Kick Impostor Syndrome to the Curb and Embrace Your Awesomeness

June 27, 2024
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Picture this: You're sitting at your desk, staring at an email from a potential dream client. They want to work with you. You! And instead of doing a happy dance, you're breaking out in a cold sweat, thinking, “Oh no, they're going to find out I'm a total fraud.” Impostor syndrome sucks.

Welcome to the not-so-exclusive club of freelancers battling impostor syndrome. If you've ever felt like you're somehow fooling everyone and that any minute now, the “real experts” are going to show up and expose you as a charlatan, pull up a chair. We need to talk.

The Great Impostor Syndrome Conspiracy

Here's the thing about impostor syndrome: it's the world's worst-kept secret. Almost everyone has it, but we all think we're the only ones. It's like that embarrassing rash you're sure everyone can see, but in reality, nobody's even noticed.

But let's get one thing straight. Feeling like an impostor doesn't mean you are one. In fact, it often means the opposite. It means you're pushing yourself, growing, and challenging your own limits. And that, my friend, is exactly what successful freelancers do.

The Freelancer's Impostor Syndrome Bingo Card

Before we dive into how to kick impostor syndrome to the curb, let's play a quick game of Impostor Syndrome Bingo. Check off how many of these thoughts you've had:

  • “I'm not qualified enough for this project.”
  • “They're going to realize they made a mistake hiring me.”
  • “Everyone else seems to know what they're doing.”
  • “I just got lucky with my past successes.”
  • “I'm not a real [insert your profession here].”

If you checked off even one of these, congratulations! You're a card-carrying member of the “I'm Too Hard on Myself” club. But don't worry, we're about to revoke your membership.

You're Not a Fraud, You're a Work in Progress

Let's start by reframing how we think about expertise. Being an expert doesn't mean knowing everything. It means having a depth of knowledge and experience in your field, and—this is crucial—being willing and able to learn more.

I work regularly with a freelance graphic designer. She landed a big project with a tech startup about a year ago but panicked because she'd never worked in that industry before. Instead of turning down the job, she dove into research about tech branding, reached out to a mentor for advice, and ended up creating a killer brand identity that the client loved. She wasn't an impostor; she was adaptable and resourceful.

three woman in front of laptop computer
Photo by Christina Morillo on <a href=httpswwwpexelscomphotothree woman in front of laptop computer 1181233 rel=nofollow>Pexelscom<a>

The “Fake It Till You Make It” Trap (And What to Do Instead)

We've all heard the advice to “fake it till you make it.” But here's the problem: when you're already feeling like a fraud, pretending to be something you're not just feeds that impostor monster.

Instead, try this: “Learn it while you earn it.”

Every project is an opportunity to expand your skills and knowledge. Approach each new challenge not as a test of your worth, but as a chance to grow.

Pro Tip: Keep a “Skills Acquired” log. Every time you learn something new for a project, write it down. Watch that list grow, and try telling yourself you're an impostor then!

The Comparison Game is the Fastest Way to Feel Like a Fraud

In the age of social media, it's easy to fall into the comparison trap. Everyone else seems to be crushing it, while you're sitting there in your pajamas at 2 PM, wondering if you remembered to brush your teeth.

Remember this: social media is everyone's highlight reel. You're comparing your blooper reel to their Oscar-winning performance.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to your past self. Look at how far you've come, what you've learned, the challenges you've overcome.

I used to obsess over other writers' LinkedIn posts about their big wins. It sucked. I started feeling like I was falling behind. Then I looked back at my first few articles from when I started freelancing (cringe). The improvement was undeniable. I wasn't falling behind; I was on my own journey of growth. Look back and see just how far you’ve come.

stressed woman looking at a laptop
Photo by Anna Shvets on <a href=httpswwwpexelscomphotostressed woman looking at a laptop 4226218 rel=nofollow>Pexelscom<a>

The Power of the “Yet” Mindset

Next time you catch yourself thinking, “I'm not good enough,” add one simple word: “yet.”

“I'm not good enough at client presentations… yet.” “I don't know how to use this software… yet.” “I haven't landed a big-name client… yet.”

This simple shift moves you from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It acknowledges where you are now while leaving the door wide open for future growth.

Building Your “I'm Actually Pretty Awesome” Evidence File

Time for some homework (don't worry, it's the fun kind). Create an “Awesome File.” This can be a physical folder, a digital document, or even a Pinterest board. Fill it with:

  • Positive feedback from clients
  • Successful project outcomes
  • Challenges you've overcome
  • Skills you've acquired
  • Compliments from colleagues

Next time impostor syndrome rears its ugly head, dive into your Awesome File for a reality check.

Embracing the Power of “I Don't Know”

Here's a radical idea for you. You don't have to know everything. In fact, admitting when you don't know something can be incredibly powerful.

“I don't know, but I'll find out” is not the mark of an impostor. It's the mark of a professional who's committed to delivering the best possible work.

I was in a client meeting recently when they asked another member of the team a new social media platform she hadn't used. Instead of panicking or bluffing, she said, “I'm not familiar with that platform, but I'm excited to research it and see how we can incorporate it into your strategy.” The client appreciated her honesty and eagerness to learn, and so did I.

woman having coffee while using laptop to look at her "awesome" file when she's feeling Impostor Syndrome
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on <a href=httpswwwpexelscomphotowoman having coffee while using laptop 4050388 rel=nofollow>Pexelscom<a>

The Impostor Syndrome Emergency Kit

For those moments when impostor syndrome hits hard and fast, here's your emergency kit:

  1. Take a deep breath. Seriously. Right now. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
  2. Call your biggest cheerleader. We all need that person who thinks we're amazing. Give them a call. Or watch this video (it makes me feel more confident every time).
  3. Review your wins. Remember that Awesome File? Time to crack it open.
  4. Do one small task you're good at. Remind yourself of your competence.
  5. Say it out loud: “I am qualified. I am learning. I am valuable.”

Turning Impostor Syndrome into Your Secret Weapon

Here's a plot twist for you: what if impostor syndrome could actually make you better at what you do?

That nagging voice that says you're not good enough can push you to:

  • Over-prepare for client meetings
  • Double-check your work
  • Continuously learn and improve your skills
  • Stay humble and open to feedback

The trick is to harness that energy without letting it paralyze you.

You've Got This (No, Really, You Do)

Every successful freelancer you admire has felt like an impostor at some point. The difference is, they didn't let it stop them. And neither should you.

You're not an impostor. You're a freelancer on a journey of continuous growth and learning. You're brave enough to put yourself out there, to take on new challenges, to create something from nothing.

That's not fraud. That's pretty darn impressive.

So the next time impostor syndrome comes knocking, look it straight in the eye and say, “Not today, buddy. I've got work to do.”

Now, go out there and show the world (and yourself) just how awesome you really are. You've got this. And that's not an impostor talking—it's the real deal.

Author

  • Treasa Edmond

    With 30 years in the workforce, 15 of those running her own freelance writer and content strategy business, Treasa has worked with all kinds of clients. It took her years to break out of an employee mindset so she could become the boss of her business. Now she's sharing her proven client management strategy and communication process so you can become the boss of your business today!


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