It’s been over two years since my first book came out. Over five years of me figuring out how this author thing works. I’ve presented on writing panels, had a book signing, done all of the quintessential “author” things, and yet, almost daily I have the struggle of feeling like I’m out of my depth. Like I’m not doing enough, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I’m still not a “real” author (whatever that means).
I have plenty of shortcomings. I’m young and inexperienced, yet despite growing up in the social media boom I know almost nothing about growing a following. I have doubts about whether writing a blog is even useful, or if anyone would actually want to read what I write in general. Who am I to have opinions? Who am I to give feedback? Who am I to know anything whatsoever?
Perhaps you’ve been there too, just trying to carve out a place for yourself and feeling like you don’t belong, and that you don’t have any reason to have a voice. Maybe you look at where others are and realize that you’ll never measure up.
The little known secret is that, very few people don’t feel this way. Most people feel insecure about where they are, and have that feeling that one of these days someone is going to realize that you don’t have all the answers. Someday you will be revealed to be an imposter.
And while I also struggle with this, I do have some tips to get out of the chasm of self-doubt and insecurity, even for a little while.
1. Compare Yourself to Yourself
You’ve probably heard the phrase “stop comparing yourself to others,” dozens of times. It can be incredibly difficult, especially when we live in such a social media saturated world. However, a more useful metric to compare yourself to is yourself. You don’t know everything that other people have gone through to get to where they are. You don’t know their circumstances, or the times when they felt like they wouldn’t make it. However, you are intimately connected with yourself. You know the journey that you’ve taken to get to where you are. And I’m not saying that you compare yourself today with who you were yesterday. Or to compare your productivity levels from one week to the next. Compare yourself today with who you were a year ago. What have you learned? How have you progressed? Are you still going in the direction you want for your life?
2. Recenter Your Focus
Why are you doing what you’re doing? What makes you get up in the morning? Is it for yourself? Your family? Your future goals? Are you writing or illustrating or creating because you love it? Did you go into business because the numbers spoke to you? Sometimes the best way to fight off the feelings of inadequacy is to recognize why you went into the field that you did. Past you had a reason, maybe present you needs to find that reason again.
3. Find Some Friends
Like I said before, you aren’t the only person who has ever felt like this. Sometimes, it can help to find friends in your given field and talk about being an imposter openly. And while these friends don’t HAVE to be in the same field as you, it can help to share the experiences with people who understand, especially if you don’t want to fish for compliments. Recognizing that you aren’t alone can really help.
4. Take a Break
Maybe it isn’t possible for you to take a step back, but if it is, try it. Maybe this feeling of inadequacy is coming from burn out. Maybe you’ve been pushing yourself so hard to live up to the expecations that you’ve set, that you’re burning yourself to the ground. You don’t have to do or be everything right now. Take a break. Reevalutate. Come back to the project fresh.
5. Reevaluate Expectations
Building off of that, figure out what standard you’ve set yourself to and where those ideas have come from. It’s great to have goals and to want to get to a certain level. However, it might not be realistic. In my case, I have this idea of what an author should be, how they should act, what they should accomplish, etc.. I’m definitely not there, and that can be discouraging. But who set those expectations? Me. And I can adjust those. I can set that goal for a future date, and set smaller goals that I can accomplish now to reach that point.
When it comes down to it, you need to remember that you are worthwhile and that your ideas and contributions are needed too. Even if there are thousands of other people who do the same thing you do, no one does it exactly the way you do it. So keep doing it.