Feeling like a fraud

I’ve had a little germ of an idea for a business for a little while now and over the weekend my thinking got to the point of deciding that I was ready to start putting time aside to work on it properly. So, this morning I dutifully sat down to start writing a development programme for leaders. An exciting and creative start to the day I thought. Goodness me, I’ve never felt so inadequate in my life. And I’ve barely even done anything or shown anyone yet.

The problem with starting anything that you haven’t done before is that you can’t help but feel like a fraud. All the more so when you’re advising and guiding other people. When I started the current job I’m in, I went in as a leader of three areas that I had never worked in before. I had a bit of understanding of what they did, but mostly I was learning as I went along. Man, did I feel like a fraud there for a while. I still do when I’m having a low confidence day. I feel like everyone is watching my every move, deciding whether I’m going to be any good and whispering behind my back. Judging or opposing my every suggestion and choice. To be honest, there are people I work with who seem to find it hard to hide the fact they are judging me, even though perhaps they don’t mean it that way or I’m reading into it too much (not in my team luckily, they’re all lovely).

So, what to do about this feeling like a fraud business. Because, the thing is, if everyone stopped at the point where they felt like they were faking it, nothing would ever happen. No new ideas would come about, nothing new would get made, businesses wouldn’t start or grow. Somehow we have to push past this feeling of fraudulency and carry on.

One piece of advice that struck a chord with me was from Liz Gilbert in her book Big Magic. She talks about creative pursuits being simultaneously both the most important thing you can do, and meaning nothing at all. In terms of being a fraudster, it is key to realise that your creativity, input and guidance is of imperative importance to whatever you are trying to do, your unique perspective will make it something which no one has ever done quite the same way before. You may not feel like you have enough experience, training, knowledge or expertise but you will have more than you think and you will have passion and that’s more important than anything else. On the other hand, it makes no difference at all. In the great grand scheme of things, in 1 or 10 or 100 years time, all will be forgotten. If you don’t do what you do, or you don’t do it right, the only person who misses out is you. In fact, you could create or write or lead something and no one need ever know. Take this light hearted look at your work, play with it, make it seem like a game. Because that’s all that life is anyway.

Another thing that helps me live with my imposter syndrome is to realise my humanity. Every single person on this earth will feel this way some time. Every person who starts a new job or business, every new parent, every child on their first day of school, every creator who invents something new, feels small and foolish and scared and like they have no reason being there and doing what they’re doing. There is no optional choice in this, we are human. And to be a human that can live to their full potential and experience all the bits of the world they want to, we have to be new at things sometimes.

So, I’m going to acknowledge this gut wrenching, heart palpatating feeling of inadequacy, get up and go back to the writing. I’m going to keep pushing through, despite all the voices in my head telling me it really isn’t worth my while. I’m going to pour my heart and soul into it and then realise its insignificance. Because that’s what I must do to keep going, and so must we all.

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