Combating Imposter Syndrome

06.10.14 (5).png

Do you ever wake up on some days feeling like a fraud? That you don't deserve your success? That you really aren't that talented or knowledgeable enough to maintain your momentum? You fear people catching onto your game and calling you out for being a fake?

Then you have imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome as defined by wikipedia is:

[...] a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

There's a good chance that as you're reading this right now that in your mind you're debating if you even have imposter syndrome, despite having all the symptoms. "What if I really am a fraud?" "But my success IS based on luck and timing!" "I really don't know anything!" 

I'm going to take a quick stab at why this affects women much more predominately: plain ol' sexism, silencing of our voices and dismissing our accomplishments - it makes us doubt ourselves (women aren't generally taught or encouraged to be go-getters or bosses)! And considering knitting and crocheting are activities that are heavily women-dominated, it would go without saying that a good number of fiber entrepreneurs in the community could also be struggling with this. I know I do. I'm constantly afraid that one day I'm going to find that I can't design anymore, that I've run out of ideas... But I've come to realize that this is an unfounded fear and the best way to combat imposter syndrome is to just keep... doing what I do and believe in myself.

However, if you're still doubtful, here's a good test to determine whether you have imposter syndrome and thus worthy of very bit of praise, success and growth.

It's your raison d'être.  Why are you in the industry?

Do you design to create beautiful patterns for people?

Do you hand-dye your yarn with the upmost care and attention to detail?

Do you teach knitters because you want to spread the love of knitting?

Or do you do what you to do just to make a quick buck?

Do you intentionally set out to dupe people? For example: you want to make some fast money so you say you have created a most luxurious yarn that promises so many wonderful things, but in reality, in you really know that the yarn is a shoddy product that breaks and piles all over the place.

If you started a brand/business in the fiber community because you want to give back, provide value, create beautiful products that you believe that other knitters will enjoy, you are in a good place. Yes, there will be moments when someone will find an issue or you will make a mistake - but that doesn't mean you're a fraud. It just means providing customer service and committing to do better. A true fraud, someone who doesn't care for the community but just themselves, wouldn't even bother trying to fix the situation. They would drop the product and move onto something else, finding more people to dupe.

You are not a fraud. You are not an imposter. You and your work belong here. You are worthy of your success.

But identifying this syndrome and getting rid of it (because self-doubt hinders success) are two different ball games. Here are some ways you can overcome it.

Don't Expect Perfection

Achieving perfection is a dangerous game. If you hold yourself to an impossible standard, you are always going to fall short. Instead, strive to be better than you were in the past. Even when we have our daily slip-ups or we don't feel like we have progressed that much in the moment, take some time to sit down and think about where you were last week, last month, and last year. You'll find you've come further than you thought - and just imagine where you will be in the same amount of time!

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

If I continued to compare my work to amazing designers like Melanie Berg, Joji Locatelli and many others, I don't think I would ever get out of bed. We are not in competition (although it is not bad to have a competitive spirit) with each other - we all have our own markets, our own followings and audiences. Everyone had to start as a beginner before making their way to "expert", the main difference between you and them is experience and time (and perceptions!). And you might even have someone who looks up to you! So be gentle on yourself and acknowledge your accomplishments.

Don't Be Afraid to Show Your True Self

Talking about your insecurities can help you learn to accept them but also gives others a safe place to open up about theirs. And it's quite an empowering moment when all different types of people come together, open up and pass on positivity. It makes us realize that we are all human, with our fears and hopes, that no one is above each other. We'll all just trying to get through life the best we can.

Don't Be Afraid to Say "I Don't Know"

When people come to you asking questions because they've deemed you an "expert" in something, it does not suddenly mean you are no longer an expert if you can't answer all of their questions. It's impossible to have all the answers at hand, and you would be doing more damage to your audience and yourself if you tried to fumble with the answer instead of just saying "I don't know". Your audience will respect you much more for it, and you can take that moment to learn more about the subject you were uneducated about. 

Fake It Until You Make It

Hey, isn't this what actual frauds do? Not entirely. This phrase is used for faking a certain type of attitude so much that it starts to become real! And this attitude is confidence. I had really bad self-confidence starting out as a knitwear designer. I didn't believe in my work (I thought that it was just ok) and I was afraid of reaching out to others and putting myself out there for fear of rejection or mockery.  However I knew in the back of my mind that if I wanted to be successful, I had to step out of my comfort zone. So I had to take deep breaths, put on my big girl pants, and march right into the middle of the crowded room and announce myself to the world. I had to put on a mask of confidence for a while until I got used to interacting and presenting my work and words to the knitting community around the world. I'm still not 100% with my self-confidence, but it is so much better than what it was before.

Now for actual frauds? They're not confident, but just really, really cocky. They put on a mask of confidence in order to dupe people into trusting them. We put on a mask of confidence in order to trust ourselves.

Just Do It!

I think this is my favourite tip for entrepreneurs because it is bound to pop up from time to time. The imposter syndrome lives and thrives in the abstract, in the thinking, in the void. And what better way to prove it wrong than by taking action and just doing it? Don't believe you are meant to be a designer? Design something new! Create a new color way! Write a blog post! Provide value to the community and we will all be enriched for it.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Share your experiences with imposter syndrome and how you've beaten it (and even though it was mentioned at the beginning that this syndrome mostly affects women, men are more than welcome to share their experiences too) ! Share this article with your friends if you found this valuable!

And if you need more ways to overcome imposter syndrome, I highly recommend checking out this article.