Have you ever had one of those moments where you were just paralyzed with fear? Those moments of self-doubt, where you question everything and feel like a complete loser in the purest sense of the word?
That was me two weeks ago. The Financial Bloggers Conference (FinCon) was approaching, and I felt stuck and scared. With the impending event right around the corner, I started to freak out. I started to feel like I wasn’t good enough, not experienced enough, and that I was just a fake-ass phony.
Even though I had quit my job two months earlier, I didn’t have to go through the requisite, and sometimes awkward, “What do you do?” chat with anyone in real life.
This would be the first time that I’d be faced with people, 600 of them to be exact, and I’d have to confidently respond and discuss what I actually do.
I’d have to accept the fact that this is the real deal, not some game that I play on nights and weekends anymore, or use as something to do in my free time (and there is nothing wrong if you choose to do that, by the way).
It was a bad case of feeling like an imposter — like a complete and utter fake-ass phony. How could I get over this?
My friend Brittany said it best when she recently told me, “When you are confident, it’s like you can accomplish anything in the world, but when you are low, you have this crippling self-doubt.”
It’s true. When I start to feel that fear, I start to doubt everything. I start to doubt my talent, my path in life, my decisions, and everything that comes along with it. My normal extroverted self turns into a wannabe hermit. I want to hide in a corner and not return to the “real world” until I feel something different.
Luckily, I was able to get over this terrible feeling and rock it at FinCon. Here’s how I was able to overcome feeling like a fake-ass phony:
I am a writer. Saying those words is still tough to say, but I am a writer. I get paid to write (holy crap!). As a freelancer, I’ve had to come up with my own job title and have had to come to terms with my new profession. There are no longer any crutches related to a “day job,” and if I want to be taken seriously, I have to own what I do and make it clear to people.
So on my business cards I put “Wordsmith & Idea Maker,” imbuing some creativity into it. When people asked me what I do at FinCon, I would say, “I’m a freelance writer and I blog about breaking up with debt.” Simple and to the point. I have realized that if I don’t take myself seriously, then no one else will either. In the end, you are what you say you are — and your actions back that up.
Everyone is unique in their own special way. We all have idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. In order to stand out and not feel like a fake-ass phony, you need to embrace all that is you — even if you are scared, even if you are vulnerable, even if you think it will offend someone. Embrace your wild side, your weird side, and don’t be ashamed of it.
While at FinCon, I let loose and sang my heart out and danced all over town. I’m sure it was a different side of me than what people expected, but that’s who I really am. I also like to speak in strange voices and fake laughs. What can I say, I am an only child with a wild imagination.
It’s easy to be shy and revert into your shell when meeting people. But if you are confident in who you are and let your real self shine through, you will stand out. When you are your authentic self, you feel at home, and you get to avoid those slimy, insecure feelings that you are a complete fake.
If you are constantly feeling like an imposter, it’s likely you are outside of your comfort zone and feel like you don’t belong. The good thing is that the more you get out of your comfort zone, the more it stretches and becomes more normal. Strive to feel uncomfortable. Push yourself. Try something new. You’ll start to feel more confident and more secure as time goes on.
If you’re feeling like a phony, start practicing and preparing for events. This means talking to yourself in the mirror, repeating mantras during meditation, writing positive notes on your hands, etc. With a little practice, you’ll start to feel more confident and less like a phony.
I would venture to say most people feel like a fake-ass phony at various times. It’s like we are all scared we are going to get found out and uncovered as a fraud. So, what is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people in this regard? I would say confidence and presentation.
People make so many judgements about you in a millisecond depending on your clothes, your posture, how you look, and how you talk. Start faking it until you make it, and think about how your ideal version of yourself talks, walks, dresses, and approaches other people. If you are feeling stumped, think about people around you that inspire you. What is it that makes them so charismatic?
Once you realize how you want to present yourself, you can be confident and own any room.
It’s normal to feel scared, nervous, insecure, and like a complete phony from time to time. But it can’t be a lifestyle. To be successful, you need to get out of your comfort zone and really own the situation in order to get the outcomes you want. That means that instead of saying, “I’m just a personal finance blogger,” you say something more definitive: “I’m a personal finance writer.”
It’s all about presentation. Consider people who are successful, compared to the many talented folk who never rise to the top. It’s all about marketing. Marketing is a fancy word for presentation.
And the most important thing to overcome feeling like a fake-ass phony? Not giving a shit what other people think. This is still my hardest lesson to learn as I am neurotic and want people to like me (doesn’t everyone?). But you are wasting your precious energy if you care too much about what others think.
You do you. And forget the rest.