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Who are you to teach? Who are you to share? There’s so many people that know more than you. What gives you the right to make a contribution? Who qualified you to give advice?
If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by these feelings, you’re not alone.
Imposter syndrome is feeling like you’re a fraud. Sometimes it manifests in something as simple as feeling like you may be more confident than you deserve to be.
We all experience this. Every single one of us. Even people who are well-known. It’s not something you outgrow—it evolves into new forms of inadequacy.
The fear of being found out and the fear of being wrong are powerful forces. We show you how to turn those on their head and use them to your advantage. We also give you 6 ways to boost self confidence.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Imposter Syndrome has undertones of self-deprecation.
- If you don’t put out an imperfect version of yourself, you’re not creating a story of how you got better that someone else can benefit from.
- Remove the words “I think” from your vocabulary. Make a statement and have some conviction. Be wrong sometimes.
- People won’t internalize your message and receive it unless they sense that you care.
- Iterate in public, share all your flaws, and hold nothing back.
- Be confident for your audience, because they’re looking to you for how to feel.
- If you subject yourself to someone else’s definition of success, you’re never going to allow yourself the freedom to speak from your experience.
- It doesn’t matter where you are or what level you’re at, you’re going to experience Imposter Syndrome—you can let it incapacitate you or you can share anyway.
- Be honest about what you don’t know. It has so much value for people who feel stuck and alone in their own struggles.
- 01:09 Sean: Ben, do you ever feel like a fraud?
- 01:11 Ben: Definitely. Sometimes, I’m aware that I’m overly confident and maybe that is also a form of Imposter Syndrome. I know that I’m being way too forward and asserting myself too much. There are other times when I definitely don’t feel like I belong in the room.
- 01:34 Sean: I think a lot of people don’t realize that they have Imposter Syndrome. There was so much discussion on this in the chat that Cory Miller said it was “value overload.” People were talking about feeling inadequate or like they aren’t really qualified to be talking about this or sharing things. As people were reading it, they said, “I think I just realized that I have Imposter Syndrome.” A lot of people don’t realize that they have it. Ben just said he sometimes feels like he’s overly confident and you don’t think of that immediately as Imposter Syndrome. You think, “I feel like I’m being too confident right now.”
It could be a sign of Imposter Syndrome if you feel like you’re more confident than you deserve to be, given what you know compared to someone else.
- 02:29 Ben: It’s hard to balance Imposter Syndrome against humility. It’s good to be humble, but the difference is that Imposter Syndrome has a tendency to keep you from doing things. It holds you back, whereas humility still allows you to operate and have a healthy relationship with your clients or your audience.
- 03:01 Sean: I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Imposter Syndrome has undertones of self-deprecation. You feel like you don’t deserve to be able to teach people this thing. You don’t deserve to have the audience you do. You just started your own business and started making products, and people think you’re the expert on this, but you’re thinking, “I just started doing this. I don’t have a fancy piece of paper with gold leaf on it framed on my wall.”
- 03:38 Ben: I’ve witnessed this in other people, and I’ve also seen it in myself. I think this comes from humility, this attitude toward having a big audience, having certain opportunities, or being in the room with a client you’ve really wanted to work with. The attitude is one of gratitude and wonder. “Wow, do I really get to be here?” There’s a difference between that and thinking, “I’m in way over my head. I don’t feel like I belong here. What am I doing?” Both of those things position you below where you think you should be in order to have achieved those things, but one is a much healthier way of seeing it, and that is being grateful for the opportunity you have. You can feel like this is something you can rise up to rather than feeling like you shouldn’t be here. That keeps you from being able to do your best work and from seeing yourself being successful in that scenario.
Your Voice Brings Value
- 05:10 Sean: We have a relatively new Community member, Matt, who says, “I get Imposter Syndrome when I’m in the Community, but I’m working on it.” He’s been awesome. I’ve really enjoyed how immediately he jumped in and started participating and talking with people. I was really impressed by that, because people get really timid when they join. There’s all these people they don’t know, so they’re on the sidelines, not saying anything. People are starring Matt’s messages; there’s more than half a dozen people saying to him, “I get that, me too. You’re not alone. I hear you. You’re definitely not alone.” Everyone feels this.
- 05:49 The overarching theme of our discussion in the chat this morning was that if you can’t tell from how much people are sharing about their feelings when it comes to Imposter Syndrome, you’re not alone. We all feel this. I feel this way. Sometimes, I think, “What am I doing? Who am I to do this? Who am I to share, to teach?” All of us feel this way. I think really logically, so I talk myself into diving in and putting myself out there by telling myself that I’m robbing people of value if I don’t share and put myself out there, if I don’t engage in the Community chat, if I join and just sit on the sidelines.
