Imposter Syndrome and How I Define Success (A Business Rant)

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The discussion of imposter syndrome came up in one of my photography groups lately, and it got me thinking why it comes up so frequently with creative entrepreneurs. I started jotting ideas down in my journal, but I thought that maybe I could help someone else by telling my stories.

For those unfamiliar with the term, imposter syndrome is described as “an inability to internalize your accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud.” We feel as if we don’t belong doing what we do, that all this hard work and success that we have built is just our imagination. At any time now, someone is going to jump out of the bushes and reveal that is was all just in our head.

It’s real. I have it. That your calendar filled with amazing couples getting married is just a scam, and they are all going to cancel because of all of a sudden, they hate you.

It can be tough to believe in yourself and what you do. I’ve never really had the greatest of confidence in myself, and even have had to deal with a few people in my life vocally tell me that I will never be as good as they are…at anything.

But my best advice? Ditch all of the naysayers, narcissists, and your second-guessing side of your brain. It’s hard but channel your inner Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Deny others (and your head) from telling you that you are not worth it. You are. Every bit of you is worth it.

One of the biggest causes of imposter syndrome, to me, was having people tell me that because I am not doing what they are doing, I’m wrong. How I run my business, is wrong that I need to change everything about me to be more like them and all the other creatives that do the same thing.

But you know what? I don’t have to change a damn thing. I don’t have to want to be like them.

Wake up and tell yourself “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you” (Quick high five if you get that reference).

There will always be times that you get nervous and all of this comes flooding back. You need to be able to step aside and tell yourself that you got this. You know what you’re there for, and fucking handle it.

One of my favorite authors, who also wrote advice columns, Cheryl Strayed, is my go to when I start doubting myself. One of her books, Brave Enough, is just filled with quotes that she has said over the years to help others. I just start flipping through and start feeling all empowered again, so why not fill this post with them as they fit =)

Writing this right now is just an affirmation to myself that I am going in the direction that I want to. I am permitting myself to tell myself “screw what others think, do your thing.” And I will probably be back to this post to read it again and again. It’s easy to preach it; I just need to remind myself to live my truth and believe in the words that I give other.

I give YOU permission to do what you do.

Now you’re probably thinking ” alright, I can do this, I believe in myself, but when will I ever be successful at what I do?”

Success is a hard thing to define for some. It took me a long time to decide what my definition of it was.

Some want a specific number in their bank account; others wish to be constantly busy with clients or to be seen continuously out and about town chatting with other business owners.

I don’t define success with money or popularity; I define it with how many people I have helped along the way.

I’ve been lucky to have a fantastic career that I love before I started my path in photography. So it’s probably more comfortable for me to say that it has never been about the money for me.

What it has been about is seeing people look back at their wedding images and get excited to relive those moments. To look back at a family session and remember when their kids were so small. Messages from another local photographer who I helped learn some new techniques, or who taught me some. A charity that posts the images up on their website to show everyone all the fantastic things they do for others. That is what I do this for. And that is why I have stopped listening to what others tell me success is.

Your success should never be defined by anyone but yourself.

I highly recommend picking up a few blank notebooks and start writing what you believe your success should look like. It can be an outline or a story that describes what you are doing 1 to 5 years down the road. Carry it around with you, and when all those doubts start creeping up again, read it, and read it again.

You’ve got this, and we should all be here for one another.

I grabbed a beer with two wonderful women last night. We started with business talk but ended up in a great conversation about our lives and what we were going to do to help improve it — both for us and for others. I want to thank you, Annie and Kimberly, for helping me remember that I should never have to be someone else, for anyone else.

So lets sum this up. Believe in yourself, don’t listen to the jerks, keep moving forward, and love absolutely everything that you do.

I’ll leave with you my most favorite piece of advice from the lovely Cheryl.

“The best thing you can do with your life, is tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
-Cheryl Strayed (My life coach)

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