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I’d like to start with my definition of creative work. I would argue that the act of creating is not the ability to bring something new to the world. I would rather associate creation with the ability to evolve existing solutions in order to solve a problem. It comes from the ability to observe, notice a problem and make the effort to show up in order to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
Noticing isn’t hard — we notice things all time, we have opinions about everything, we are all critics. However showing up to make a change, stepping into the unknown and putting ourselves on the hook to solve a problem — well isn’t that much harder? Why? Because we don’t like to be on the hook. We want things to be better or to change but if things don’t go to plan then “Not my fault! I don’t have anything to do with that!” — we shift responsibility and stay in our comfort zone — it is risk free after all.
Now, when having to conduct a change in your personal life or leading a project at work, have you ever felt like an imposter?
“I don’t think I deserve to be doing this”
If you’ve had that thought before then you felt like an imposter. It also means you have had to make a decision that could have changed the course of things or forced you to show up and be on the hook.
We all have to fight with those thoughts at some point in our lives — I have countless times.
Now here are three ideas on how we can overcome the imposter syndrome:
1/ The truth is… No one actually cares about me
The chances of my work being noticed by the entire world are very slim indeed. Even a Ted talk watched on Youtube by 1 million people is in fact watched by no one — less than 0.1% of the world’s population.
It is worth noting that in this age of social media, our attention span has decreased to 8 seconds which is the same as a Goldfish so the chances of being noticed are again very slim indeed. However we are often worried about others’ opinions and what “people may think” where in reality no one is actually watching us. So forget about the masses and focus on those who really matter.
2/ But… Some people care about me
If you are familiar with the work of Brené Brown around courage and vulnerability, then you may have a little piece of paper in your wallet with a very short list of names — those whose opinions count for you and those who count on you.
Start by caring about them. The creative work that may have a positive impact on the world one day should start by impacting your partner, your friend, your family.
If your work is generous enough and can solve a problem in your inner circle then you have contributed to a creative change and showed up to improve things around you.
Your courage will be noticed and those who have been positively changed will do the hard work of spreading your message so that you can reach out to a wider audience. But always start with the smallest audience, those who are willing to hear your thoughts because they care enough about you.
3/ In reality… The only one who cares is me
Feeling the imposter syndrome also means that you are a healthy Human Being with a fully functional brain. In fact it shows that your brain makes full use of its amygdala — the reptilian brain responsible for your “flight of fight” reaction. The amygdala can save you from being eaten by a tiger or hit by a car but it can also fuel your inner critique. This voice that tells you that you are not good enough, that less risk is better, that Netflix binging is more comfortable than getting yourself on the hook.
So the only person that actually cares is your self — notice when your inner critique takes over and stops you from bridging that gap between comfortable and uncomfortable. If the voice kicks in it means that you are on the right track, that you are on the way to make something that may not work but can make a change. But if you are too scared of what the voice tells you then you will only stay in your comfort zone and miss out on the generous act of creating work for others.
So now what?
Battling with the imposter syndrome has been the hardest fight of my life but realising that the generous act of creating work that may not be even noticed but may also positively impact others helped me bridge this gap. The gap between comfortable and uncomfortable. Being out of my comfort zone is much scarier but it is the only way to ship out my work. After all creative work does not count if it is not shipped out.
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How to overcome the imposter syndrome as a creative was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.