Imposter syndrome: How to silence the negative voice

two empty chairs at a desk in the shadows

Imposter syndrome: How to silence the negative voice

I work alone most of the time. It’s one of the perks (or perils?) of running my own solo business. I love what I do and I enjoy it, even if I do occasionally miss being part of a team. But every so often, Imposter Syndrome pulls up a chair and sits next to me. Imposter Syndrome loves to feed doubt into my mind. To tell me that I’m not good enough to be running my own business. That I shouldn’t call myself an editor or writer, and that I’ll be found out soon enough for the fraud that I am.

Sound familiar? Whether working solo or as part of a team, most of us will experience this at some point in our career. Imposter Syndrome (I refuse to give it any other name) prefers to strike when you’re at your most vulnerable. It gets better traction that way. For example, when you have just submitted a proposal to a potential client. Or the edited manuscript for your latest job. It loves to tell you that you’re rubbish, and that they will laugh at what you’ve done.

Imposter Syndrome doesn’t care how experienced you are. If you are newer to a profession or line of work, it’s more likely to stick around for longer, but it can pull up that chair at any time. Even Michelle Obama suffers from it; I remember this admission making waves when it made the BBC news.

Getting Imposter Syndrome off your team

Most of us work solo because we choose to. If we wanted to be part of a team, we would have picked one with positive teammates. When I worked in consultancy, I had a supportive team I could bounce ideas off of. I had a boss who encouraged me and helped me grow by offering constructive feedback and guidance when I needed it.

As a solopreneur, I don’t have that anymore. At least not in the same way. While I don’t have all the answers (at least not yet, since Imposter Syndrome still visits), here are a few tips that have helped me push its chair away from my desk and silence it, at least for a while:

Revisit good feedback

Some editors I know have what they call a Win Jar. Every time they get positive feedback from a client, they print it off and put it in the jar. Then, when Imposter Syndrome drops in, they take their wins out to remind themselves of the positives. I don’t have a Win Jar; instead, I browse through the testimonials on my website.

Works just as well, and I get some silence from Imposter Syndrome for a while. Satisfied clients have no objection to having their words made public; isn’t that one of the best compliments there is?

Become part of a different kind of team or create your own

I don’t mean give up your solo business. I mean join an organisation that will help and support you. This could be in the form of a professional body. In my case, I’m an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) for my editing business. I’m also a Full Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) for my environmental work. Whatever your line of work, there is bound to be a similar professional organisation that may apply.

If that’s not an option, set up your own group. A few months ago I set up an Accountability Group. Its original purpose was to help me be accountable to someone (other than myself) and reduce my tendency to procrastinate when it came to marketing. However, it has become so much more than that. We support and help each other through our work, celebrating the good days and picking each other up on the bad days. More on that and its business benefits in a future blog.

Add some training to your work schedule

Continuing professional development is important in any field and whatever level of experience you have. Often, Imposter Syndrome’s chair rolls up when you’re doing something new or different. By taking a training course from an accredited provider, you are not only improving your skills and adding to your toolkit. You could also be confirming what you suspected was the answer to one of Imposter Syndrome’s accusations.

“I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome for years, and my best remedy for it is to research and build my skills with training. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel or struggle to solve problems that others already have good solutions for. I’ll look things up in style manuals or blogs written by editors whose judgment I trust, or I’ll sign up for a graded course through the CIEP. Often the feedback is very positive and constructive. It does wonders for my confidence.”

Kath, editor at Gecko Edit

Watch Imposter Syndrome’s chair roll quietly away from your desk…

Keep building your confidence

The more experience you have, the more confident you become in your abilities. You don’t only build experience by continuing to work in your chosen field, but by seeking out advice and guidance from those more experienced than you. Professional organisation forums are great for this. So are Facebook groups or local support groups.

“Imposter syndrome can be relieved somewhat by asking advice from others and learning from mistakes. This is where CIEP forums are indispensable!”

Annie, proofreader at Proofnow

Personally, I have grown my skills tenfold since joining the CIEP, both through their courses and groups as well as by keeping up with the online forums as a form of passive learning.

Break the spell

Imposter Syndrome can cast a negative spell over you by convincing you that you’re not good enough. Any one of the tips above will help break that spell. And if you haven’t tried any of these things yet, take it from me:

“You are good enough. You’ve got this.”

Take a break, take a walk, phone a friend. When you need help, you’ll ask for it – from those who want to help, not from something that wants to drag you down. Stop feeding Imposter Syndrome and silence it once and for all.

Need some help?

Have a writing, editing or environmental query? Need some help getting rid of Imposter Syndrome? Let’s chat. Drop me an email or fill out the enquiry form and I’ll be in touch.

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Christina Petrides is a writer and editor who works with small businesses and academics, helping develop and create copy and content and editing documents for publication. She works across most industries, and has a particular love for the environmental and travel sectors. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and Full Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES). Connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for new blog alerts.

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