As a writer, it’s common to have people ask you questions about languages, words, and stories. I do my best to share my advice. My advice: meaning, my opinions and experiences.
After sharing, I always expect people to call me out.
“No! That’s not correct. You’re wrong and you’ve lost all credibility. You’re an imposter!”
However, they rarely do that. Even when I say something outrageous. They rarely do that.
Do people end up taking my advice? I don’t know, but when I attempt to answer their questions, it’s an opportunity for me to reflect on what I do know. The truth is, sometimes, I don’t know what I know.
Questioning your knowledge and abilities is not a bad thing. It keeps you humble and receptive. It’s a good reminder of how much value your opinions and experiences have. Yes, you may worry that you’re not qualified and someone will expose you… but expose you of what? Of being a student? Of being someone who’s learning? Sharing? Trying?
Remember even doctors and lawyers are testing, reviewing, and learning — that’s why their offices are called “practices.”
The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is to embrace it. You don’t know everything and you’re here to gain experience and learn. That’s the key. Learning. Experimenting. Testing. Studying. Recording. Documenting. Sharing.
Take this YouTube channel for example. When I started this channel and began making content about writing… I felt like an imposter. Who am I to be giving advice? I don’t have a New York Times Bestseller. I was an ESL student. I can barely spell definitely. I’m going to get called out. I’m going to get exposed. I got called out sure… embarrassed sure, but exposed? For what?
There’s nothing to expose because I’m only here learning and sharing.
There is a lot of power to learning in public, a concept introduced to me by author, Elizabeth Gilbert.
Learning in public is the idea of sharing your new knowledge and creation with the world. You create distance between yourself and what you’ve made by showing it to others. This way, you act compassionately to yourself knowing you’re striving to improve your craft as opposed to impress an audience.
While the opinions of my audience — you — matter, I’m not creating this for you. I’m creating this for myself. I’m creating this because in doing so, the idea is fully explored. I’ve put it into the real world, as opposed to merely thinking about it in my head or writing it and keeping it private. It’s the curiosity of how the work will be received and how the project will ultimately turn out that keeps me going.
I’m not trying to fool or impress you. Believe me, you won’t be fooled and you won’t be impressed if I tried. I’m merely a student learning alongside you.
So there you have it. That’s how I overcome imposter syndrome by approaching everything I do as an opportunity to learn in public. To have practice. To be motivated by curiosity. To have compassion for my capabilities and limitations.
We are all imposters trying to understand who we ourselves are. There is no doubt about that. Believe in your ability to keep learning. It’s got you this far and it can keep you going. Learn about yourself, learn about your craft, learn about the world. And whatever accolades you get along the way that is just a bonus rather than something you strived for, so don’t feel guilty when you receive it. Acknowledge, celebrate, stay humble, and show your work.
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