One of my best friends is a phenomenal graphic designer. Recently, she created an entire custom suite of invitation materials for her own wedding: save the date cards, maps, inserts, you name it – and we’re not talking pick a photo and order from Vistaprint here; I mean real, honest, beautiful, unique designs.
Throughout the process, she kept sending me drafts asking, “Don’t you think this looks bad? Doesn’t it look so homegrown? It’s so simple it must look dumb – won’t everyone be able to tell it wasn’t professionally done?”
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me an iteration of this exact same question, I’d be RICH. SO UNIMAGINABLY WEALTHY YOU GUYS.
It’s the same concept that plagues writers who really, really want to put their work out there but are never quite sure if it’s good enough. It affects a ton of people outside of the creative industry too; you’ve probably read plenty about imposter syndrome afflicting even the highest of high achievers.
I want to be honest with you: I still struggle with the same thing…and I’m in the business of writing and creating all day, every day. If you’re in the same boat, there’s a few things you can do to help overcome this feeling of paralyzing self-doubt.
Recognize Your Expertise
First and most importantly, you have to recognize that in many cases, the things you’re doing might indeed seem simplistic. (Or, in my friend’s case, “too dumb” and “so homegrown.”)
That’s OK. Why? Because you’re naturally going to discount the value of stuff you’re already good at. That doesn’t mean it isn’t impressive – just that it’s not incredibly difficult to you anymore. Why not? Because you’re the expert!
Many, many of my clients constantly struggle with thoughts that the things they’re writing about aren’t important or interesting enough. In reality though, that’s just the perspective they’re stuck with because they already know everything about their field.
Of course something’s going to sound simplistic to YOU when you’re a genius surrounded by geniuses! But remember your readers are probably starting from scratch, and would be happy to learn even a tiny bit of what you already know.
Get Clear on Your Goals
My personal way around paralyzing self doubt? I know what I set out to do when I’m creating, and I know what achieving that goal will look like.
I’ve decided already that if just one person finds value in something I write (even if I never learn about it), then that’s enough. Is one person finding value in your work enough for you, the way it is for me? You have to decide.
What are your true goals when it comes to creating something? Does it just need to exist, or does it need to affect someone in a certain way?
What will it take for you to feel that a piece of your work was delivered “successfully?” Do you want to write a post that goes viral? Do you want your wedding invitations to “pass” as being professionally designed? Do you want one person to think “Wow, I really needed to read that”…even if you never hear about it?
Whatever this goal is, you have to know what you’re actually setting out to accomplish before you start. This will help you define your product, refine your delivery, and most importantly give you a yardstick with which to measure your success.
Find Your Person
My lovely sister reads each one of these posts for me before I share them. She not only serves as a final editorial eye (yes, editors need editors too!), but she helps me get over that ubiquitous final hurdle most of us face: are you sure this is good enough???
Here’s the thing – she always says yes. Who knows…she could be lying to me (I hope not!), but the point is this: all it takes is one voice saying “Of course! Of course your work is good enough! I love it, and so will other people!!”
Remember how I only need one person to find value in my writing to feel like I accomplished my goal? By being “my person,” my sister helps me feel successful about a piece before I ever hit publish – which is one of the most freeing feelings in the world.
Whether you hire a coach or buy thank-you coffees for a good friend or let your sister borrow your shoes (ahem), make sure to enlist a cheerleader who can permanently reside in your corner.
Why? Because your work deserves this. If you’re going through the physical and mental struggle to create something, you deserve to have a person who will support you through the process.
Failing to do this is like baking a beautiful cake for your friend’s birthday, but then deciding at the last minute to buy one from the store instead because you’re not a professional baker and you’re sure the icing is all wrong and obviously yours won’t taste right because…because it’s just not good enough.
In this situation, anyone would tell you it doesn’t matter: your friend would love the cake you baked simply because you baked it. You’ve got the finished product already…why shouldn’t you feel good about it??
By listening to your cheerleaders, you’re acknowledging that you’ve done the hard work of creating and building – now get the support you need to feel amazing about it.
It’s time to let yourself take credit for the amazing things you’re making. With your goals understood and your internal and external cheering section in place….you’ll be ready to start creating as the expert you truly are.