How to Create when You Feel like a Fraud
Have you been feeling unsure of yourself recently? I know my confidence has certainly taken a hit lately. For me, it’s connected to the pandemic — the social isolation has triggered old stories of not belonging and my weird goofiness being too much. How about for you?
And yet… create I must. It’s how I make my living. It’s how I make joy and meaning, and it’s always how I build back my confidence. Action confuses fear. Action builds confidence.
I’ve been studying how I keep creating in the midst of feeling like a fraud, a cardboard cut-out, a gal without confidence, a boring imposter who has nothing worth saying. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
I ask myself wise questions that disrupt the story, like:
Who decides what’s legit and what’s a fraud? And do I give them that authority? Hint: Take back your agency by deciding whose opinion matters to you. The faceless “They” has no power over your life unless you give it to them.
Who am I when I am creating? Hint: Really alive, really curious, really engaged. You?
How might I be hiding by judging myself a fraud? Hint: Sometimes our emotional immune system tries to convince us we are imposters or stupid or whatever to keep us from taking any new risks.
I reframe self-talk:
If a client or student said she was feeling _______ (fill in self-talk), what would I say to her? Hint: Use your name in the second person to help shift your mood faster. “Jen, it’s normal right now to feel blah. Blah is not the same as a fraud. What do you need to take in to inspire you?”
Ask yourself, what is the most self-compassionate way to create today? Hint: When we’re feeling fraudulent or imposter-like, it’s likely we are judging ourselves or pushing ourselves too hard. Can you lower the bar, create less, create simply, create “stupid”, by which I mean make anything? But still, please, create.
I look for cultural influences:
Am I falling into toxic originality? I coined this term recently to mean when we insist everything we create must be completely original or it has no value. It’s a lie. It’s not how creativity is supposed to work. But in fact, creativity works by putting together elements in new ways or by building on ideas and inventions of others, and adding something new. Hint: What would you want to create if you didn’t have to be original?
Has an old pattern been triggered, something that tells me I’m not good enough? Do I need to journal, talk to someone kind, dance, meditate on Oneness? Hint: You are essential goodness. Nothing you make or don’t make changes that truth. Old patterns are scary, boring, vexing, traumatic to experience, and they mean nothing about your worth as a human.
I return to myself:
What’s the truest thing I know to write / create right now? Hint: It can start with a word, a color, a shape, a piece of fabric, a gesture. Hint-hint: Right now, not for all time. There is no truth with a capital T.
What would I create if I didn’t need to be right? Hint: Being right is what we learned in school and at work. There is no right or wrong when we stand in the open field of creativity.
What would “wonder” like me to make? Hint: Wonder opens the door to desire. Wonder brings fresh eyes. Wonder brings a sense of play. Ask for help from a place of wonder.
Most of all, I try to remember that the act of making, in and of itself, restores me to myself. That when I stop trying to be smart or right or the best, I find my way to what is mine to make today.
And when I make what is mine to create today, then there is room and space to make something new tomorrow. Which is the surest way to build my confidence, my business, my body of work, my life.
Feeling like an imposter is a story you can deconstruct so you can get your voice and your ideas and your glorious creations out into the world. May you and I always do so!