- 06:50 I was talking with Cory the other day, and he was saying, “I feel like these are such new questions.” They might be new questions, but the thing that should get you out of this place of timidity, of being afraid to put yourself out there because people might think something of you or you might be wrong, is that you’re robbing people of value by not putting yourself out there. If you go in the Community chat and stop being a lurker and you share this new question and everyone else can help you, you’re creating value. You’re multiplying that value. All the people who are too afraid to ask what you’re asking get value from that. Even if you’re asking the wrong question and someone can help you out with that, it helps everyone. We all grow from it.
If you don’t put out an imperfect version of yourself, you don’t create a story of how you got better that someone else could benefit from.
- 08:01 Ben: There was a really great comment in the chat about someone who was sharing their journey, and Damien just asked, “Is there a time when someone should feel like an imposter?” Most people want to be honest about where they are, and they try, as much as they can, to look at themselves objectively. The people who are concerned about being an imposter or being a fraud are the ones who are less in danger of actually being imposers or frauds. They’re so self aware, and that can be a good thing, but if you take it too far it can be crippling.
- 08:48 Sean: If you are asking the question, you’re probably in a good place. Scott asked a similar question earlier, “When I don’t have clear evidence of something working yet, that’s when I’ll feel like an imposter. I want to know I’m 100% correct before I tell someone else what to do.” I replied back to him and said, “This is an interesting one to me for two reasons.
- Even when I know something works, it still doesn’t prevent imposter syndrome for me. You can teach something you actually know and still feel like you’re not qualified to teach it.
- If you don’t have clear evidence of something working, you certainly shouldn’t be telling other people what to do! That’s not imposter syndrome so much as simply not knowing something.”
- 09:47 That is an important distinction to make. If you don’t know what you’re doing, if you have no experience, and if you’ve only read about what other people have done, you shouldn’t tell people what to do. You could say, “Hey, I read this. Someone shared this story and they said that this worked for them.” Share that, but don’t say that you tried it, you got results, and it worked, if you haven’t really done that. That’s not Imposter Syndrome; that’s a lack of experience or knowledge.
- 10:18 Ben: You can be honest about where you are in your journey, and that’s valuable. Some people, when they want to get into the content creator space and help people be more successful with their businesses or their art, feel like they have to be at the level of the people they look up to in order to provide value. We have this tendency to think about that as our audience, the audience those people serve is the same audience you should be serving. You’re just not that far along in your journey, and that’s okay. If you speak honestly from where you are, that is going to help people who may not be part of the audience of the people you look up to, but are part of an audience that need to hear what you have to say from your perspective and experience.
- 11:21 Sean: A lot of people worry that someone who knows more than them is listening and paying attention and is going to call them out. That’s got to be one of the most popular ones. People think, “If I’m a level 4 and I’m sharing these things, some level 10 person in my industry is going to come along and slap me.” There’s a few things to dissect here. First of all, you’re kidding yourself—they’re not paying attention to you. That’s the reality. They’re also not your audience. Your audience is people on levels 1, 2, and 3. They’re just getting into this, and you can help them get started. Sometimes, you’re the better person to help someone just starting than someone who’s way further along than you are, because they’re even more removed from that beginning stage and those initial struggles. You can often speak to those struggles more effectively.
Don’t get caught up worrying about what people who are more experienced than you will think, because they probably don’t care.
The Fear of Being Wrong
- 12:29 If you make a mistake, you should highlight that mistake and share it with everyone. Say, “I messed up here.” People have a huge fear of being wrong. There was a comment earlier, “We need to be clear with our audience that this is just our opinion or experience.” Actually, no, you don’t. Everything we say, by definition, is our opinion. That’s a given already. Make a statement and have some conviction—be wrong sometimes. Put yourself out there. Speak honestly from your experience. This Imposter Syndrome comes from wanting to share the experience we have but not feeling qualified. If you have that experience and you are being honest, you’re not trying to pretend you know something you don’t. You’re just sharing your experience and saying that this has worked for you, and you can be authentic in that.
- 13:44 Ben: It’s not until you start sharing stuff publicly and making statements that anybody, whether they’re further along in their journey or starting out, can come out of the woodwork and challenge what you said. The challenge to what you’ve said is a positive thing. You’re painting this picture with the things that you’re sharing, and the picture has maybe some detail, because you’ve got some experience, but there are places that are missing. When you put that in front of people, it gives people an opportunity to say, “I see this part missing over here, and I want to help you fill in some of the detail on that. Here’s what you need to experience in order to be able to present that more clearly.”
