You know the feeling. You’re all set to make a big splash into a brand new project—maybe it’s 3D printing, learning a new language, or launching a clothing line—but there’s just so much to do and so much to learn. You start to think, why bother? I’m a novice. There are so many other people doing so much better than I am. Who do I think I am?
From writing to photography, I’ve felt this way about nearly every project I’ve pursued. And this feeling isn’t always in your head—as a newbie, people often treat you like an imposter. For example, when I showed an Instagram photographer my beginner photos, she replied, “Everyone with a digital camera thinks they’re a photographer. Film is a lot harder.” I was so mortified that I stopped taking pictures for a good six months. Who did I think I was?
As multipotentialites, we’re open to trying new things and making bold moves. But that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with the beginner’s imposter syndrome that comes with leaving our comfort zones.
Aiden McFarland, a clothing designer and fellow multipod, has been feeling this in a big way lately. “I am currently in the process of launching my clothing line.” Although McFarland has experience in fashion, launching a company was a whole different venture. “I have 20+ years of experience and I still kept putting off on this launch for years because of imposter syndrome.”
McFarland said this year gave him the courage to finally get started, though: “Honestly it was, ‘Well, this year is a crapshoot regardless, so if it fails, I can chalk it up to 2020. But at least I finally tried.’”
Indeed, this year has been wildly unexpected and such a poignant reminder of how precarious life can be. For some folks, this makes it easier to do the Big Scary Thing instead of procrastinating. For others, the stress might make the imposterism worse. Wherever you stand, our friends in the Puttyverse community have some solid advice to help you fight off beginner’s imposter syndrome. Here are some of their best tips:
1. Focus on the process, not the finish line
Sometimes imposter syndrome comes from an obsession with perfectionism. It’s easy to be a perfectionist these days—social media certainly doesn’t help. But if you want to make big moves, you’re probably going to make missteps in the process. “For me, the best way to fight the impostor syndrome is to ‘just do it’ and have fun!” says Myriam Vidal Valero, a journalist and photographer. “You might be a prodigy and get everything right the first time, or you might not, but let me ask you: Why is it that we have to focus primarily on the end results? Why can’t we just enjoy the process and even enjoy our failures?”
If we want to be successful at something, Myriam says, we’ll have a better chance by trying and failing than by doing nothing because we’re frozen with fear of inadequacy. Focusing on the process, rather than the finish line, can go a long way toward alleviating perfectionism.
2. Allow yourself to be incompetent
Similarly, it can be useful to give yourself permission to do something badly.
“I feel this all the time,” says Thomas Beutel, an artist who recently learned 3D printing and is currently learning to make dance tracks. “For me it’s the frustration of knowing that I need to go through the ‘being incompetent’ phase so that I can get to the somewhat competent phase where I feel most comfortable. What helps me is watching YouTubes, assuming that there are videos that explain the thing I want to learn.”
Beutel says giving yourself permission to exist in the “incompetent phase” is important, but you should also give yourself permission to feel a little bad when you’re there—you don’t have to be thrilled about it. “I can’t stand the feeling of being incompetent when I’m in the midst of it. I just started with an accountability buddy last week so that helps, but my feelings of inadequacy are running deep and strong at the moment. I just need to keep plugging away at it (and talking about it to other people) until the ‘imposter monster’ is slain.”
3. Why not you?
When I first started to pursue writing as a career, I almost felt embarrassed by my audacity. One thing that helped me get over it? Another novice writer I knew picked up her life and moved to California to pursue screenwriting. If she was allowed to have the audacity, why not me?
Selva, a multipod who studies relationships, healing, and community-building, feels the same way: “What helps me the most with my chronic imposter syndrome is to know for the fact that the actual imposters don’t feel it,” she says. “So I try to use a lot of compassion and trust in the process, knowing that nobody is born being already a master in the thing.”
4. Focus on what’s true in the moment
While it’s true that other people can make us feel like imposters, sometimes we talk ourselves into feeling that way, too. “Fear can manifest in the form of ‘what if I start this and I’m not good at it, or I don’t enjoy it,’” says Paul Socket, an actor and storyteller. “Sometimes my limiting belief is that making the ‘wrong’ choice of new pursuit equals failure, which isn’t true, but certainly feels true for a hot minute. Returning to ‘what is true in this moment?’ is helpful to me.”
In other words, maybe you can talk yourself out of feeling like an imposter by reminding yourself of what’s actually true. Are you really an imposter, or are you just a newbie doing your best? “By returning to my truths in that moment, I have more options for leaning gently into the vulnerability and choosing what step I want to make next,” Paul says.
5. Write your way through it
By nature, imposter syndrome is about comparing yourself to others, and it’s often accompanied by envy. It might help to write through that envy, says Aarti, a teacher, artist, and writer. “Who do you think is watching or judging? More successful friends, prospective employers, colleagues and family?” Aarti asks. “I write about why I’m jealous about specific people, and why I’m insecure because of specific people. That really helps to pause the self criticism.”
Writing about your feelings and experiences is helpful in processing them, and this particular exercise can help you pinpoint the root cause of those feelings so you can free yourself up emotionally to do all the things you want to do.
All of this is easier said than done, and in trying to avoid being an imposter, you may very well still end up feeling like one. One of the best things about mutipods, however, is our tremendous yearning to try new things—it often outweighs any reservations about leaving our comfort zone.
How do you get past beginner’s imposter syndrome? Has 2020 changed your feelings around pursuing new things?