Imposter syndrome. It doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished or how qualified you are, you feel incompetent, insecure, and fearful of being exposed as a fraud. Who hasn’t felt this way? I’ve had conversations in yoga trainings, in art school, and with friends over coffee, and at some point, we have all identified as an imposter. I think it’s inevitable to feel that way in any creative or unconventional field. But can we overcome it?
I have felt like a fraud as a teacher, a photographer, a writer, a blogger, and truthfully, as an adult.
For the longest time I refused to tell people about this site. I treated it like a second job, scheduling in time every week to create content. But I don’t make money off of it and have low views so, surely, I can’t call myself a blogger. However, a few months ago I ordered new business cards and made the decision to add “yoga & wellness blogger” to my title line. It was a bold choice. It was terrifying to complete the order and send it to the printer, but the way I saw it, I was finally taking ownership of my consistency, my ideas, every word I’ve written, and the connections I’ve made with people from all over the world. While I was still scared, it also felt electrifying. I was making a statement that I take my work seriously and I want others to as well. Blogging might be a hobby, but it is also a side hustle and the only way for it to grow is to talk about it.
My relationship with teaching is a bit more complicated. I have two qualifications that recognize me as not just a yoga teacher, but a well studied yoga teacher. There are various levels of distinction and I’m very close to being at the highest one. I see that and understand that. However, almost being an E-RYT 500 doesn’t make me feel any less like an imposter. Sure, I have spent a lot of time studying, practicing, and teaching yoga, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a good teacher. Even when I feel competent and confident, I can take a class with one of my teachers and realize I know absolutely nothing and start questioning if I’ll ever be at their level. I have spoken with teachers from different lineages, from various states, and across the spectrum of age and I know I’m not the only one out there that has these thoughts.
But then I remember we are not at the same point in our careers. Our educational journey is not the same either. And on top of all of that, we are our own unique self. I will never be Gina or Noah because they are already taken. I have to be Madison. Even if our paths were exactly the same, if we had had the same experiences, what we do with that information and how we present it would still be specific to us.
So, how do we flip the switch on imposter syndrome?
Ignore the voice in the back of your head and own the work you’ve done.
My friend Kimmy once told me, if you do the work, it doesn’t matter if it’s “successful” or not. You still did it and continue to do it, which makes you a (fill in the blank – painter, writer, teacher, etc). No one has to ever see or hear your work, but it’s exists because you made it. Own that and be proud of it.
Keep your ears open for the compliments you receive.
I’m terrible at accepting compliments, but it’s something I’m working on. Whenever I receive a nice comment or compliment at the end of a class or on a post, I allow myself to fully hear it. I accept that they truly believe what they are saying. I might write it down in my journal at the end of the day, but usually I just take it in and smile. While it can take time to accept compliments, it gets easier the more you do it. It’s taken months, but I’m finally open to hear the kind words my mentor has to say and know that she sees me as a fellow teacher and not just a mentee. I’m still shocked every time she defers to me for anatomy questions, but hey, it’s a process.
Look at success in a new light.
Success doesn’t have to be defined by a monetary value or winning an award. It comes in many forms. As a yoga teacher, success is guiding someone into a pose they didn’t think was possible. It’s helping a student feel better in their body, whether their pain is physical or emotional. As a writer/blogger, success is inspiring a reader to try something new or to connect with a fellow creator. There isn’t one way to define success so don’t ignore it when it’s right in front of you.
Accept there will always be more to learn.
Usually the feelings of imposter syndrome come up when we realize there’s something we don’t know. But no matter where you are on your path, there will still be more to learn. Especially in these creative fields, you will never stop. There’s more to explore. There’s more to understand. And even what you already know can morph and change into a new shape.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!