Over time, putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to feedback allows you to continue to paint a sharper picture for your audience, and that’s valuable.
- 14:49 Sean: Scott wonders, “Is the fear of being wrong the main source of Imposter Syndrome?”
- 14:55 Ben: I was thinking about the fear of being found out. If we’re trying to tie it back to something, it has to do with worth. Am I valuable to the people in my life? If we believe that we’re not worth being around, that disconnects us from community. The underlying fear, really, is that if we put ourselves out there and share stuff and somebody comes back and challenges what we’re saying and calls us out as an imposter, that it’s going to destroy our sense of self worth, our value, and it’s going to disconnect us from community. That’s the fear, but that’s not really how it plays out.
- 15:54 Sean: If you see it as an opportunity, people connect with transparency, honesty, and genuineness. If you say, “I was wrong,” or, “I feel Imposter Syndrome. I feel like a fraud sometimes,” and you open up to people, if you say, “I messed up. I did it wrong, and here’s why. Here’s what I learned. Here’s what someone showed me. Here’s what turned it around, the results,” people connect with that. That’s a story. Any story has a place where the hero stumbles, and what’s interesting is how they bounce back from that. We connect with people with that humanness and imperfection, and if you’re too afraid of being wrong or being found out, you don’t create opportunities for human connection with your imperfection. Holding back that imperfection and not allowing people into that part of you as an imperfect person isn’t being genuine.
- 17:14 Ben: If you’re asserting yourself and speaking with conviction, sometimes people may get the impression that you don’t want people to see that. Everybody knows that it exists. Nobody’s fooled, but that shouldn’t keep you from speaking with conviction. You get to speak with conviction and you get to be authentic and let people know when you’re wrong. It’s not a one or the other kind of thing. It’s not, “If I let people know that I’m human and I make mistakes, I can never assert myself.”
- 17:53 Sean: Eric said something similar earlier, “How do you know when you’re 100% correct? When something worked for you twice? Three times? Ten times?” I love that question. Like with science, we shouldn’t arrive at a place of infallibility. If there’s new evidence that presents itself to the contrary, we should welcome that, accept that, and engage with that. We should not get to a place of arrival where we think, “We are now right. We will not accept any arguments. We’re done here.” What I just said about not being infallible, being willing to accept that a conviction you hold is wrong or that you were’t right all along, even though I’m accepting the possibility that my beliefs are wrong, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t present what I currently believe, what has worked for me and what has brought success up to this point, with conviction. Anyone can afford themselves this privilege by being willing to be wrong, make mistakes in public, and admit them when they happen.
- 19:22 Ben: You can’t take upon yourself the burden of presenting something that’s going to work for everyone who listens in exactly the form you present it. Take Learn Lettering, for example. Sean did it one way the first time, and he talked about what he did and what worked. He did it a different way the second time. Even Sean chose to do it differently. There were a lot of different factors that came into that—his audience was a little bit different, the timing was different, and there were some things he learned between his first and his second launch.
- 20:03 If you worry, “Is everybody in my audience going to have the same experience I had if I tell them this is how I did it?” you’re taking upon yourself the work your audience should be doing for themselves. You just get to present what you know, what you’ve experienced, and they can do whatever they want with it, and they should. They should work it out for their own unique set of circumstances.
You don’t have to carry the burden of your audience’s work, just present what you know and have experienced.
- 20:47 Sean: Kelsey had asked if I had ever been wrong and admitted it to people and turned it into a teaching experience. Several examples come to mind. In a recent podcast, I talk about how I used to write people off (Related: e198 Keeping An Open Mind). I used to make a premature judgement, and I would completely write people off if I disagreed with their viewpoint or I didn’t like the fact that they cursed in all of their stuff. I would say, “Well, I’m not going to listen to anything he has to say.” That was wrong. I was missing out on a lot of value. You shouldn’t expect to be able to take 100% of what anyone is saying, and I don’t expect people to take 100% of what I say. I expect them to take the things that resonate with them and say, “Those other things don’t apply to me.”
