“Am I a fraud?”
This question has consistently nagged me since I started my first “adult job.”
I’ve noticed that “the question” has ramped up its guerilla campaign on my psych when I started Pushing Social in 2012.
As a business owner, I worry about a lot but nothing undermines my confidence more than the thought that I’m not as good as I say I am.
Truth be known, my credibility question has been the cause of some very dark periods of my life. It almost destroyed my best professional achievement – this blog. Thankfully, I’ve figured out how to defang “the question”. I’m thinking you probably would benefit from what I’ve learned.
You are not alone.
Everyone seems struggles with their place and worthiness. The more successful you are the more likely that you will struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Natalie Portman talks about her struggle with it in her Harvard commencement address
Recently, I found myself in a corner at a networking event talking shop with two marketing dynamos. I admired these guys and they both were making great money and enjoying public success. Twenty-minutes into the discussion, one asked – Hey do you guys ever feel like a fraud”
I can’t describe the look of relief that washed over our faces. “Yes, man, all the time.” Admitting the truth took our conversation to another level. It helps to know that you are not alone. Once you do, you can solve the riddle of self-worth with allies.
Relate Don’t Compare
I’m a pathological competitor. I am always looking for ways to win. I’ve mellowed some but my compass still points to #1. Most of the time, my competitive nature is an asset. However, from 2000 – 2010 it almost killed me. My focus on being the best drove me to act badly and ignore those I loved. I wanted to win at all costs and when I lost – I retreated into delusion, self-loathing, and abuse.
The phrase “Relate Don’t Compare” was the life jacket that kept my head above water. You see, there will always be someone who is more successful than you. Comparing resumes will always lead to disappointment. Comparison is the gateway drug to depression because every moment is filled with disappointment.
Instead, relating shifts your attention to identifying similarities and shared experiences. You find yourself drawing people closer and celebrating wins – together. You don’t feel like a fraud because you aren’t trying to compete. You remove the responsibility of judging your worth from “them”. In the process you see others as allies and mentors not enemies.
Expertise is a process not a destination
I used to live in fear of being asked a question I couldn’t answer.
My fear drove me to devise elaborate coping mechanisms. I would write 20-30 pages of notes to prepare for an hour meeting. I spent hours working, re-working, deleting, and rewriting simple reports and emails. I even pulled a Sarah Palin and wrote certain items in code on my palm and forearm.
I believed that being an expert meant knowing the answer. Not knowing the answer, immediately, meant that I was a fraud. This error caused me years of unnecessary pain.
Instead, adopt a learner’s mindset and accept that expertise is defined as the dedicated search for mastery, not achieving it. Expertise is not about having the answers but knowing how to find them and craving the process.
Frauds pretend to know the answer.
Experts search for the answers and inspire others in the process.
Safety In Numbers
Being an entrepreneur is lonely. I have seven people on my team but none of them live in within 500 miles of my office! 90% of my communication with clients happens via GotoMeeting and email. As an introvert, I thought I would love this arrangement. Ironically, the isolation hurts.
The “Am I A Fraud Question” is a mental splinter that festers. It’s worse when you are alone. Here’s my suggestion. If you are an extrovert, find entrepreneurs with similar goals, buy them coffee and share your story. If you are in introvert, well – find entrepreneurs with similar goals, buy them coffee and force yourself to share your story. Listen. Remember – “Relate Don’t Compare”, be a rock, be a cheerleader, and be honest.
Over time, carefully select a network of people that push you to enjoy the journey to success. Be wary of people who mistake your vulnerability with an invitation to join a weep and whine mastermind. Your network should be a source of strength.
Do It Anyway
“Am I A Fraud” is a corrosive question. It will eat away your resolve and hobble your momentum; if you let it.
I’ve discovered that many business owners have a list of audacious, risky, and potentially game-changing actions they can take. Executing even a few of these would change the destiny of their company. I suspect the “Am I A Fraud?” question prevents them from moving forward.
I’ve learned to take action when I’m uncertain of myself.
Should I push for a speaking spot at that conference? Am I fraud? No. Do it. Take on that huge client without impossible demands? Am I fraud? No. Do it. Raise my consulting fees? Am I fraud? No. Do it.
The fraud question became a starting pistol rather than a barrier.
I Am Not A Fraud – But The Battle Remains
I’ve been able to get the upper-hand on this question. But, I still wrestle with it. I suspect I will for the rest of my life. I can promise you that using a few of the techniques I’ve mentioned will help you get the upper-hand too.