More

You may suffer from 'impostor syndrome.' Lots of smart people with signs of high achievement do.

Sometimes it feels like you have to wait for some official entity's permission to do the work you feel called to do.

You may suffer from 'impostor syndrome.' Lots of smart people with signs of high achievement do.

Lots of people have projects they've been sitting on.

For some people, it's legitimately because some thing they need to move forward has stalled or because they really do have too much on their plate to get to it.

But for many people, it's something else entirely. It's this gripping fear that can set in, making you doubt whether you have any place at all trying to do the work you feel called to do.


Putting yourself out there can be a real internal struggle. Image by Andrew Smith/Flickr.

Maybe it's a book you keep meaning to write. Maybe it's a class about a very specific subject matter you know about that you would like to teach. Maybe it's an art project you don't think anyone would take seriously. That obstacle is called "impostor syndrome."

I'm going to break down what it is here and give you two easy-to-remember steps that you can use to keep working on your project in spite of suffering from this fear.

There's a tension between what comes naturally and what we value.

As Carl Richards, The New York Times' "Sketch Guy," explains:

"Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, gave it a name in 1978: the impostor syndrome. They described it as a feeling of 'phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.' While these people 'are highly motivated to achieve,' they also 'live in fear of being "found out" or exposed as frauds.'"

Sometimes because a skill we have comes easily to us, we think it must not be that valuable. So when we try to pass it off as valuable, we think we must be fooling people.

Sketch by Carl Richards, used with permission.

Remember, what's easy to you may be really quite difficult for someone else, and that's why what you're good at has value. What's important is to try to see that fear for what it is and overcome it, even if just long enough to keep taking next steps with your work. And speaking of next steps:

There are pretty much two main steps to doing cool things.

I wish I could remember where I read this several years back because I'd love to give credit, but it's one of those things I can't seem to trace back (hit me up on Twitter if you know who coined these). But the tenets stuck with me at a time when I really needed to hear them. When you're feeling paralyzed by "impostor syndrome," it can be helpful to remember that there is a pretty simple process that nearly anyone who succeeds at anything has undertaken.

1. Create value.

Create something! It doesn't necessarily have to mean forging something out of raw materials in a crafty, artsy way. If you write, write. If you kick ass at connecting with people on social media, build a community. If you make amazing bagels, make them! If you sketch, sketch. If you have brilliant ideas for your neighborhood, start working on them. Making the crucial leap from thought to action is what's important.

2. Bring that value to the market.

Now here's the thing. "Market" implies you have to figure out how to monetize it. But that's not necessarily true. It can mean that, but it doesn't have to. Really, bringing the value you've created to "the market" just means getting it in front of people. Show it to people who are doing similar things, show it to people who might be able to benefit from it, show it to people who just might get joy out of it. You may figure out a way to monetize it, and hey, that's cool. Or you may just spark a new collaboration or open a door to some other next steps in doing whatever the thing is that you like doing.

Understanding impostor syndrome can be life-changing — hear Carl Richards discuss on his show, "Behavior Gap," the day he found out from his therapist that this feeling he was having had a name.

Richards learned how to look at his impostor syndrome as a friend and ultimately was able to manage it and make it work in his favor instead of stopping him from accomplishing his work.

With a little practice, I bet you and I could do the same.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
True

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

Keep Reading Show less