- 21:55 That’s fine. That’s not going to keep me from continuing to present with conviction, because that’s the best way to serve my audience—to put out something with conviction and be equally honest when I’m wrong about something. To say, “You know what? I had Superhero Syndrome. I was convinced that I could do this all myself, and I wasn’t going to hire anyone. I wasn’t going to take on help. I didn’t want employees because of my ego.” I was wrong, and it was totally the wrong way to think about it. I was wrong about daily emails being spammy, and then I did StartSendingDailyEmails.com, because I want to show people that I messed up here. I didn’t get it.
I have had preconceptions, made snap judgements, and messed up.
- 22:50 I want to show you how to correct the mistakes I made to hopefully save you time. I don’t think I lose respect from people when I admit that I was wrong about something. It’s just an opportunity for people to learn, and they connect more. We all mess up. What I appreciate about you, the listener, is that whenever you are wrong, you’re going to come and tell us. I know that you’re going to show us. I can’t help but respect someone who does that.
Speak With Conviction
- 23:21 Ben: Steve Lavender in the chat asked, “How do you balance feeling fallible while being convincing when speaking?” There’s a difference between feeling fallible and accepting the fact that we are fallible. We do make mistakes—we’re human beings. That’s understood, and that’s okay. That doesn’t make us unacceptable. Present things with conviction. If you really want to serve your audience and you want them to hear something that you say, if it’s going to help them, if it’s going to make their life better, then saying it with conviction is the only way you can get people to actually take the steps that they need. If you’re constantly qualifying everything you say with, “This worked for me, but it may not work for you…” you’re weakening the effectiveness of what you’re saying. Your audience that needs you to say it with conviction is not going to take action, because they don’t feel confident in what you’re saying.
- 24:38 Sean: You know those motivational videos, “You can do it,” and, “Work hard!” Imagine if every single one of those sentences was prefaced with the words “I think.”
- 24:49 Ben: “I think you can do it.” There’s a Geico commercial with Pinocchio as a motivational speaker, and he’s saying, “You have potential,” and his nose is growing.
Remove the words “I think” from your vocabulary and make a statement.
- 25:09 Sean: Be wrong sometimes. It’s okay to be wrong, so admit you’re wrong. Be open and honest about it, and everyone will learn from it. I go back and I study myself, read my writing, listen to my podcasts, watch my videos, and study, critique, and analyze my delivery on everything. I was watching my conference talk from earlier this year, 4 Keys to Growing An Audience and thought, “Man, I should have been way more assertive!” Looking back, I was so timid. We’re back full steam with seanwes tv, doing a new episode every single day. Now, we’re getting comments like, “You’ve changed, your delivery.” They’re noticing.
- 26:18 I look back at earlier this year, and I feel like I was timid. I’m watching this, and I’m thinking, “Sean, you’re boring me.” Gary Vaynerchuck’s has such intensity. There’s something about video. We’re so used to watching TV shows, laying on the couch, so unless something is over the top, it looks so dull and so boring. It takes being 110% of yourself to come across as being mildly interesting to people, and I’ve had to really overcompensate for my natural timidity. It’s definitely paying off, but even looking at myself earlier this year, I could really step it up. I could add some more fire. People don’t internalize your message and receive it unless it feels like you care about something. If you’re walking through an outdoor mall and some guy timidly says, “There’s this thing I think you should believe,” you’ve already walked past him.
- 27:44 You just push past him, because you don’t care. You never even heard him. If some guy is emphatically saying his message, even if he’s crazy, you at least look and hear it. You evaluate it and decide whether you’re going to listen to this message, but it got through to you. You’re hearing it. It’s not someone saying, “I think people should pay more attention to what they eat. I think people should care about the environment. I think we should go to Mars.” If there’s one guy saying, “We need to go to Mars, get off this planet, and diversify the planets we’re on,” you’re listening to the guy who’s speaking with conviction.
Even if someone is wrong, if they speak with conviction, you’re hearing their message.
- 28:32 Ben: Sean gave an example a long time ago on this podcast where he said that there’s a group of people lost in the woods. There are two guys, and one of them actually knows which way to go, but he’s being timid. He’s saying, “Hey guys, I think we need to go this way.” There’s another guy who doesn’t really know where to go, he might be leading people off a cliff for all they know, but he says, “Follow me. This is the way out.” Think of yourself in that group of people. Which one are you going to follow? The one who leaves no question in his mind of where he’s leading us, or the person who says, “maybe”?
