Is there something that you dream of doing but you’re waiting for the “right time” to take the first step? Or maybe you’re holding off until you have enough experience or education? Have you gotten an opportunity to do it already and turned it down because it made you sick to your stomach with the fear of failure and ridicule?
There’s this lady, Esther Hicks (you may recognize the name – together with her husband, she founded The Law of Attraction workshops) who channels a spirit named Abraham (stay with me, we’re not going far down this path) and in one of her communications with him, he said this:
“If you have a subject that makes you uncomfortable when you think about it, it means there is strong desire related to it. Which means it really, really, really matters. So finding a way to think about it and feel good is your work.”
A few months ago, I was asked to illustrate a children’s book. I can’t even tell you how much of a dream come true it will be for me to see my art in a published book that real people are actually paying money to own. To me, it’s about the coolest opportunity ever. And yet, every time I sit down to work on it, I start finding excuses to do other things. The laundry needs to be folded. The dishwasher needs to be emptied. I should really go to the grocery store. I’m just gonna go on a quick run. Maybe I’ll straighten my hair. That pantry is not going to organize itself. I really need a new running playlist.
Like, pretty much everything you could think of… I’ve used it as an excuse to not work on this project. It took me awhile to understand what was going on here (I started working through it when a friend forwarded me the quote above and I was all, “Ohhhhhhh”). I am not really a procrastinator, especially when it comes to things I love doing, and drawing/illustrating definitely falls into that category. So why am I feeling this incredible, uncomfortably powerful resistance to actually doing it?
Because I am experiencing imposter syndrome. Wikipedia‘s definition: “Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” I like to call it a “fraud complex” but whatever you call it, I assure you it ain’t no joke. But it is, sadly, quite common.
Like many others, I am worried what people will think. I’m scared they will think my drawings are shit. I’m terrified that they will say, “What business does she think she has illustrating a book?” But really, who the hell cares? If doing this project brings me happiness, builds confidence/strength and allows me to seek my truth — and I’m not hurting anyone in the process (that’s important) — then I really shouldn’t give a rat’s behind what anyone thinks about me or my drawings. I know I’m capable of producing something that I am proud of and that the author of the book thinks is great. So why am I worried about every Tom, Dick and Harriett? Well, I’m human and it’s hard to put myself out there and be vulnerable. It’s much easier to stay in my mediocre comfort zone and say that I’ll do it when the time is right.
“Nobody who ever accomplished anything big or new or worth raising a celebratory fist in the air did it from their comfort zone. They risked ridicule and failure and sometimes even death.” – Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
Jen goes on to say this, which I love so much that I want to leave it in her words: “The trick is to not only deny the criticism any power over you, but even more challenging, to not get caught up in the praise. There’s nothing wrong with blushingly accepting a compliment, but if you find yourself always seeking outside approval that you’re good enough or cool enough or talented enough or worthy enough, you’re screwed. Because if you base your self-worth on what everyone else thinks of you, you hand all your power over to other people and become dependent on a source outside of yourself for validation. Then you wind up chasing after something you have no control over, and should that something suddenly place its focus somewhere else, or change its mind and decide you’re no longer very interesting, you end up with a full-blown identity crisis. Everything else is just other people’s perception of reality, and that is none of your business.”
So then how do you silence the critics in your head? Here are five steps to help you define whether or not you should go for it. (These are paraphrased from You Are a Badass — buy it if you haven’t already, it’s practically my bible.)
1. Determine your reason for doing it.
Whatever you’re thinking about doing or saying, ask yourself why. Are you doing it because it will change someone’s life for the better? Will it make you feel cool? Are you doing it for revenge? Is it something that will make you feel stronger and happier? Are you doing it because it’s your calling? If your motivation is not genuine or hurts others along the way, then you definitely should not do it. But if you are motivated from a place of truth and integrity, then go for it.
2. Do your best.
If you don’t give something 100% and believe in it with your whole heart, then you’re not coming from a place of integrity, you’re probably not going to do your best work, and you’re likely to feel pretty insecure. It’s hard to fend off criticism from a place of self-doubt, but if you’re doing the very best that you can, you give yourself the freedom to not care what anyone else thinks.
3. Listen to your gut.
If something doesn’t feel right or you feel stuck, whatever answer you’re looking for is within you. Find a place free of distractions, quiet your thoughts, and let your inner guidance shine the light on the information you’re looking for. If you don’t already, start practicing this quiet thinking time every day… you can call it meditation, prayer, whatever you want. Focusing on what you want and allowing inner guidance is key to success.
4. Pick an interim hero.
After you’ve had enough practice, you’ll be your own role model. But for now, find someone you look up to who doesn’t care what other people think. When you need a little outside guidance, ask yourself “what would that person do?”
5. Love yourself.
That’s not paraphrased. That’s Jen’s step 5. And always her last step of every process. It’s an important one! Don’t forget that you are the only YOU in this world. You are unique and powerful and capable of greatness.
Now, go do something awesome. Because you CAN.