Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an SME

High-achieving professionals often experience a phenomenon called imposter syndrome, or feeling that their success is due to luck and that they don’t deserve accolades or recognition. They truly feel like “imposters” in their careers and that they will be “discovered” at any moment as a fake.

As a subject matter expert, it’s possible (perhaps even likely) that you experience imposter syndrome, especially when you are writing a piece of content. “I’m not a writer,” you may think. “I’m a psychologist,” or “I’m a financial advisor.”

As a full-time writer with a degree in psychology, not English or journalism, I can tell you that imposter syndrome is real, and it can be a significant contributor to writer’s block. But the truth is, as Ann Handley called her 2014 content marketing book, “everyone writes.”

There are two types of imposter syndrome an SME may face when writing content: feeling like an imposter who is faking your expertise, and feeling like an imposter who shouldn’t be writing at all. “Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?” you may ask yourself. The answer, of course, is, “Lots of people!”

Here are some tips to help you overcome imposter syndrome to write an effective article, blog post, white paper or e-book:

Acknowledge it.

It’s tempting to suppress negative feelings, especially when they’re interfering with your work. But when you acknowledge imposter syndrome, you free up the mental space to deal with it instead of staying in the “I should write something. But I’m not good enough to write something” cycle. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling, and eliminate any shame or fear associated with feeling insecure.

Reframe it.

Instead of letting imposter syndrome tell you that you’re a fake whose success doesn’t matter, rewrite the story the imposter syndrome is telling you:

It’s true that I’m still learning. But everyone is a work in progress, and I do have some knowledge to share with my industry. My audience won’t expect me to be perfect, so I shouldn’t expect that, either.

The power of the scripts we use to dictate our behavior is amazing, especially when you consider that we’re often unaware of them. Slow down your thinking; what are your telling yourself? Is it the truth? If not, reframe the script to be more truthful and kinder to yourself. Think about what you’d tell a friend experiencing imposter syndrome. You’d never say, “Well, you should feel like a fraud! You don’t know anything!”? Probably not, so why are you being so unkind to yourself?

Talk about it.

A huge number of people feel like imposters. If we talk about it more, we won’t feel so alone. And if so many successful people feel like imposters who actually aren’t, then maybe you aren’t an imposter, either. Find peers in your industry (or even outside it), and form an informal support group. Let them know when you’re feeling that imposter syndrome creep up, and ask for their help in fighting it. Do the same in return. You can also seek help from professional writers, editors and coaches to help firm up your writing skills and increase your confidence.

Imposter syndrome can feel overwhelming. Take a step back and use these tips to approach your (totally normal!) insecurity. Then, kick its butt.

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