- 29:22 Sean: I like this analogy a lot, and I’d like to tear it apart a little bit. You’re lost in the woods with a group, and you could not know where the way out is, you truly are lost, and you’re thinking, “Sean told me to lead with conviction. Should I just say, ‘This is the way’?” No, you shouldn’t. You don’t know the way. I’m not asking you to be fake about it. Be honest. If you do know the way, there’s a lot of people in the group, lost in the woods, who know how to get out, but they’re thinking, “Who would listen to me? Why don’t they listen to any one of these other people? Who am I to lead people out of the woods?” You know, but you say, “I think this is the way out,” because you don’t want to come across as arrogant. You don’t want to assert yourself. You’re quiet, so they don’t even hear you.
- 30:20 If you know the way out, if this has worked for you, if you have been lost in the woods before and you went this direction and it brought you home, then lead with conviction. In the back of your mind, you might think, “A qualified, more experienced explorer might come around and tell me that I’m wrong, that that’s not actually the way out and there’s a better way, or that’s the long way and it will take you down a twisted path. What if that explorer comes along?” What if? Who cares? Let’s say you’re wrong. You lead with conviction, everyone follows you, and you find yourself at the edge of a waterfall. It’s not the right way. It’s not the end. You say, “Guys, I messed up. I totally thought it was this way. There was a log I remembered, but I realize that I was turned the other way when I saw the log. We should have gone back. I messed up. This is a dead end, but this is the way we should be going.”
People will still follow you if you admit you’re wrong and keep going.
- 31:31 Ben: If you do that too many times, people will start to say, “Okay, does anybody else know the way out?” People are too focused on that experience, the experience of being wrong enough that you’re impeached from your position of influence, instead of focusing on helping people. Are you more worried about helping people or about being secure in your position of influence? When you’re more concerned with helping people, your concern of being impeached from your position of influence doesn’t matter, because you’re always going to find a way to use your knowledge and experience to help people. That’s attractive. Being wrong enough times that you lose your credibility in some area doesn’t change the fact that you’re a person who seeks to help people, and that overarching part of who you are is what is going to ultimately attract an audience and bring people under you.
Focus On Your Audience
- 32:55 Sean: That was actually the first way of boosting confidence that I had. Focus on providing value to your audience if you’re feeling Imposter Syndrome. Emily asks, “Feeling like a fraud for me comes from insecurity and lack of confidence. What are ways to increase confidence? Is it a matter of practice?” Stop focusing on yourself and how you feel like a fraud or an imposter. Don’t focus on you—focus on other people. If you’re feeling those insecurities, say, “It’s not about me. It’s about the people I’m trying to help. How can I provide value to you?” That’s going to immediately take your focus off of yourself and make you stop feeling like a fraud. It’s saying, “You know what? Who cares. Even though I feel like a fraud, I know that I’m helping this person right now. Who cares what I am? Don’t put a label on that, I’m just going to help people.”
- 33:55 Ben: I think about the experience of being an audience member and watching somebody perform music, a play, or anything like that. If you sense from that person that they feel nervous and self-conscious, sometimes you can even see it in their posture, you want to be able to let go and enjoy their performance, and you can’t because you feel that with them. We have natural empathy when we see someone struggling or feeling self conscious and nervous. We empathize with that, so we can’t connect with their performance. When that performer is not thinking about themselves, when they’re not worried about how they look under the lights or how they sound, when all they’re concerned with is delivering their art and sharing it with the people in the room with them, you can connect to that performance. Even if, technically, it’s not as strong of a performance, they missed some notes, because they did it with confidence and you were able to relax, you were able to enjoy and receive that from them.
Be confident for your audience, because they’re looking to you for how to feel.
- 35:17 Sean: Like Ben said, we will feel that nervousness for others, because we really want them to succeed. We’re watching them, we’re observing you. There’s a reason you have our attention. We’re rooting for you—otherwise, we wouldn’t care, we would just move on. We wouldn’t be sitting in the seats of this auditorium, watching you. If you’re nervous, we’re nervous for you. We’re feeling that.
- 35:59 Ben: Sometimes, even being aware of that makes it difficult. You’re aware of the fact that when you feel nervous, people sense that and feel it with you, and that makes you more nervous. It can become this terrible cycle. I love the idea of this, where your focus is on providing value. The more you can focus on that and take the focus off of yourself, regardless of how on-point you are or how well you delivered, people are going to receive that better from you because they’re not having to be self-conscious with you.
Keep an Encouragement Folder
- 36:45 Sean: The people feeling like imposters are probably the people who have at least started or tried, and if you’ve done that, you’ve likely also received nice comments, tweets, or emails from people saying thank you or, “This helped me.” You probably have forgotten already, because you’re so scared that someone’s going to call you out as a fraud or say that you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re thinking, “Oh, thanks, I’m glad it helped, but I hope no one else tells me I did a bad job.”
