Imposter Syndrome: How to Overcome Self Doubt As A Freelancer
Have you ever worried that there really isn’t anything special about you, your skills or your business? Sometimes it even surprises you when a client gives a really good review, or even keeps you on a retainer as their go to product or service provider. Do you ever feel like your competition is more talented or better positioned to do what you both do, to a point where you even over exert yourself to try and impress everyone else. Have you perhaps even considered giving up all together?
Well, if you have felt this way at any point in time, you do not need to worry too much, because you are not alone. This sudden loss of belief in all of one's skills and talents, is commonly referred to as impostor syndrome. It is characterized by associating your successes as luck, and the fear and anxiety of being discovered and deemed a fraud. Quite honestly, it affects freelancers in all fields, at all age and experience levels, more often than people realize.
This probably has a lot to do with the fact that most people do not have the courage to express this, as it only further illuminates their feelings of self doubt and possible failure. The default reaction of most people is usually either overcompensating or giving up all together. This only ends up sabotaging your business and your future goals . By overstretching yourself in order to meet ridiculously high standards, you get overwhelmed and it reflects in the quality of your output. In the same way, you may end up giving up too early on the opportunity of a lifetime, and have to start all over again with a new dream, business or goals that you have to reinvest your energy in trying to master.
So, is there a cure for this impossibly sneaky disease?
Yes! And the answer is easier than you would expect. A Simple change in mindset is all it takes! However, that is easier said than done, isn’t it?
Take this into consideration though; You’re only human. You cannot be perfect at everything at all times. Just because society expects you to be, doesn’t mean that being less means you aren’t worth recognition. Just because you’re told that if only you work harder then you will be the best, doesn’t mean that it will translate into the results you are yearning for. If anything, when you start to feel this way, instead of quitting or going over and above your limits, you need to just pause and take a few breaths. Physically and mentally. Why? Because all these negative feelings and emotions cause an imbalance mentally as well, and as long as you are out of balance in this way, you really cannot get much accomplished.
1. Give yourself a break
This may be a bit difficult, especially if you still have demanding clients waiting for results, however, it could as well be for a few minutes everyday and not necessarily a whole week vacation. During this break, write down all the reasons why you think you are not good enough or worthy, and by what standards you are basing these reasons on. Also identify when these feelings started to appear, can you identify what triggered it? Perhaps a specific client’s review, or a recent benchmark of a competitor who is better established or seems more successful. Be sure to be as honest and open as possible with yourself.
2. What can you do about it?
After making your list, identify a few reasons and scrutinize them objectively. Is there a way you can change? Perhaps by taking an extra class or course, or even by approaching a mentor? Research, maybe? Or even a better comprehensively structured business strategy? If there is indeed something you can work on to improve yourself, then go all in. However, what if the problem is all in your head, based on assumptions and a very high bar that you have set for yourself?
In this case, recognize your shortcomings and try to remind yourself of all your other successes. Positive affirmations are a great way to improve your mindset. As long as you focus on what you can do as opposed to what you cannot, you will be able to feel less of a fraud and acknowledge that you, as well as your business are a work in progress and not a finished product. Even multi-million dollar companies are always changing and re-inventing because they understand that there is never really an ultimate level of success, it changes according to the needs of the society. So upgrade your mindset and your skills.
3. Face your competition head-on
Contrary to what you may think, this does not mean that you go head to head or toe to toe with them. It simply means, that you expand your network. Instead of seeing them as a threat, interact with them, if they are approachable, seek their advice, chances are, they have or are going through the same thing. Once you can get out of your head enough to see that you’re not the only one, it will relieve you from the anxiety of imagining that your business is doomed, because of your personal issues. If at all they are not exactly the approachable type, do your own research. Benchmark. What are their strengths and strategies, their shortcomings, how do they overcome this? You may even discover that you’re the one with extreme expectations blinding you from seeing the work that actually needs to be done. Release yourself from the misconception that your competition is your enemy or a measuring stick for your failures.
Self doubt is a disease that ruthlessly murders many entrepreneurs and their businesses. As long as you do not believe in yourself, your clients and prospective clients will not either. However, it does not mean that it is a crime to have a little doubt. If anything, when it is handled the right way, it helps to steer you into the right direction by challenging you to improve yourself.
Therefore the next time you find yourself paralyzed by the idea that you may not actually be as good as people think you are, do not be afraid to let others know about it. By not obsessing over it secretly, you can finally find a way to move past it and be truly confident of your worth and your capabilities. You are not an impostor! You deserve everything that you have worked to achieve because you have worked for it.