Pre-Impostor Syndrome

If you suffer from Impostor Syndrome (more here) it probably means that you are already successful doing whatever it is you are doing. Most Impostor Syndrome sufferers are “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” They are credible people, that do or say credible things, and have people who seek these things out. However, these successful people still live in constant fear that they aren’t actually as smart or as talented as everyone thinks they are. They have a nagging feeling that they’ll be found out and cast aside once everyone comes to the same realization that they already have, that they are phonies. These people have fought their way to the top of their field or profession but can’t understand why everyone thinks they have the right to be there. If highly successful people suffer Impostor Syndrome, what does that mean for the rest of us?

What do you do when you feel like a fraud before you even start out on your journey?

Recently, I’ve been following the trajectory of a lot of publicly successful people. By publicly successful I mean that you can see their fan base and influence grow daily, mostly through YouTube views and subscribers, instagram and twitter followers, or through stats they share around their email lists or daily visitors to their blog.

Someone that comes to mind immediately is Casey Neistat. He is someone whose base you can watch grow every single day.

A little some background on Casey if you’re unfamiliar:

  • Filmmaker that currently lives in New York, New York
  • Used to be best known for his HBO series “The Neistat Brothers” which aired in June and July of 2010
  • Joined YouTube a few months before that in February 2010
  • On March 26th 2015 Casey had roughly 520,000 subscribers, the day he started daily vlogging
  • As of October 4th 2016 he now has 5.1 million subscribers and over 1.1 billion views of his 947 videos across 3 channels

Over the course of six and half years Casey has gone from starting a YouTube channel to having 5.1 million people get an update every time he puts out a new video. He had a start on being successful before really hitting on YouTube and becoming mainstream, but there are plenty of people you got famous just by being YouTube or Instagram or Twitter or Vine, and nothing more. They started with zero subscribers and a first video, post, or tweet and off they go.

But what if you are person that can’t picture sharing anything with the world unless you are an expert in whatever it is your sharing? What happens when you’re afraid of being called a phony, fraud, or impostor at the outset? And you feel that if you have no credibility, or expertise, or anything important to say, why should anyone else believe that you do? What do you do when you can’t even get that first post up because you’re afraid that people will tell you that you have no idea what you’re doing?

I guess what I’m trying to say is rather than being afraid you’ll be kicked out of the cool kids table because they realize you aren’t actually cool, you’re afraid to even try to sit at the table because you’ve already convinced yourself that there’s no chance you’re even remotely cool.

To give a personal anecdote, I recently decided to start taking photography more seriously. And while I’m quite content to read books and blog posts, take online courses and watch videos, and go out and shoot using everything I’ve learned, I’m still hesitant to interact with other photographers, to reach out on social platforms to share ideas or go on missions, or even to post my photos on instagram (though I’m now trying to post one photo a day). And while I’m self-critical, I do think that some of the images I create are pretty good. But I fear that someone who already is already successful (or even not) and who’s already at the cool table will tell me I shouldn’t even be putting in the effort because my photos are terrible. Or if my photos are OK, I’m still not good enough to drag along on a shoot or not good enough to spend time talking to.

But what I’ve learned (better late than never) is that there comes a point when you have to take that first step. When you have to put yourself out there, because being successful is being vulnerable. It’s doubting yourself and what you produce every single day. And then every single day gaining a little more confidence and thinking, “maybe I do belong here.” Without vulnerability there is little chance of making a connection with people, and in turn little chance of having people seek out your work.

Part of this struggle comes from being an introvert, with being content inside my own brain. But I also feel like this struggle is shared with people all over the world who are trying something new, introvert or not. Even as I write these words I think, “will anyone even care?” But hopefully these ramblings will strike a chord with someone, anyone, and they’ll feel the courage to turn around, stand tall, and present themselves to the world. Because almost always there will be someone who is moved or touched by something you share and a connection will be made. And in the end, that’s all anyone can ask for.

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