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Cure imposter syndrome by ignoring it

Pushing Past Imposter Syndrome – What Makes You Think You Can Do That?

Like a lot of people, I suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s that thing where you feel like you are a total fraud and at any moment will be called out on the carpet and be humiliated, destroyed. Wrecked. It’s when you don’t even bother starting something because seriously, what the fuck makes you think you can do that anyway?

Warning: this post contains foul language.

Imposter Syndrome is Real

This is a very real condition. According to Wikipedia (I’m sure it’s fully sourced, I didn’t check but feel free), two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds and studies have shown that 70 percent of us feel like impostors at one time or another.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It’s not for me to debate or argue one way or another for anyone but myself, but I can tell you that feeling like a fraud is something I struggle with each and every day. I feel it in my professional life, even when doing tasks that I’ve been doing for 10, 15 or 20 years. I feel it when I make a romantic gesture to my beloved. I feel it when I try to coach or mentor my children. I feel it when I try to draw something or write something. I feel it when  I cook. I feel it when I breathe. I feel it right now as write this post.

For illustrative purposes, here’s a screenplay version:

Fade in…

Middle age white dude on his couch. Josh Radin music playing on an Alexa device.


Dude, what the fuck. You are writing a blog post about imposter syndrome. Who are you to tell anyone about.. oh, wait.


Hold up. I just wrote about how I feel like a fraud each and every day. Did you not read what I wrote?  If I don’t know about feeling like a fraud, I don’t know anything.


That’s what I’m saying. You don’t know anything.

Fade out…

I’ve written about this before in a post I called “Lying to Myself (or How this Blog is Total Bullshit)” where I made a compelling argument that I lie to myself regularly and how this blog is crap and you should not read it. I re-read the post just now and wow, it’s a masterful piece of imposter syndrome!

The good news is that once you understand that you are in the grips of the syndrome, you can start to do something about it. I’ve blogged a lot about meditation and being present, both of which are both effective tools to help fight fraudulent feelings.

Fight Imposter Syndrome by Ignoring It

What I’ve learned is that while there are a few things you can do about imposter syndrome, there is no cure. I say there is no cure, because I’ve become obsessed with listening to interviews with very successful people in all walks of life. And surprise, surprise, they often talk about imposter syndrome either directly or indirectly. They  talk about how even at the height of their success they sometimes feel like a fake.

It’s hard to believe that someone like Tom Hanks, who is clearly a master at his craft feel like a fraud. I mean, how many fucking accolades does one human being need before he doesn’t feel like a fraud?

And yet, read what he says. Despite having won two Academy Awards and appearing in more than 70 films and TV shows, Hanks says he still finds himself doubting his own abilities.

“It’s a high-wire act that we all walk”

So clearly, this imposter syndrome thing isn’t going away. Antibiotics can’t cure it, and neither will butter,.

One popular solution I’ve used over the years is the old “fake it til you make it” bit. Sometimes it does help get through times of self-doubt. But lately, faking it feels more and more trite and incomplete.

My latest antidote for imposter syndrome is similarly trite and definitely related to faking it. And yet, this new solution feels more robust somehow.

My new solution is that I choose to ignore feeling like a fraud. I literally ignore the feeling. Sometimes I even tell myself to fuck off. I think I’ll call it the Beginner’s Mind Antidote. If you aren’t familiar with Beginner’s Mind, it’s having an open attitude when learning something new – and even as a master or expert, looking at a thing as if you were still a beginner.

How to Apply the Beginner’s Mind Antidote to Imposter Syndrome

So I’m writing a novel. It’s a sci-fi sort of thing. I’ve never written one before. I doubt it’s good (oh, hello you fraud, you silly idiot. I bet your book sucks!). I’ve been working on it for almost 3 years. It’s in draft #3 and I’m about ready to share it with some close friends and family for the first time. I’m terrified. I’m clearly a fraud. Who do I think I am, writing a novel? A fraud, that’s who!

I doubt it’s good (I bet it sucks). I’ve been working on it for almost 3 years. It’s in draft #3 and I’m about ready to share it with close friends and family for the first time. I’m terrified because clearly, I’m a fraud. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, writing a novel? A fraud, that’s who!

My imposter syndrome flairs up every time I start to work on a  new chapter. It flares up every time I think about letting anyone read it. It flares up like a hemorrhoid when I see a book on a shelf. When I see a library. When I see words. Because I’m a fraud. A big old fake.

And yet.

And yet I’ve got 59,298 words that say otherwise. I’ve got characters with names, personalities, and problems to solve.  There is a plot, dialogue, and action. I’ve even got a title.