- 37:24 Ben: Going back to the root issue, the fear that you’re going to be disconnected from community, when someone gives us encouragement, it’s funny, but it doesn’t last as long and isn’t as impactful as a negative comment. That negative comment plays right into our fears. It’s really important, when you receive encouragement, to allow that to do it’s work and to hold onto it. It’s not just a one-time thing. It works the same way as discouragement. You can replay that tape over and over, and it can continue to take you in another direction rather than driving you down.
- 38:13 Sean: Keep an encouragement folder. I have one in Gmail, it’s called “Encouragement.” It’s just a label, so if someone sends me something nice, I label it “Encouragement.” We will replay negative comments back on our own, but we don’t tend to do that with encouragement. Saving it allows us to go back, revisit, and remind ourselves that we are doing important work, impacting people, and this is valuable.
- 38:46 We talked about this a little bit. Iterate in public, share all the flaws, and hold nothing back. Share all of your failures. This sounds scary and intimidating at first, but if you get to this point, it’s very liberating. How can you be an imposter if you’re showing people all the ways it went wrong, all the times you failed, all the flaws about yourself? You’re just iterating in public, putting it out there, total honesty and transparency.
- 39:32 Ben: We get email feedback for the show. A lot of people write in and talk about how helpful the show is for them, and that it’s changed their lives for the better. I need to keep a folder of that. We received one email, and I happened to look at it before Sean had a chance to look at it. It was some good stuff, but it was mixed with something really discouraging, and it was aimed toward me and my experience. Obviously, stacking Sean and I up against one another in terms of our accomplishments with courses and that kind of thing, Sean’s definitely accomplished a lot more. He’s been really successful in that sense. This message was saying that I haven’t experienced that same success, so I don’t really have a right to talk about things the way that Sean does.
- 40:37 Sean: Which is so silly and absurd.
- 40:43 Ben: One of the things this person said was that I talk about my circumstances, the things that I’m going through. I have a large family, and I don’t feel a need to make excuses, but to paint a picture of my reality. I’m working as a freelancer doing graphic design, and I’m in a position where I’ve had a really hard time narrowing down on one thing, because I like many things.
- 41:18 Sean: This is like 90% of our audience. Obviously, this guy doesn’t fall in to that category, but so many people can relate to this, and that’s such a valuable perspective.
- 41:30 Ben: I never want to come across like I’m talking from this experience of having had a lot of success financially in my freelance work, but I’ve definitely learned from my experiences, and I’m willing to share from that. Everybody has a different definition of what success looks like.
If you subject yourself to someone else’s definition of success, you’re never going to allow yourself the freedom to speak from your experience.
- 42:13 I feel great freedom to do that here. In a funny way, the more I’ve done that, the more credibility I’ve gained with the audience that listens to us, because they get to see the struggles that I have. They see themselves in that and in my journey, and that has helped them along in theirs. That’s what I want to encourage people with. Be honest and share all of those things. That negative comment really caused me to have to ask myself, “Okay, what is my definition of success? What does that look like for me?” For me, it all came back to whether I am helping people. Am I more worried about what I look like to everybody else, or am I more worried about helping people? It was a nice course correction.
- 43:23 Sean: We get messages like this, and there’s plenty of silent people who really appreciate what we do or what someone else does. We should all be sending more encouragement to people. Let’s make it more relatable to the listener—you’re putting things out, creating things, sharing things, writing, making videos, maybe sending newsletters, and you’ve got plenty of people in your audience that appreciate that but aren’t saying anything. How would you like it for them to just say, “Thanks, I appreciate it. You’re doing a good job,” how would that make you feel? We can’t make people do that, but we can do it for others, pay it forward. Who do you appreciate that you haven’t told that you appreciate? Go encourage someone.
- 44:12 Who’s podcast have you listened to and not left a review? I’m not saying ours, I really mean it that way. Who’s newsletter have you appreciated for months, but you’ve never once hit reply and said, “Hey, you know what? Thanks for showing up every week.” I’m not just talking about mine. Let’s go out in the world and encourage people, say thank you, and show some appreciation. Thanks for sharing that, Ben. I’m glad you’re on the show.
