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In my career I’ve had a hard time with labels. All the writing I do about crafting and knitting in particular sets me up as a person who is sharing her knowledge.
A teacher, if you will.
Anyone who Googles knitting, finds my site and looks at the more than 1,500 articles I’ve written and projects I’ve designed over the past seven years would probably consider me someone with a vast experience and a lot of knitting knowledge.
An expert, perhaps.
And yet, when About.com announced over the weekend that its writers would no longer be called “Guides” but instead “Experts,” part of me freaked out a little. (And I was not the only one.)
I’m not an expert. I lucked into this gig thanks to an ability to write (enough to convince some people in New York I knew enough about knitting to write about knitting) and good timing. If it hadn’t been knitting I could have just as well ended up writing about cross stitch or journalism or some other aspect of craft or writing. I barely had any technical skill when I started — I’d never even knit a sock! — and to my mind I still sometimes feel like I’m not qualified to tell anybody anything about knitting.
And yet, people have told me I taught them to knit (or to knit socks, even) though I wasn’t there in the room with them.
When I’m around other people and tell them what I do and they’re impressed, it makes me uncomfortable.
Asking people to review my book, even via email, makes me incredibly nervous. I feel like asking people to look at my work — even work I’m really proud of — will just set me up to be revealed as a big fraud.
(I know I shouldn’t worry because on the whole knitters are incredibly nice, warm and supportive. Did you see the review from Singlehanded Knits? So lovely and sweet. Mahalo is not enough.)
That Old Impostor Feeling
Do you ever feel like that?
Why do we do this to ourselves?
I wonder if I only feel this way about my work because it’s creative, which in a way makes it a matter of taste as much as skill if someone will like what I do.
I wonder if I would feel such feelings of insecurity and inability if I had a corporate job. Knowing me, I probably would.
But I know I need to do better. I understand on a logical level that everyone is on a different level and anyone can teach who knows more than someone else. And just because I’m out there as a teacher — OK, an expert — that doesn’t mean I have to have all the answers locked away in my brain to any question a knitter might have.
It’s OK — vital, even — for me to keep learning, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share what I already know.
Logic Only Goes So Far
Like I said, I know this on a logical level, but that doesn’t keep my heart and my stomach from going crazy when I think about talking about what I do or sharing creative works that are meaningful to me.
And anyway, expert is such a loaded word. It’s overused online to the point of being meaningless, yet it feels like the height of egotism to call yourself an expert. And yet, by somebody’s definition anyway, I am.
I’m working on it. If you need help, too, here are some things that might be beneficial.
Be honest with yourself. Why are you uncomfortable claiming your expertise? Is it because you’re afraid of being exposed as a fraud, because you fell into an area of expertise that you’re not really an expert in or some other reason? Being able to name your feelings is important.
Be gentle. You’re not going to feel like wearing the expert mantle proudly every day if you’re dealing with impostor issues. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it. Try not to be in situations at that time where you have to flaunt your “expertise,” but also don’t let other people’s praise make you feel like crap.
Accept praise. Speaking of that, try to believe people when they offer compliments, especially when you didn’t ask and there’s nothing in it for them to be kind to you. It’s hard. Man, I know that. But if you weren’t awesome, why would this person be saying nice things about you?
Fake it until you make it. I haven’t made it yet. I’m trying. It’s easier for me to talk about my accomplishments online than it is in person, but when I go out in the world I try to remind myself that it is, for instance, a big deal that I successfully published two knitting books. It is a big deal that I get to write about things I love and get paid even a little bit for it. If those things are a big deal, maybe I’m a big deal, too.
And maybe you are, too.
Do you ever feel like a fraud in your work, creative or otherwise? I’d love to know how you deal with it. I know it’s hard to talk about, but being honest is a big part of dealing with it, I think.
“Do you ever feel like a fraud in your work, creative or otherwise?”
Me?? NEVER. I am ALWAYS confident. Heh… yeah… ok… maybe not… sigh.
Thank you for writing this post. You’re so brave. And awesome! I love how you not only own your awesome, you also own your humanness, with all it’s doubts and fears. Just makes me love ya more.
I’m reading a great book right now which my thera… *cough, cough* … friend recommended. “There Is Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. I only read the first 40 some pages, but I’m already highly recommending it. It’s wonderful and a must read for all us awesome-imperfect-human-anxious people.
Oh, you know what else makes me feel better about my imposter syndrome? Even Neil Gaiman gets it… ! He talks about it in a commencement speech video. So worth watching, for plenty of reasons besides his imposter confession.
Thanks, Rachel! I hoped you’d see this since we were talking about it over the weekend. Just keepin’ it real over here. 😉 Will have to check that book out.