Feeling Like a Fake

The Pretender

Put up your hand if you ever feel like a fraud. A fake? A phoney? A pretender? Me too. Even in the middle of some (relative) success, I have often felt not ‘something’ enough. Not smart enough. Qualified enough. Experienced enough. Lean enough. Young enough. Old enough. Funny enough. Academic enough.

In short; not good enough.

A Literary Fraud

Despite being a successful(ish) blogger with lots of subscribers and a large readership, I have often felt like a literary fraud. A fake writer. A bloke who writes a lot but isn’t really a writer. After all, who starts a sentence with and or but? And, more importantly, who writes a book with the ‘F’ word on the cover? Surely a real writer wouldn’t do that? So, why does a guy who has written books, written for numerous magazines and newspapers and gets regular positive feedback about his writing doubt himself as a writer? Because (1) self-doubt doesn’t need to make sense (it’s not logical) and (2) it doesn’t discriminate.

The funny thing is, I often know one thing (intellectually) while feeling something else (emotionally). Been there? For example, even though I’ve presented to hundreds (maybe thousands) of audiences over the last twenty-five years, there are still times when I feel like a fraud walking onto the stage. Even though I’m represented by numerous speaking agencies (and I make them good money) and even though I know for a fact that I have the knowledge, skills and experience to get the job done, I somehow find a way to feel inadequate. Unqualified. Unworthy. Not enough.

As I said, self-doubt doesn’t always make sense.

The “I’m Not Good Enough” Disease

Today, I had a lengthy phone call with a friend who has a successful business in another state of Australia. She is bubbly, positive, inspiring, likable and fun to be around. She educates and motivates people towards their best lives. Outwardly, she’s a picture of confidence, control and calm. And, she’s fantastic at her job. Inwardly, she has an ongoing battle with the “I’m not good enough” disease.

Everyone thinks she’s great, except her. :(

Interestingly, the fact that people think she’s so amazing makes her feel even worse because in the middle of all their respect, gratitude and adoration, she feels like she’s constantly hiding the real her. You know: the crappy, stupid, talentless her. The fake that they don’t really know. Sad huh?

And very common.

Not Weird, Normal

Today, I’m here to tell you that the self-doubt you feel is normal. The feeling of being a fake is normal. Making mistakes is normal. Being flawed is normal. And, being criticised is normal (I should know). While I receive lots of positive feedback via this site, I also receive at least one scathing email each day telling me what a %$#*% I am. If, from today, I only wrote a post on my criticism-free days, this would be the last thing you would ever read here.

So, in the middle of our self-doubt, the challenge for you and me is to recognise those feelings for what they are and what they aren’t. What they are, is feelings. Not facts. They are negative emotions. Limiting beliefs. One of the many manifestations of fear. What they aren’t, is you. Your potential. Your possibilities.

Your future.

It’s our job (me and you, that is) to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. It’s our job to not let those feelings determine our behaviours, sabotage our potential or waste any more of our precious time. If I were to wait until I had no issues, no flaws and no self-doubt, I’d never do anything, write anything, create anything or learn anything because fear would be running my life.

Mistakes = Lessons

Personally, I’d rather make a few mistakes, fall down a few times and look like a dick sometimes than be controlled by, or limited by, fear. The more mistakes I make, the more I’m having a go, the more I’m learning and the more I’m growing. Self-doubt is part of the human condition. It does not make you (or me) a freak. Acknowledge it for what it is (a lying, disempowering thief) and then do what needs to be done. Let go of your ego. Face your fears. Get uncomfortable.

And occasionally, be prepared to look like a dick. ;)

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Luke September 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Feels like this article has been written for me. Unfortunately I do let the doubts cripple me often and damn I hate that feeling

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Anonymous September 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I don’t feel like a fraud, but I do sometimes feel not good enough. And, frequently, like a dick.

PS Real writers are no fun to read.

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chebbieanne September 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Self doubt can be very useful – it reminds us that we are not so delusional as to think we know everything. A major factor in being smart is to acknowledge that the more we know the more we appreciate that we dont know everything. If we get to point in our lives when no one wants to either criticise us or listen to us we have lost relevance in our world. A little fear is a good thing-it keeps us alert. Preoccupation with the perception of success as defined by others is very limiting. Copying the life of others is where faking it really exists. The genuine article with its flaws and occasional brilliance is always the best option. You cannot be genuine and fake simultaneously.

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R1 September 28, 2011 at 8:58 am

“Preoccupation with the perception of success as defined by others is very limiting.” Very nicely stated…and very true.

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A fake September 28, 2011 at 3:24 am

And oddly enough, one of the most common pieces of advice for self doubt IS to fake it “fake it till you make it”.
Thanks Craig!!

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Natalie September 28, 2011 at 3:26 am

I first read about ‘imposter syndrome’ when reading a book about exceptionally gifted children. It would appear the less intelligent among us don’t question themselves.

Could that be the issue?

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Janek September 28, 2011 at 3:40 am

Love the idea of just getting involved and learning as you go-plus we all have to start somewhere! Even those big successful types started as beginners!

