Blogging should be pretty simple, right? You decide on a niche, write content that is search engine optimized so people can find you, share your content on social media, and build an audience. And yet, you still may find that success is difficult to achieve.
You may find that you spend too much of your time doing “busy work” instead of tasks that actually move your blog forward. Perhaps you spend hours writing a blog post only to have it sit for days, weeks, or even months unfinished because you aren’t sure how to end it.
You’ve changed your theme a half dozen times this month. You second-guess your writing, you second-guess your images, you spend countless hours every day changing the fonts or making some minuscule change to your header that most people will never notice.
This is more than procrastination, and it’s more than simple laziness. It’s very much a type of stalling tactic, and just like a child who stalls before jumping off the high dive, it’s driven by fear. But what kind of fear would cause you to sabotage your own success?
It’s called imposter syndrome.
According to the CalTech Counseling Center, imposter syndrome is “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.” It’s a sometimes crippling self-doubt, most common among women, caused by a feeling of inferiorty; that somehow, everything you’ve achieved has been pure luck, and that sooner or later everyone is going to see that you’re a fraud.
If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone!
Imposter Syndrome often starts in family dynamics, and my family was certainly typical in this account. There were two daughters and as so often happens, I was labeled the “smart one” and my sister was “the pretty one”. Neither of these things are particular true, but they were the way we were seen, and so were the roles we learned to play.
I read voraciously and learned quickly as a young child. But as I got older, and school work started getting harder, I suddenly started facing challenges that my early years had not prepared me for. It caused me to doubt my perception of myself as a “smart girl” — after all, if I were really smart, it should be easy to learn Algebra, right? And so my imposter syndrome was born.
Is This Fear Holding You Back From Success?
Procrastination and unfinished tasks are a big sign of imposter syndrome. In my case, I simply stopped doing schoolwork and homework, and was labeled “lazy” by teachers and my parents. I didn’t mind being called lazy, it was way easier than finishing the work and having them find out I wasn’t really as smart as they all thought. If I was going to get a bad grade, I’d much rather get it for not doing my homework on purpose than for being too stupid to do better.
Some other signs that you might suffer from imposter syndrome:
- You reject praise and downplay any success you have.
- When you do well at something, you downplay it as merely luck.
- On the flip side, if you fail at a task, you assume the entire responsibility and chalk it up to being too stupid to do better.
- You’re a perfectionist – you set impossile standards of perfection (this is why you’re constantly changing fonts, themes and colors)
- You overwork – you keep putting time and energy into a project or blog post long after it’s at a point of being perfectly acceptable to anyone else.
- You have an overwhelming need to be the very best at whatever you’re doing – anything but the absolute top of your field is just proof that you aren’t smart enough to cut it.
Okay – so we know what it is, and we understand why it’s so detrimental to your success. Now the question is: If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, what do you do? Here are some strategies that can help you beat it:
Recognize Your Triggers
We’ve all got triggers. For me, it’s when I talk to other people who are also experienced in the things I’m good at. I’m a good blogger! I’ve been doing it for over a decade, and I know a lot! But get me in a conversation with another group of experienced bloggers, and suddenly I clam up, terrified I’ll say something that makes them realize I’m a total phony and don’t know anything about WordPress, or SEO, or whatever it is we’re talking about.
At this point, it can be helpful to tell yourself “Hey Self! This is just your Imposter Syndrome talking. You know this stuff!” Sometimes, recognizing what’s going on in your head is enough to calm it down.
Start Taking Action
If you’ve ever read the book “Dune”, you may remember the “Litany Against Fear”. It starts out “Fear is the mind-killer…” Well, you know what conquers fear? Taking action anyway. Once you start actually taking action, you start to kick fear right in the butt.
How can you be a fraud or a phoney if you’re actually doing the thing?
Remember back in the day, before Al Franken was a senator, he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live? He used to do a character named Stuart Smalley, who was a type of motivational speaker. His catchphrase was looking in the mirror and saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
Well, it might have been a joke on SNL, but those affirmations really work! They’re a proven way of building self-confidence and awareness. When you tell yourself something enough times, you will start to believe it.
Create some affirmations for yourself: “I am knowledgable, I am worthy, I deserve my success,” or “I have worked hard to get here, and my accomplishments are deserved.”
Realize that Make Mistakes Doesn’t Make You a Fraud
One common symptom of IS is the idea that not knowing something is proof that you’re a fake. “I must be the world’s stupidest blogger if I can’t figure out how this plug-in works.” There’s this misconception that being good at something means you have to know everything about it.
When you were a baby, were you born knowing how to walk? Of course not! When you pulled yourself up off the floor and took your first step, did falling down mean you were some sort of fraud who didn’t deserve to learn to walk? No!
There are things in life you don’t know. Perfection is a myth. You will always be learning new things, and some of those things are hard to learn and will take more than one try. Just because you don’t know now doesn’t mean you are a phony.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
This is huge in blogging circles. We compare ourselves to other bloggers when they share their traffic or income reports, and feel bad if we don’t measure up. We compare our theme to the theme on other blogs, we compare our content, the number of comments we get. We compare anything and everything…and we usually find ourselves lacking.
When you compare yourself to others, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking “I suck compared to her!” And when you start thinking that, it’s easy to start thinking “Why should I even try? I’m such a phony, and everyone sees it – that’s why I don’t get traffic/comments/have a nice theme.”
Instead of comparing, look for things you like, and learn from them. Instead of using these things to tear yourself down, look to the examples as ways you can make yourself better.
The most important thing you can do with your blog is provide value to your readers. When you think about it, imposter syndrome is really very selfish, because your focus is on yourself instead of your readers. Instead of worrying about what you don’t know, why not provide value to your readers with what you do know?
This has been one of the biggest helps for me with blogging – I don’t know a lot about doing sponsored blog posts, but I do know a lot about affiliate marketing, keywords, and SEO. I write about the things I do know, and I can recognize that those things I write are truly providing value to other bloggers. When someone asks me about sponsored posts, I don’t feel like a fraudulent blogger, because I don’t know much about it – instead, I point them in the direction of a blogger who is hip to that type of marketing.
It’s hard to feel like a fake when you’re providing value to your reader.
Finally, every day, take stock of your accomplishments and be proud of them. Recognize that the successes you have are because of your actions – it wasn’t luck and no one gave them to you.
Own your victories and achievements! They are yours – and you are worthy.
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