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The Impostor Syndrome

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent van Gogh

I’m not good enough.

I can’t do this.

I’m a fraud.

People will know I’m a fake.

I’ll get a question I can’t answer. Who would listen to ME?

I need to study more, first.

I’ll never know enough.

Everyone else is smarter than me. I feel exposed.


They know.


I can feel it.

Ever hear any of these voices?


I do.

All the time.


We all have.


They are the voices of doubt, of fear, of anxiety, and of the ever-present “impostor” that we fear will be exposed to those that look too close.

Even Van Gogh heard those voices, and he only had 1 ear.

(which means they were probably much louder than ours..;-)

The truth is – when you hear that voice – just paint.

One of my favorite parts of writing “Passion’ was the chapter on the “Impostor Syndrome” that started with the above.
The idea that we aren’t good enough – smart enough – or authentic enough to do what we love for a living.

That everyone else is better – knows more – and by contrast, we don’t stack up all too well on that totem of why you ought to be pick me for the job, instead.

And that pursuing a profession of PASSION is almost an unwitting ally of that inner critic that lives within us all.

The more we care…..the more exposed we begin to feel when we share our flare.

I got a really nice email from someone on Facebook earlier today that really made my day.

Someone without a whole lot of interest in the online marketing universe……but who told me that the simple chapter on dealing with feeling like an Impostor, and moving forward anyway had inspired her to act.

And for me……..that is truly the best feeling in the world.

And it makes ME feel like less of an impostor…..even after publishing the book!

Because you really do need to keep painting.

And that feeling never fully goes away.

I love all of those quotes about fearlessness not being the absence of fear, but rather….the courage to act even though you ARE afraid.

Because it’s true.

And quite often, the inspiration you get when you DO act – when you step up and paint…..is the magic, and the momentum that you need to push forward.

I remember a number of years ago, I was struggling with a strange but sort of debilitating bout of depression.

Like everyone…..I had experienced sadness before……and bad days, but I don’t really think I had ever really experienced that sort of extended…….day in….day out….down in the dumps doldrums and sense of disappointment before, and sort of didn’t know how to handle it well.

So I sort of receded…and pulled back and stopped really interacting all that much with the things that made me feel alive and empowered, especially in my work.

Doing this sort of work makes it easy to hide – and still feel productive and profitable….even when you spend your days wearing footsie pajamas, with perpetual pillow head, and the only voice you hear everyday is the critic that lives within.

One day I got an email out of the blue from a guy who I knew of – someone who (at the time) was pretty well known in the direct response marketing real estate world.

He was interested in learning how to do lead generation on Craigslist….and at the time, my blog was #1 on the web for list building using online classifieds.   (even though it’s something I haven’t done for years, I still get thousands of visits a month from Craigslist marketers)

After writing a pretty flattering email – he offered to “buy” an hour of my time by phone – for a ridiculous amount of money.

My first thought was – I can’t.

I don’t want to.

I’m depressed.

And i’m not good enough.

He’ll know I’m a frumpled, crumpled, frazzled fraud.

But how can I really say no?  And for how long?

What would my reason be?  I mean…..can I possibly just say I’m booked up for the next 6 months without a 60 minute window to spare?

And then of course…….if I blow him off, it will look like I’m hiding something anyway.

(and of course…..what I’m hiding would be I’m a big fat fuzzy fake)

Really, if you think about it….a no win proposition.

So I decided I should paint.

We set the appointment for 9AM a few days later.

And thankfully, 9AM his time was 12 pm mine.

Because getting out of bed before 11:00 would have been a deal breaker.

I can distinctly remember sleeping on the sofa in my living room….just to make sure I got my rear end up in the morning….I was literally afraid my addiction to my hyper comfy bed and my evolving love for unconsciousness would empower me to say “Fuck it” once a new day dawned.

The sofa didn’t help all that much…..and as I lie there – between wakefulness and surfing the mid morning dream worlds I had come to know and love, I still wasn’t 100% committed to the idea that I would pick up the phone when it rang, even as the minute hand ticked and I knew the moment of truth was arriving.

But at a certain point between 5 of and “we’re live” …..I committed. 

I got up and stretched.  I washed my face – paced around the house for a few laps, did my best “you looking at me” Bobby Dinero impression…….and suddenly, something significant shifted.

Call it a return of confidence or competence.  Or both.

Because all of a sudden……I couldn’t wait for the phone to ring.

And when it did…..I pounced to pick it up.

The un important epilogue to this little story is this:

I made a pretty good friend on that day, and apparently, a pretty good impression as well.
(he later credited that conversation in a course on Craigslist real estate marketing – and as a result – sent me many tens of thousands of visitors to my blog for years to come, many of whom still arrive thanks to that simple 60 minute consultation)

The important part, at least to me, is this:

When in doubt, close your eyes and paint.

Because there truly is no better enemy to the impostor than action….especially if you have half a clue about what it is that you love and truly do better than most.

All of us are exceptional in our own way……and there is something inspiring and powerful and transformational in finding that one thing and just doing it, even when that little voice within says you suck.

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