“Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalise 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.” (Wikipedia)
I’ve been working as a business coach for creative people for a long time, and I meet so many fakers and imposters and lucky bastards it’s like an epidemic. Since I started my position as (cue fancy title here) the NSW Creative Industries Business Advisor I’ve meet a great deal more of them – people who have found their way to business success through a combination of good fortune, the hand of fate, timing and an excellent ability to fool the whole world.
Of course, that’s not really the case. The vast majority of the people that I work with are talented, smart and interesting, with something worthwhile to offer the world that has led to their success. Maybe a couple of them have been blessed with the ability to blag their way through a tough spot, or look more capable than they felt, but you could also argue that this is a marketing skill that can only help a creative business.
I’ve just been to a conference and met some of the really interesting imposters, the ones in camouflage. They come across as extreme wankers, so apparently sure of their own abilities that they go beyond aspirational and wander into annoyance, despite their obvious achievements. Scrape away the layers of dickhead, though, and you reveal insecure creatives who can’t believe their good fortune and wonder when the Business Fraud Squad are going to come along and bust them.
I know, because I get those people in my coaching sessions too. In the six months since I started working at my new gig I’ve met well-known film producers, a couple of famous actors, three reality talent-show finalists, a band you would have heard of and a millionaire writer. Every one of them has doubted his or her ability to run a successful creative business, and they all cited luck or timing or some other lightning strike as the reason for their success so far. Even the ones who seemed like wankers at first come to see me because they’re not sure why they’ve made it work, and they’re scared they won’t be able to do it again.
As someone who has frequently suffered from Imposter Syndrome myself, I think it’s quite hilarious that we all believe more in luck than our own abilities. There’s a fantastic irony to the fact that I often catch myself listening to creatives talk about their business issues, and wonder why they would take any guidance from me? We’re all mired in this silliness, wandering from lucky to wanker and back again without giving ourselves any pats on the back.
So, today, give yourself a pat for a job well done. Chances are it’s not just luck or timing or your ability to fool people that has brought you to this point – you might actually be amazing at what you do.