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Lilby September 28, 2011 at 4:30 am

Wow- that article sums me up to a tee. Thank you for putting into words the way I feel. Thank you for the stratergies for change( not just this blog). Oh to feel confident!

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Anonymous September 28, 2011 at 6:31 am

Thank you Craig x

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Nikki September 28, 2011 at 6:51 am

Anonymous… as long as you don’t wear your sunnies inside, you’ll be right ;)

I too suffer from impostor syndrome, comes from having a mother with narcissistic personality disorder.

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Anonymous September 28, 2011 at 6:58 am

Great post. You said it all. I need to stop these “hidden” feelings of FEAR and get on with my life. Depression dosen’t seem to help this.

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Candy September 28, 2011 at 7:18 am

Again, thank you Mr Harper for your timely post xo.

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Roz September 28, 2011 at 7:33 am

I think you’re awesome

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Steve September 28, 2011 at 7:36 am

A nice reminder that it is fruitless to compare my insides with others outsides. Why self-doubt versus self-confidence? I don’t know, but now at least I know I share self doubt with many.
Thanks Craig.

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Hilds September 28, 2011 at 8:28 am

LOVED IT, thank you so much!!! Needed to read that post this morning as quite often I feel the same and can let self doubt take over. It’s nice to know even someone as successful as you also experiences it.

‘feel the fear and do it anyway’

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Kerryann September 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

OMG….I am normal! Thanks for that post, that helped heaps, just realising that was something all of us feel on occassions….

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Sandy September 28, 2011 at 8:51 am

Love your post, sometimes it is like you reading my inward thoughts, which most people do not have a clue about.

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ANNA D September 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

Hey Craig, Thanks for being as imperfect as me….I can actually relate to the ‘And and But” writing and that F-word. Whose expectations are they to be politically correct?. At least the message makes sense coming from your writing. It makes a insane world, seem normal…….-aren’t we all on the same rollercoaster…….-just some are open to change!!

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Pandora September 28, 2011 at 10:11 am

Whenever I start to feel really inadequate (read ‘fearful’), I re-read the book where that quote originated: ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.
When I first read it, years ago, I was looking for a way to make the fear go away, and it was both disappointing though reassuring to learn that while fear would keep reappearing, it was able to be managed.
As you have pointed out, Craig, everyone feels fearful and inadequate at times, regardless of their level of success. It’s how we respond to the fear which ultimately defines us.

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Evan September 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

Feelings are sometimes at a great distance from reality.

They do indicate something that is going on though. Perhaps a childhood mistake or trauma. If you listen to the feelings you may find that they lead you to a place that needs healing. You can then see if you want to do this.

Misperception of reality is its own kind of information I think.

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Brad September 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

It is amazing as I read this i thought “that is me” then i read the comments and it appears i am not alone. With recent changes in my life this topic is very timely. It is nice to read about this stuff but conquering it is such a different and more complex issue. One of the hardest things i have had to do is recognise, acknowledge and interact with my inner critic. It is an ongoing battle between the 2 of us but one i believe can be won. Thanks for putting the topic out there Craig.

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LR September 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I never forget some years ago, when talking with my boss. She was great at her job but also loved by her colleagues and clients alike because along with her efficiency, she was also well-balanced and showed both care, empathy and a sense of humour when dealing with people. On this day she said, “You know, every day I expect management to tap me on the shoulder and ask me what I’m doing here. I feel like they’re going to tell me that they don’t think I can do this job, and that I’m just faking it.” I was shocked, because she so obviously WAS good at her job.

You’re right, sometimes it’s the most unlikely people that feel this way…after that, I realised that feeling like a fake (like you say, a normal feeling but only a feeling, not fact) and actually being one are two different things.

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Northern Star September 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Yep its taken a very long time for me to realise that there actually is no perfect person completely free of any flaws who goes through life making perfect choices all the time and going from strength to strength. If they claim to be that person they are definitely hiding behind their own fears.

Thanks for sharing your honest insights Craig its really comforting to know that i’m not the only one with those feelings too and that its totally ok to feel like that at times. I have embarked on a personal journey which is very uncomfortable but i have ditched my ego and self limiting beliefs and behaviours and now venturing out into the wide world!! Have already discovered who my true friends are and who are the ones putting their own fears onto me by their unsupportive behaviours.

Feels awesome to get out there and accept that i am good enough just the way i am :)

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arty September 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm

if more writers wrote like you Craig, i’d read more.

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Tanz September 28, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Very timely – I have just finished a job that I was sucessful at, my bosses told me was great at my job, my team loved and respected me and were gutted that i was moving on, but I too suffered from this imposter business!!. Since starting my new job I have had many moments of self doubt wondering whether i was really as good as what my former colleagues and bosses told me, and if I will be able to live up to the expectations of my new employers. Seems i am not alone – thank you for the article, though i will still have a few moments of self dooubt i am sure, i feel alot better for having read your article – thank you!!

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Witburg Taube-Hansen September 29, 2011 at 7:32 am

Feel the fear, thats all it takes to move on.
So many times I´ll get me in the position of a dickhead.
It never killed me.
Life is so great.

Thanks Craig for your wisdom.

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Richa September 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Good one….:) :)

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