🎭 Are You Faking?
There’s a painful-to-watch scene in the pilot episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel where Joel Maisel stands up on stage to perform a comedy bit, fumbles one line, and then falls apart. Offstage, his wife just discovered that his comedy routine was a complete rip-off of someone else’s, and he’s about to tell her that he’s been having an affair (with his secretary, no less).
At that moment, just before Joel crumbles, he’s overcome with the absolute certainty that he does not have what it takes. He loses his confidence, rambles into the microphone, and fails to get a single laugh. The silence from the audience is deafening, although the grimaces confirm his worst fears. People are thinking,
"Who let this guy on stage in the first place? He doesn’t belong here. Who does he think he is?"
The truth is, in that story Joel actually was a fake, fraud, and impostor. . . there were very good reasons for him to feel that way. But what about you? Why do you doubt yourself? Why do you doubt your accomplishments and your ability to influence others? You aren’t copy-and-pasting someone else’s content, or telling your audience one thing even though you mean the opposite—and yet that nagging voice keeps asking, "Who do you think you are? Sooner or later, everyone will realize that you don’t belong."
Imposter Syndrome Psychology
That feeling you’ve experienced, as it turns out, is incredibly common. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.
If there’s any industry where Imposter Syndrome is pervasive, it’s the field full of creators. Every blogger, vlogger, speaker, author, or coach doubts their credibility, experience, or authority—sometimes on a daily basis. Congratulations, you’re normal!
The Imposter Syndrome Shutoff Switch
Whenever you’re stuck with the feeling of being out-of-place, over your head, or exposed to a world waiting for you to inevitably fail, you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. At its worst, this “psychological pattern” is crippling. It’s detrimental to your audience, but also your psyche. If you’re looking for flaws, you will find them. Whatever you do, do not teach from a state of fear.
Imposter Syndrome is real, but it’s also fairly simple (if not easy) to cure. You can overcome imposter syndrome at any point by making one mental switch: switch from teaching from experience to teach from experiences. That one little ‘s’ makes all the difference in the world.
When you’re teaching from experience, you’re putting your “expertise” on the line—but the more you learn about your industry, the more you realize there’s more you don’t yet know. By contrast, when you’re teaching from experiences you’re sharing relevant stories from your life. Stories you’ve lived through, which you can use to connect to your audience and illustrate key concepts. How could you doubt your stories when they’re made up of experiences you’ve actually lived? When you teach from experiences it’s simpler to teach authentically, naturally, and with great effect. Give it a shot, and see how you feel.