Photo credit: Bruce Webber
One of the top things I repeatedly hear in 1:1 creative coaching sessions is some form of imposter syndrome. It can come in different guises, but it’s essentially the same beast; “I might not be good enough” is the general gist.
Expressing ourselves doesn’t always come easily. There’s risk involved. It’s a lot safer to stay quiet. I know, I used to be the girl-behind-the-girl working (successfully) in marketing and PR. I liked it back there, behind a public figure. Why? Because it was rewarding to support the work of others, yes. But it also kept me from being seen and potentially judged. I didn’t have to put my voice on the line - until I launched AllSwell 8 years ago.
Even then it took a while for me to step out from behind the brand and wave hello. Initially, I wrote all of the AllSwell content in the “we” versus “I” to avoid authorship, used product images rather than any photos of myself (I loathed having my picture taken) and avoided video entirely. “Nobody likes a show-off” is a toxic piece of programming that I had been playing in my head on repeat for decades. I didn’t find a magic delete button for that message, but I’ve repeatedly busted through these blocks in order to deliver what I knew could help others - the simple yet powerful act of putting pen to paper.
I had to get over myself in order to be of service. As part of AllSwell’s ethos, I was asking others to claim their voice, which would be a complete sham unless I was willing to do the same. Gulp. It’s been an iterative process - one that continues to this day - but here I am, increasingly comfortable with doing the uncomfortable.
And from the other side of the chasm, what I have to say to anyone stuck in the imposter syndrome feedback loop is this: stop being so stingy with your good sh*t. Stop bogarting your wisdom. If you have a story to tell, an insight you’ve learned, something inside you that is looking for a way out into the world, into the light - then get out of the way and share it.
Stories are medicine. A reader / listener / viewer may see themselves, validated and reflected, in the process. It could save someone a lot of time and effort feeling their way around in the dark because you were courageous enough to offer up a door or a window. Your experience may feel unique to you, but chances are it’s probably going to connect with someone out there. Most truths are like that.
How many times have I read a sentence or paragraph that illuminated the way forward? Or heard a song that so utterly captured my experience that I felt seen? Or witnessed a piece of art that inspired me, lifted me up and out of the humdrum to new heights of the sublime? More times than I can count. And yes, in some instances it was the work of wildly famous and established creatives, but just as often it’s been a sentence from a self-published book by an author whose name I might not even remember, or a post on Medium from someone who was brave enough to state their gospel.
Scary? Heck, yeah. But also hugely satisfying. You never know who you might help, but I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll also be helping yourself in the process. No imposters in this zip code. Just authentic humans taking some chances.
Photo credit: Heather Favell
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