Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Every creator or businessperson is on a journey on the roadmap to success.
You have an overwhelmingly powerful drive to create something, to develop something, to bring something that never existed into a tangible, visible form. Because the desire to translate the passion into reality is so compelling, you spend weeks, months, or even years in a highly focused pursuit of your purpose. Finally, in defiance against all adversity, what was initially a mere glimmer in your brain has become a fully-realized, functional achievement.
And now, you feel bummed out.
And, unfortunately, you have a tremendous amount of company. The sad reality is that many creators, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs find themselves lurching from the heady exhilaration of achievement to the soul-deflating agony of what is often times referred to as “imposter syndrome” – the groundless belief that your hard-won success is something that you should never be allowed to enjoy.
The whole situation is disturbingly counterintuitive to anyone who finds themselves immersed in it. Hard work, perseverance, and endurance against endless obstacles should foster a high degree of self-satisfaction once the goal is reached. But, despite all reason for celebration, many who finally arrive at their desired destination are shocked to discover that it’s a hollow victory at best. Rather than a sense of accomplishment, the unexpected end result for this journey can sometimes be one defined by feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, and even shame.
In a world with tens of millions of creators and business owners fashioning products and services, there’s an undeniable temptation to compare one’s efforts to those of everybody else’s. And while it can be healthy to gauge your work against the wider spectrum of what others are doing, it’s also extremely easy to start convincing yourself that you simply don’t measure up. This is actually a psychological phenomenon known as “perceived fraudulence”, an unfortunate terminology in light of the fact that the majority of those who experience it aren’t attempting to do or be anything other than their best.
Due to the very reason that there are so many others building and creating, we find ourselves second-guessing, doubting, and generally believing that our best is really just second-best. Unchecked, this will quickly become a poison to our creativity and innovation, causing us to “play it safe”, to avoid taking chances, to stop moving outside the confines of our own comfort zone.
Do you ever find yourself responding that way? Almost looking over your shoulder in the hopes that no one “finds you out”? If the lonely landscape of the imposter syndrome is where you feel that you’ve come to roost, the good news is that you can move out of the neighborhood. It may seem like an old cliché to embrace the concept of only competing with yourself, but nothing could be more constructive when you find yourself tempted to cower in everyone else’s shadow.
The underlying reality is that every creator or businessperson is on a journey, and no two people, even if they’re colleagues, are in the same spot on the roadmap from here to there. If you find yourself disconnecting from your full potential because you’ve bought into the “Who am I to think I can do this?” myth, always remember that you have experience, knowledge, and skill beyond what the person right behind you has. Because everyone is at a different location on the pathway to success, you can absolutely be a valid source of benefit without trying to be “the world’s best_________”.
As long as you can maintain a healthy perspective for what you’ve accomplished thus far, there’s no need to superimpose the pressure of becoming the “Jedi Master” of your sphere. You certainly know something (and quite possibly many somethings) that someone else just starting on their journey is completely unaware of. Since you’re on the journey yourself, the chances are pretty good that you’ve had to be a “chief cook and bottle washer”, figuring out how to address all the components of what you’re trying to do, and it’s that very real-world experience that gives you immediate credibility and validity to someone who’s just starting on their journey.
The only imposters in the realms of creation and business are the ones who haven’t invested any effort, haven’t spent long (and sometimes unrewarding) hours developing their skill, and yet want to present themselves as over-achievers. If you can embrace all that you’ve done (including your mistakes) and recognize that your work already has tremendous merit, you can keep yourself on a solid trajectory, even at the times when you feel inclined to ask yourself questions that you never need to ask.
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