How to Deal with Impostor Syndrome

You are not special because you have impostor syndrome. And it does not have to stop you from becoming a successful freelance writer. It does not have to stop you from being whatever you want.

“That’s easy for you to say, Robin, because you’re already a full time writer.”

While that’s true, the fact is that everyone deals with impostor syndrome at some point. And many people deal with every day even after they fulfill whatever goal / wish / dream they set or had for themselves. It’s one reason (not the only reason, please do not misunderstand what I said) why we see such an epidemic of unhappiness, depression, and suicide among the rich and famous (and I am not talking about individuals such as Robin Williams who had debilitating terminal illnesses who wanted to end their lives on their own terms. It sucks for their families, but I do belief in death with dignity for terminal illnesses; and please don’t comment about how life is terminal because I will obliterate you as you know splitting hairs gets you nowhere). They meet their goals. They have everything, but they feel like they do not deserve it, they are living a lie, this isn’t who they are, if their fans find out who they really are then no one will ever like them again!

Impostor syndrome affects everyone, including me. It has affected me in pursuing practically any job I ever wanted, including my decision to work from home. Why would they hire me? Why would they want me there? There are better candidates than me. There are people who know more. There are people more qualified. I mean, the list goes on and on.

One day after I finished teaching, I stopped by a McDonald’s in between sessions (because I also taught a night class) to get something to eat (this was in 2013) and to do a little research on what I would need to charge if I were to pursue writing full time. The math itself to determine what you need to make to work from home is actually easy, even for me (and I am no mathematician). I explain the entire process in detail in my book.

But the hourly rate shocked me. It was more than I made teaching. I taught part time. It was more than I made as a paralegal, even when I worked as a full time paralegal. And my first thought?

Who in the fuck is going to pay me that? Why would they pay me that?

Good old fashioned impostor syndrome. I knew that starting out, I probably couldn’t charge what I wanted to charge. Hell, maybe I could have, but I didn’t have the confidence then (hindsight is 20/20). I had a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies, Summa Cum Laude. I taught and directed a Paralegal Studies Program. I also taught Criminal Justice as an adjunct instructor. I worked in Real Estate law (primarily titles and land disputes, but I also had insurance defense, family law, and bankruptcy experience). I had years of experience in career services undergraduate and law school environments, experience working as a licensed insurance agent, and years and years of experience as an experienced administrative assistant. I knew how to write. I knew how to edit. I knew how to research. And I damn sure knew how to follow directions. (Again, hindsight is 20/20.)

I’ve worked from home for five years now. I still have some days where impostor syndrome hits me hard. I might take a few minutes to wallow in it. Other times I just take a hot bath, and then remember who the fuck I am. Most of the time, I just use this one simple exercise.

How to Deal with Impostor Syndrome: A Simple Exercise

Do this one simple exercise regardless of how you identify: male, female, agender, third gender, etc. (Sorry, I do not have time to list every gender label that someone may subscribe to; my use of “etc” isn’t meant to be an insult. It’s meant only to save time. This exercise is inclusive regardless of identity! I love people and always do my best to refer to them by their preferred pronouns.)

You do not need a mirror or anything special. All you really need is some time to answer one question. I’ve done this with BB running around the house. I’ve done this while unloading and loading the dishwasher. I’ve done this while scrolling through Instagram. Whatever. As long as you can pay enough attention to answer one question, you can do this. And you don’t have to answer it out loud.

If I were my best self today, what would that look like?

If you woke up today and you were 100% your best self or your dream self, what qualities would you embody on a personal level? Depending on how you feel, this answer could change every day. And yes, ask yourself this question every day.

Maybe you would be:

  • More focused
  • Patient
  • Less involved on social media
  • Spend more time building your business
  • Spend 15 minutes meditating
  • Exercise
  • Be more loving

Remember, you are describing what you would be like if you suddenly woke up as your best self. While there are no rules to this, I caution you against using answers such as “My best self would be rich!” because there are certain actions you would need to take to be rich. So instead, list the actions that would get you to that end goal. And what does rich even look like to you?

Related: If You Want to Be Successful, Change Your Decision Making Philosophy Now

Same with the word successful. Success is different for everyone. You need to first define what success looks like for you. Then, list what it takes to get there.

Once you have your list of traits that make up your best self, start incorporating those. I know at least one of you is arguing with the screen right now. Stop. You don’t just wake up one day as your best self.

Related: Can We Take a Minute to Talk about Excuses?

There is no best self fairy who comes and takes away impostor syndrome. The only way you become your best self and the only way to deal with impostor syndrome is to start living as your best self as best you can. And, yes, at first, it will make you feel like more of an impostor. Over time, though, you’ll recognize that what you’re doing is truly embracing who you are…and that’s all we really want out of life.

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