished a post-graduate program in publishing and was working at a small travel magazine.
I remember when I received my first article to proofread I was excited, but I was SO scared at the same time. The article was a short piece on Tibet, and I think I looked up a every fourth word I came across because I couldn’t trust myself to know what was right.
Your Biggest Fears
I bet I know what your biggest fears are when it comes to doing anything new or different. Trust me, I’ve had them and so have most people I know. Let’s tackle them head on, shall we?
1. You worry you’re not good enough.
I think everyone on earth has felt this at some point whenever undertaking something new. When it comes to proofreading, you think you’ll come across something you won’t know how to fix and then you’ll be ruined and no one will work with you, ever.
The fact is, as long as you strive to do your best, you are good enough. Keep your mind sharp by always learning, reading lots, and asking questions. As a proofreader you can take quizzes and use your proofreading skills whenever you can.
2. You don’t know all the things.
This is a common fear. No one can know everything, though, right? The truth is that you don’t have to know all the things.
Don’t expect yourself to have some superhuman level of knowledge and skill that’s unrealistic. Thinking like that will hold you back from starting and succeeding.
3. You’re going to make a mistake.
Are you going to mess up, make a mistake, forget something? Of course you are. Have you ever read books and caught a typo or missing words? It’s annoying, but mistakes happen even to the best of us.
What if you miss something and someone points it out? Well, that happens, too. It’s part of being human. The only thing you can do is apologize and move on from the embarrassment.
4. What if they think I’m a fraud?
Remember, you know more than the client. They’re hiring you to do what they don’t know.
I know a lot of people have a fear that a client will ask a language-related question and you’re worried you won’t know the answer.
But you know what? Even if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay. All you have to say is you’re going to double check your resources.
“But, Phon, what happens if I go to a party and someone asks me a proofreading related question and I don’t know the answer?” Someone actually asked me this question, btw. Wanna know what I said?
I have two responses to that:
> First, what kind of person quizzes you as if you need to validate your qualifications for them? If you meet an accountant do you hit them with a mathematical equation? No, that would just be rude and inappropriate. If someone asks you a question like that just make a joke and tell them they have to pay you first 😉
> My other response is that no one will ask you that. At least not a socially savvy person. Usually when people hear I’m a proofreader they say, Wow, I wish I could try that. Or, Really? Cuz I just wrote a book and need someone to look it over for me.
How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate. You can become successful, have a lot of clients, and money in the bank, but if you don’t know how to overcome it, it will haunt you daily.
So how do you conquer it? Here are five ways:
1. Positive Affirmations
It’s been proven that it’s never too late to change our thought patterns. If you say out loud or silently in your head a mantra or positive statement, you can reprogram the neural pathways in the brain and alter its tendency to latch on to negative thought patterns.
Self-criticism feeds imposter syndrome, so don’t feed the beast.
Keep your affirmation short and simple, like “I know what I’m doing” or “I am very capable.” Whenever a negative thought pops up repeat these statements to yourself until you feel more in control.
2. Own Your Achievements And Successes
You are doing what you’re doing because of your choices. Did you land a proofreading gig out of pure luck? No. You got it because the client trusted you were the best person for the job.
Own your success, even if you consider it small. Maybe you reached out to twenty people in your network and got two responses back. It’s not a lot, but you made connections and that’s what matters.
3. No One Is Perfect
Did you hear that? No one is. And if you make a mistake you learn from it and move on. Don’t look at these moments as failures but as ways for you to grow and expand your experience.
I also highly recommend Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. It’s helped me push through my fears and move forward towards my goals.
4. Keep A Journal
I keep a journal that I write in a few times a week. Not only do I find the action of writing by hand soothing, but it’s time for me to reflect and gain insight. I record my setbacks, failures, and successes big and small.
I also end each entry by writing down what I’m grateful for or a goal I want to reach. It reminds me that life is a journey with twists and turns, and no matter what happens, everything will be okay.
5. Accept That You Cannot Know It All
I know I’m repeating myself here, but really, truly, you do not have to know it all. You don’t have to be a walking style guide or dictionary.
I’ve trained people whose only experience proofreading was in school and in their heads while reading a book. And they’ve gone on to become successful proofreaders and have even moved on to higher-level editing.
In my 15 years as a freelance proofreader and editor, this last fear is the biggest obstacle for people to overcome. And it doesn’t apply to just proofreading, but anything you’re doing. If you let go of this high standard you will feel less stress, and that will help ease your imposter syndrome.