- 44:40 Ben: Matt said, “I get Imposter Syndrome when listening to Ben, because I find it difficult just dealing with a set of two year old twins. He’s a master at managing his family time and work. I definitely don’t feel like a master.” We share these things, and a lot of times, just because you’re sharing, asserting yourself, and speaking from your experience, people elevate you. They have this tendency to elevate you beyond where you actually are. I actually am a guy who enjoys working, but I have so much trouble focusing, because there are so many different things pulling at me. This lack of focus is compounded by the fact that I have a large family.
- 45:33 It’s really difficult to balance all of those things, and it’s a struggle every day. I don’t want people to have this impression that I breeze through that, but I also don’t want you to look at your circumstances and think, “If he can do it with six kids, I should be able to do it with two.” Your circumstances are difficult. It doesn’t matter how they compare with other people’s. Because of the things you’ve experienced and they place in life where you are right now, what you’re experiencing is challenging, always new, and always changing. It’s always keeping you on your toes. Don’t feel like because somebody has more difficult circumstances and they seem to be doing better from the outside that you’re failing where you are, because everybody is struggling.
- 46:36 Sean: We notice people that are beyond us in a certain area or have experienced a greater level of success by our definition. We tend to notice the people we think are doing better than us. We don’t even think about the people who haven’t done what we’ve done. Maybe you’ve put yourself out there, but you think, “I haven’t put myself out there as much as someone else. I only do this, I only do that.” A lot of people haven’t done what you’ve done, and maybe they put you on a pedestal. Those are real people. Even celebrities and super well-known people are still people, and they still feel Imposter Syndrom. Every single one of us feels this. Some of us hide it, some of us are more open about it, but we all feel it. You’re not alone.
It doesn’t matter where you are or what level you’re at, you’re going to experience Imposter Syndrome.
You can let it incapacitate you or you can share anyway.
- 47:53 Ben: Imposter Syndrome doesn’t necessarily go away, like it’s this thing you chip away at until it finally disappears and you’re left as this confident person who feels freedom to share. It sneaks up on you. Sometimes, it feels like you’ve gotten rid of it, and it pops it’s ugly head back into your life through some other thing. It’s not something that you get rid of and that’s when you get to start sharing and feeling confident. It’s something that you have to assert yourself, share, and create things in spite of. Not to paint a bleak picture like this is always going to be the thorn in your side—you can lessen the affects of it as you focus on providing value and focus less on yourself.
Take Action and Tell a Friend
- 49:40 Sean: If you are feeling this fraud feeling, this Imposter Syndrome feeling, this feeling like, “Who are you to share, to teach?” then take action. It’s kind of like providing value to people. Divert your attention from this feeling so it doesn’t hold you back from actually doing something (Related: e142 Taking Action). If you’ve been listening to this podcast and absorbing this information, maybe in other places, too, and you’re soaking it up like a sponge but you haven’t done anything with it, you’ve got to take action and execute on what you’re internalizing.
- 50:35 Tell a friend that you feel like a fraud. You’re exposing it. In the darkness, deep inside you, this feeling can grow into this monster. It feels like this terrible, horrible, big thing, and something about telling someone else you feel that way and seeing them laugh about it and say, “I can’t believe you feel that way,” seeing how silly it seems to someone else can help you.
- 51:16 Ben: People were in the chat earlier today talking about their own struggle with this. It was interesting to me, because it was funny who was sharing that. They’re people who always seemed confident and who, I know, do good work. I had that same kind of reaction, “Really? Him? Her? There’s no way. She shouldn’t feel like an imposter at all, that’s silly.”
- 51:45 Sean: Emily says, “I get a lot of value from someone else saying, ‘Me too.’ It only takes a risk to put it out there first.” We don’t think about that at all. We think, “Who cares if I also feel this way?” People care, because we all feel alone. You put out your new question, your silly feeling, your Imposter Syndrome that you’re embarrassed about, and someone else says, “Oh my gosh, me too. I didn’t know anyone else felt that way.” You have a conversation about it and you feel better about it.
- 52:24 Ben: There’s something we’re doing with In the Boat With Ben, and I want to lean into this a lot more. As parents, sometimes, we feel very alone, because we are struggling with something with our kids and we’re having a difficult time making things work the way they should. We see people posting on Facebook and other social media about how great their lives are, and we see the pictures with the kids smiling and having a great time, and there are things that we struggle with as human beings. One of the most valuable things we can share on In the Boat With Ben is the things that we’re struggling with, the things that are really difficult for us, things we might even feel nervous or ashamed of sharing.
- 53:18 Sean: It’s funny that you said that, because James just said, “Shame is the most unacknowledged emotion in America, especially for men.” That’s interesting.
