Today, I want to talk a bit about the detriment of comparing yourself to others and finding confidence in your work. I’ll be looking through the lens of my perspective as a blogger but this topic applies to pretty much everyone on the planet.
Do you ever feel like no matter what you accomplish, it’s never as good as the person next in line? Like for every successful task completed or milestone hit you are reminded off all the other ones you missed or still haven’t achieved? We’ll if you’re a blogger, chances are you have DEFINITELY felt that before. That overwhelming anxiety is known as Impostor Syndrome.
Here is the Wikipedia definition:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
I find there are a number of definable factors that play into my Impostor Syndrome. For starters, just reading the term “high-achieving individual” makes me cringe. That’s not me! Clearly this definition is talking about someone else. But this term is relative. This indicates anyone that is performing at a level of proficiency. If you are doing, you are achieving.
Second, I work myself to the bone, burning the candle at both ends, to what I often consider to be shitty results. Oh you edited 1200 photos in a night? Great but you forgot to email back those people you were supposed to respond to yesterday. Finally organized your entire file cabinet? Awesome except you forgot to do that blog post you needed to get out. Way to stay on top of your shit Lindsay.
And finally, comparing yourself to others. I find this almost impossible to avoid. We judge and compare constantly in life. While an outcome of said comparison may be to “not care” (which I usually acquiesce to with my wardrobe) often times I feel completely overwhelmed with feeling inadequate. Those photos aren’t good enough, that post sucked, that other person did it so much better than me.
FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT
Some of you might be reading this thinking “Damn Lindsay, you’re so hard on yourself/pessimistic.” The rest of you are probably thinking “Yes, I have definitely felt like that before.” Well that’s okay. It’s human nature. It’s also one of the biggest hurdles of blogging. While I clearly still struggle with feelings of inadequacy, I do have a firm grasp on the best way to handle it – fake it!
Okay so what do I mean by Fake it ‘til You Make It? You’re probably familiar with the saying, but essentially it means instilling false confidence in order to breed real confidence and feelings of accomplishment. At first, it sounds kind of…dumb. But it seriously works. Having confidence in what you are doing and convincing yourself of your own value will actually make you more confident and more valuable. Self-fulfilling prophecy, you know?
Let’s look at how faking it helps combat some of the key components of Impostor Syndrome that I mentioned above:
Modesty: I find this element to be the most interesting because it seems like a positive quality on the surface. I constantly oscillate between extremes of feeling great about myself and completely inferior to others. I was raised under the idea that I’m not better than anyone else. It is not my place to judge someone else’s problems or position in life and I still firmly believe that. Unfortunately, that attitude will manifest itself as modesty in relation to my personal accomplishments. Being humble is often viewed as a positive quality but the actual definition of the word describes “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.” That’s part of the problem.
( Fake it! ) You should feel confident in the work you put out without fear of being looked at as braggart. It is totally possible to be empathetic, congratulatory, receptive, open-minded and yes, even confident, all at the same time. Feel good about the work you put out and be open to others’ critiques and praises. Also, focus your energy on uplifting others work that you admire. You shouldn’t feel like you’re competing with your peers. When it comes to artistic expression or finding an audience in a field like blogging, I promise you there is more than enough “success” to go around.
Diligence: The thing about hard work and Impostor Syndrome is that you are constantly pushing forward so that you are not exposed as a fraud but in doing so, the hard work actually promotes more praise. It’s kind of a weird cycle that produces practical results but doesn’t deal with the underlying cause of the ugly motivation. Doing this, constantly working towards something without defined goals or successes, will undoubtedly lead to burn out. Burn out is super fucking real. It’s not laziness and it’s not whining, it is complete and utter exhaustion brought on by the psychological stress of feeling inadequate and ineffective.
( Fake it! ) The best thing to do is create realistic goals for yourself and give yourself the ability to edit those goals without beating yourself up. One of the best ways to do this is to think about the broad strokes of what success will feel like for you. Giving yourself number goals such as hitting certain follower counts or checking off a specific number of to-do list tasks is a fine way to start but keep in mind why you’re trying to accomplish those tasks. If you want a certain number of followers because you think it will bring about more engagement, then focus on being engaging and not hitting exact numbers. You want to knock off a few to-do list items because you think it will feel good but why? Remember why you want to do something so you can actually feel successful.
Comparison: I think it’s impossible not to compare ourselves to others. In some instances, it’s even helpful. It gives us aspirational goals and ideas. But combating the insidious side of comparison is where the real challenge lies. The worst side of comparison is that it makes you feel inferior and sometimes completely worthless. I’ve genuinely talked myself out of doing things that I just assumed I would fail at. Also, comparison is often completely unfair. Even if you are in the same niche or field, you are not the person next to you. Quick example: I’ve run a film website and podcast for over 7 years but still can’t always recommend movies to people with a degree of certainty that they will enjoy it. Even people I’ve known my whole life and have intimate knowledge of all of their interests. Why? Because every individual on this planet is an entirely unique being made up of every individual thought, idea, and opinion they’ve ever held and every moment they have ever experienced. That’s why it’s entirely possible that someone out there likes Talledega Nights buts doesn’t care for Anchorman despite the fact that they are virtually the same film following Will Ferrell in a different occupation. But I digress.
( Fake it! ) First, in regards to failure, so what? Every time you “fail” at something, you are learning something valuable in that process. It’s okay to be realistic with your goals but not trying something because you’ve convinced yourself you won’t succeed based on no tangible evidence is just harmful. It’s a negative self-fulfilling prophecy (which always seems much easier in the abstract.) Also, you are different than everyone else so stop worrying about what they are doing. Get excited about your own work the way you’re excited for others. I promise it’s okay.
If you act like you have something figured out or perhaps more importantly, act confident that you have the ability to figure something out, then others will believe you. If you doubt yourself and your abilities then why should others care or trust you? Write the post. Make the thing. Wear the outfit. Do it and fucking own it and people will respond in a positive way. The people that respond negatively would have done so regardless. You don’t have to concern yourself with people that aren’t interested in your thoughts or brand or whatever it is. You should be concerned about empowering yourself and others around you in a supportive, authentic way.
We are all human and susceptible to failure, regret and judgmental tendencies. None of that makes you a bad person. It’s all about how you decide to deal with those emotions. The more you believe in yourself and your work, the better you and your work will become. Get caught in that positive feedback loop and never look back.
Please check out these posts from two of my favorite Baltimore Bloggers that discuss burnout + Impostor Syndrome:
From The Office Goth:
From Soup of the Day:
Have you ever dealt with