The only way I’ve been able to get this far is by ignoring that fucking horrible, stupid, annoying imposter syndrome. Because if you let it in, if you let it tell you you’re a fraud, you might listen. And then you’ve got problems. So instead, just ignore it.

Here’s how it works (for me).

I’m feeling good and my thoughts turn to something I want to do. It could be writing, working or anything really. Suddenly, I start to feel like a fraud and a total fake. It comes out of nowhere.  For example, when thinking about my novel, I’ll probably tell myself I’m not qualified to write a Pennysaver ad let alone a novel.

For example, when thinking about my novel, it will become abundantly clear that I have no business or skill to do such a thing. I’m not qualified to write a Pennysaver ad let alone a novel.

And then if I’m lucky, I remember my meditation practice and I take a breath. And in that breath, I decide. I decide to ignore that fucking motherfucker and start to write. It doesn’t work all the time. But when it does work I get a little get stronger, which makes it that much easier to ignore it the next time.

Your mileage may vary. Good luck, you can do it. You can do anything. We all can.

Bruce Lee Fight the Resistance

How to Identify and Fight the Resistance

You know that voice in your head, the one that says you are an idiot. Or a fool. Or a talentless hack? That goddamn voice that won’t leave you alone and won’t let you wake up from your dreary, depressed life? Yea that one. I want to talk about that voice.

I first learned about “The Resistance” from Seth Godin’s popular blog years ago. He didn’t coin the term, that was Steven Pressfield who describes the the never-ending irrationality of human behavior as “The Resistance.

“The Resistance” is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.

I’m in an daily, hourly, regular battle with “The Resistance.” It’s especially acute when I am tackling any sort of creative endeavor. For instance, when I started to learn to play guitar I got the basics down but then got stuck on some advanced chords and gave up. The Resistance won. I haven’t touched my guitar in months.

Last November, I started (and completed!) a Nanowrimo Novel – some 50,000 words in 30 days. It was a huge win. But when I sit down to edit it, all I can hear is a voice in my head saying that it sucks. And not to share it with anyone. Goddamn resistance.

Most recently, I diverted my attention by writing a screenplay for a podcast/show idea I had and while I did finish it, I think I’m too scared to try to produce it. “The Resistance” is winning.

They say that giving a scary thing a  name takes away it’s power. Ok then “The Resistance.” Consider yourself named.

How to Identify “The Resistance”

It’s pretty easy to identify “The Resistance.” Like I said, it tends to be the negative nelly voice in your head whispering and sometimes shouting that you suck. Personally, it is especially powerful when it comes to purely artistic pursuits. In my professional work I seem to have it tamed for some reason. Perhaps because I’ve been working in my field for some 20 years I’ve simply bored “The Resistance” into submission. But when it comes to creative or artistic pursuits, “The Resistance” comes roaring back with doubts, self-mocking and defeatist thoughts.

I can draw it out immediately by telling myself how much I like and love myself. There it is. As I was typing that sentence I could feel “The Resistance” spring into action. As if loving myself were a bad thing. What an asshole “The Resistance” can be.

Can you identify your resistance? Do you know how to trigger it?

How to Beat “The Resistance”

So now that you’ve identified “The Resistance,” it’s time to build some muscles to beat it. It’s tricky for sure, but here are 3 techniques I’ve been using lately.

First, get it out of your head. Write it down. Draw it. This blog for instance is one of my bullets. I took a long hiatus from blogging but I’m back, with the intent to publish content and observations about my own search. Since I have so few readers, the resistance can’t really get ahold of me here. Maybe one day it will matter, but right now, I’m basically talking to myself. The blog is one step better than my private, personal journal because it’s public.

Second, give yourself a major fucking break. My intent isn’t to become some sort of screenwriter, or guitarist, it’s simply to find my art and my creativity. Something I lost years ago in the transom and daily rig-a-ma-role of life. If I want to draw a silly picture of a tree, or try to copy a Warhol, I’m gonna do it.

Third, tell the resistance to fuck off. I can’t explain it and your mileage may vary, but when I feel “The Resistance” and have the ability to look at it and tell it to fuck off, it makes me feel really great about myself. This is analogous to the  useful “Fake it til you make it” mantra I’ve managed use so effectively to combat imposter syndrome which can be quite significant at times. I’ve come to realize recently that imposter syndrome is just “The Resistance” in a costume.

Over the past 30 days or so I’ve employed these tactics with some success. I’ve recently shared a draft of my screenplay with several friends and family and gotten good feedback. I’ve started sketching and drawing and sharing my art on different websites with friends and the community. I’ve started to give myself a break and am actively practicing telling “The Resistance” to fuck off.

Does this post resonate with you? Are you fighting your own resistance or is it winning? Let me know, I’m curious.