- 53:31 Ben: The most meaningful feedback we’ve ever received from In the Boat With Ben or any other parenting related stuff that we’ve shared, where we’re just being honest about the things that we’re struggling with, is somebody writing back and saying, “I’m so glad you shared that, because I struggle with that too, and I thought I was the only one.”
Be honest about what you don’t know and struggle with, because that can have so much value for people who feel stuck and alone in their own struggles.
Everybody’s Faking It
- 54:15 Sean: All of this leads up to a cliche you’ve probably heard, but there’s a reason for it. I didn’t lead with this because people would dismiss it as a cliche. There’s a reason people say, “Fake it till you make it.” It’s because we all feel this inherent Imposter Syndrome. We don’t feel like we can genuinely be confident about this, like we deserve to be confident about this, so if we’re going to do something, it feels to us like we’re faking it. We feel like we aren’t the person who deserves to be in this place, we don’t have the qualifications, credentials, or the experience to back up doing this, putting this out there, making it, sharing it, or whatever. It feels like faking.
- 55:04 That’s why you have the advice, “Fake it till you make it,” because in the beginning you are going to feel like you’re faking it. You’re going to feel like, “I’m not supposed to be here. Everyone else in this room gets it and I don’t, and I kind of just snuck in. I don’t know why I got an invite.” We all feel that way. Every time you grow, even as you level up and get into the next room with the next group of people, every time you’re going to feel like you don’t belong there. You’re going to feel like you’re not supposed to be there, but that’s why they say, “Fake it till you make it,” because that’s really what it is, especially in today’s world, where credentials mean less and less. People are looking for real, tangible experience.
- 55:53 Look at someone who’s doing the work you want to hire them for for two years vs. someone who just went to two years of school, and it’s not immediately obvious that you should pick the person with the piece of paper. We all have a ridiculous amount of tools and information at our disposal now, so what have you done? What have you spent your time doing? The tools we have at our disposal are insane. Go back 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. In the 1990s, if you wanted to make a video, you had this big thing on your shoulder that could hold a VHS tape, and that cost a ton of money. You couldn’t make videos. There were no websites, no YouTube to put your content out there. Now, anyone can make a video and tell a story and show up every day.
- 56:58 For no money, you can learn things. The amount of things you can do right now, the potential you have, is insane. I’ll just tease this, because in a future show I want to talk about your potential right now and how you can basically be celebrity status in 10 to 20 years. It’s almost guaranteed if you don’t screw it up. We’re going to have 9 billion people in 2050. Not only is the population going to grow, which is your potential audience, but the people in each segment will grow. Believe it or not, contrary to all the naysayers, the world is getting better overall. We are building infrastructure and people are getting the things they need more and more. We’re trying to get clean water to people who previously didn’t have it and bikes to people who need them, upgrading to cars. We are upgrading everyone.
- 58:11 Ben: Sean and I were talking about this on Monday when we met. Somebody who lives in middle class America right now lives a life that is more luxurious than the monarchs of 200 or 300 years ago. Think about the things we have access to, the hygiene, the doctors, all of that stuff. Even as someone super wealthy back then, you barely had access to some of that stuff.
- 58:39 Sean: Clean water was a luxury, let along ice. Not only is the population growing, which is your potential audience, but also, people are upgrading classes, and infrastructure is getting better. Eventually, ten years from now, we’re going to have another billion people on the internet. You have a lot of potential, time, tools, and free resources at your disposal. What are you doing with that? What are you executing on? What are you making? In the beginning, you’re not going to know any of it, and you’re going to feel like you’re faking it.
Start faking it right now, because everybody starts there.
- 59:42 Eventually, people will be putting you on a pedestal. They’ll be saying, “I wish I was as confident as this guy,” and you’re thinking, “Dude, I’ve just been faking it all along. I’m just going at this thing and figuring it out as I go.”
- 1:00:00 Ben: There’s this weird interplay between our emotions, what’s going on in our heads, and what we’re expressing outwardly, physically. If you feel nervous, ashamed, or like you don’t belong, you close in and you tend to hold yourself a little bit closer. When some people feel defensive, they cross their arms, or they’ll do it when they feel nervous or they want to protect themselves. It shows in your physiology. I read about this thing where they encourage you to get into a power stance, where you raise your arms up with fists and look up, like an X. You hold that for about five minutes, and then you step into the room or go into the meeting. It works both ways. What you’re thinking and feeling can affect your body and the way you hold yourself, but what you do with your body can sometimes affect the way that you think and perceive the situation. I thought that was interesting.