How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a feeling that you aren’t fully qualified to write your book or share your knowledge with the world. It’s a challenge for many nonfiction writers.

If you have any of the following thoughts, there’s a good chance you may be wrestling with imposter syndrome:

  • Who am I to write/speak/teach about this topic?
  • There are other authors who know more than I do.
  • There are others who have been doing this longer than I have.
  • I don’t have enough credentials to do this.
  • Other people’s stories are more compelling than mine.
  • I don’t have all the answers.
  • People will think that I am a fraud.
  • The world doesn’t need another expert in [fill in the blank].
  • The world doesn’t need another book about [fill in the blank].

If you’ve ruminated over any variation of the above thoughts, you are not alone. In fact, I would be more surprised if you hadn’t wrestled with any of these thoughts. Following are some strategies to help you conquer imposter syndrome.

Own What Makes You Unique

While there may be others in your field who have similar experiences or expertise, there will always be room for new voices in every genre. For example, there are countless financial professionals writing books and offering advice. Suzy Orman, Dave Ramsey, and Warren Buffet are some popular names you’re likely familiar with. Do they share the exact same perspectives, opinions, and value propositions? Of course not. Each has a unique style that appeals to different audiences.

Your own unique style will appeal to an audience that aligns with who you are.

Consider Your Credentials

If you have an advanced degree or any kind of special certification in your area of expertise, you have established credentials. But if you don’t have specific education in your field of interest, your experience can be a qualifier.

Let’s say you graduated college with an Art History degree and then spent 20 years working as an executive at a premium hotel chain. Does the fact that you don’t have a degree in hospitality mean that you aren’t qualified to write or speak about how to run a hotel? Absolutely not. Your real-world experience gives you tremendous credibility. This logic applies in all kinds of fields.

Forget Having All the Answers

Feeling like you might not know every little detail about your topic can be a stumbling block for some authors. But here is some good news: You know more than the average person and that is enough.

For example, let’s say you run a day spa and you want to teach others how to start and run their own day spa. Your many years of work experience indicates you know a lot about the spa business, certainly more than anyone outside of that industry. This alone establishes your expertise in spa management.

If you are worried someone might ask you for specifics about business licenses, bookkeeping, tax liability, or other details about the spa business that you aren’t intimately familiar with, please let that go. Not being able to address every minute detail doesn’t mean you’re unqualified. It means you are human.

Twenty-five years ago, I worked for a tech company in the Silicon Valley, overseeing support for big-name dot com companies. Then I was recruited into a software sales position at the same company, and I was wildly under-qualified for the role. My only prior sales experience was selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door when I was nine.

Before we walked in to the first big client meeting, my manager stopped me in the parking lot and said, “Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Just let them know you will find the answers and get back to them.”

It’s as simple as that. Nobody expects you to know everything. Simply offer to follow through and all will be well.

Claim Your Confidence

Before that same fateful meeting with the big dot com company, my manager also gave me some of my favorite business advice: “Walk into that room like you own it.”

This isn’t the same as “fake it until you make it,” which has an entirely different connotation. What she meant was that I needed to project confidence, which in turn helped me feel more confident.

Turn Anxiety into Excitement

There are occasions when my nerves kick up, especially in the moments before a significant speaking engagement—usually with a large audience. Years ago, I read somewhere that fear and excitement come from the same place in our bodies. So instead of letting anxiety get the best of me, I tap into my excitement about being at the event and getting to serve the audience. Then I walk on stage with confidence and enthusiasm. It works every time.

Operate from a Place of Abundance

There is plenty of room in the marketplace for another memoir, leadership book, spiritual guide, or health book—and for experts in these subjects and beyond. Instead of viewing those who came before you as competitors, remember that we’re all attracted to different communication styles. Those who started before you are your peers, not your competition. Ideally, you should find ways to work together instead of viewing them as a threat, or assuming they view you that way. There is always plenty of business to go around.

Stop Comparing

Aside from the well-known financial experts listed earlier, there are thousands of financial professionals who are authoring books and connecting with audiences of all sizes. Whether you’re comparing yourself to the experts on TV or those in your own backyard, remember these wise words from Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

If your children or grandchildren were struggling because they were comparing themselves to their friends or people on social media, you would urge them to stop. You would tell them how special and unique they are! If comparison sneaks up on you, please give yourself this same grace.

Carve Out a Niche

One powerful way to claim your expertise in your subject matter and squash imposter syndrome is to narrow down your audience focus. Using myself as an example, I launched the Nonfiction Writers Conference in 2010, followed by the Nonfiction Authors Association in 2013. I could have done what many of my peers do and developed programs for ALL writers. But I specifically chose to narrow my focus to nonfiction for several reasons.

While there are countless writer’s groups and conferences, there are still very few that focus exclusively on nonfiction. It was a personal frustration for me when I spoke at writing events and realized how little attention was given to those of us who write about business, health, spirituality, etc.  And nonfiction is where my passion lies so it was an easy decision.

Not only does claiming a niche help you better connect with your audience, it narrows the playing field. Instead of being up against hundreds of financial advisors, you could be a financial advisor who specializes in divorce, single parents, or family businesses.

How can you carve out a niche for yourself? Here are some examples:

  • A platform/book about job hunting or a platform about job hunting over 50 years old.
  • A platform/book about leadership or a platform about leadership for women-owned businesses.
  • A platform/book about gardening or a platform about gardening in Utah.

Stay on Top of Your Industry

To ensure you continue to grow your confidence and skills, make a point of staying on top of the news in your industry. Understand trends, new opportunities, and how the industry is evolving. Staying current will ensure you are well-versed on what your audience needs to know and boost your confidence at the same time.

Focus on Your Purpose

One of the reasons I love nonfiction is that these books impact the lives of readers. Whether you’re helping readers adopt a healthy lifestyle, navigate through grief, or inspiring them with your triumphant story, what you are doing makes a difference in the world. Don’t let imposter syndrome prevent you from doing important work. Readers need to hear what you have to say.

Motivate Yourself to Get Going

Remember that there is always room in the market for a new author/expert in any genre. Get clear about who makes up your target audience and focus on serving them. Confidence is like a muscle you need to exercise. Aim to take steps each day, small or large, toward reaching your goals. I promise, it gets easier as time goes on. You owe it to yourself and your readers to claim your AUTHORity!


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