Guest Post: Stephanie Calahan

Baby Girl Galloway is just over a week old! To make my life a bit easier, I’ve reached out to some of the best voices in my sphere of influence and asked them to share their wisdom with you. Each guest author was chosen because I KNOW you’ll learn something from them.


Is This Visibility Block Keeping You From Writing Your Book?

Many authors, coaches, and other high achievers have a sneaky mind gremlin lurking in their writing space.

Deep down, they feel like they are not enough, that they don’t know enough, that they don’t fit in, or maybe they even feel like complete frauds and know that someone will find them out at any minute.

If this feels familiar, you are in good company. Dr. Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Cuddy, Shonda Rhimes, Neil Gaiman, Lupita Nyong’o, Padma Lakshmi, Jodie Foster, Tina Fey, and Joyce Roche have all expressed similar feelings.

This type of Visibility Block is called Impostor Syndrome, and it impacts over 70% of the population and can stop you, your writing, and your business in its tracks.

What Is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome reflects a belief or a collection of beliefs that you are inadequate and/or incompetent despite evidence that says you are quite skilled and successful.

The beliefs vary from person to person, but they all contribute to the idea that you are somehow not worthy.

“Every time I was called in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself–or even excelled–I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up… This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name–the Impostor Syndrome.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

For some, the symptoms are short-term, such as when they are taking on a new job. For others, it is a chronic condition that keeps them from reaching their goals their whole lives.

“I don’t just study impostorism, I experience it. And I didn’t just experience it, I inhabited it. It was like a little house I lived in. Of course, no one else knew I was there. It was my secret. It nearly always is. That’s how impostorism gets such a good grip–it pays you hush money. If you don’t tell anyone about those feelings, then people are less likely to think, ‘Hmm…maybe she really doesn’t deserve to be here.’ No need to give them any ideas, right?” Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Studies have found that it is common in men and women in a multitude of fields and niches. Students, people who work alone, people who are members of marginalized groups, people in rapidly changing fields (e.g. tech and medicine), and people in fields that are creative in nature (e.g. speaking, music, writing, etc.) have an even more prevalent occurrence of it.

Impostor Syndrome is becoming more prevalent too. The more we use social media, the easier it is to get caught up comparing ourselves to others, and often that comparison is not helpful or accurate. We end up creating stories in our minds about others’ success and allow ourselves to get intimidated.

Signs You May Have Impostor Syndrome

The first step in combating this type of visibility block is to recognize you have it. It can often show up differently at each stage of your business journey and is often not easily detected.

Impostor Syndrome commonly shows up as either over-performing or under-performing.
Here are a few examples.

  • You procrastinate frequently.
  • When you are in a room of smart, accomplished people, you believe you are the least qualified.
  • You feel you need to over-deliver every time you provide a product or service.
  • You are called a workaholic or micromanager by others.
  • At one point you have chalked up your accomplishments to charm, chance, connections, or other external factors.
  • You work hard to achieve a writing milestone and then downplay your accomplishment.
  • You over-plan, or you need everything detailed out before you make a move.
  • You don’t speak up, don’t say yes to opportunities or don’t scale your business.
  • You are a people pleaser – even if sometimes it is with reluctance or resentment.
  • You hold yourself to a very high, possibly unsustainable, standard, (certainly higher than you hold others) and never feel like you quite measure up.
  • You question if you “have what it takes” to be a writer even though you have published work.
  • You fearful of rejection, so you don’t write your story idea or you hide your great concepts and do not show them to others.
  • You rework the same ideas rather than getting them out into the world.
  • You have been called a perfectionist.
  • You start many projects but rarely finish any.

It is possible for you to experience both over-performing and under-performing through the course of your career or even within one week on different projects.

Take Steps to Quiet the Gremlin Voice of Impostor Syndrome

The beliefs and thought patterns that create Impostor Syndrome are usually deeply ingrained and require intentional action to rewire and reverse, but it can be done.

Writers often put off finishing their book for years because of multiple symptoms of Impostor Syndrome showing up at the same time. Don’t let this be you!

“When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story.” Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is caused in several different ways and presents both as overwork and underwork. Think through the symptoms you have identified and intentionally begin addressing them. Here are a few to consider:

  • Track Your Achievements. Most people that struggle with Impostor Syndrome tend to forget or disregard accomplishments. Log your past accomplishments and keep the list going as you complete new things. When you have a down day, you can take out your list and remember how much you have achieved.
  • Get Real About the Costs. Are you over-performing, under-performing, or both? What are the results of those choices?
  • Talk to Others About What. When you have Impostor Syndrome it is easy to think that you are the only one, but I promise you, you are not. When you share your struggles with other writers you’ll quickly learn that others have similar experiences.
    Remind Yourself that There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Book. High standards are good and it shows that you care about your end result. But, when those high standards shift into paralyzing perfectionism, you limit your ability to impact the world. A piece released is better than one sitting on your laptop that no one ever gets to read.
  • Remind Yourself that Asking for Help is OK. Many writers and other creatives believe that others are working harder than they are and that they must simply be not good enough or smart enough. They often falsely believe that the writers are doing it all on their own. This feeling often leads to the draining of creative energy and burn out. Get help.
  • Let Go of Thinking of What You Should Be as a Writer. When you begin to look deeper into your Impostor Syndrome, you may find that you have some preconceived ideas about what an author or writer is.
  • Develop and Listen to Your Community. Listen to the people that are telling you that your work matters. Listen to the people that are asking you when your work will be complete. They know that the world needs what you have to offer. They know the truth about you.

The world needs you and what you have to share. It is totally possible to work through your Impostor Syndrome and produce amazing work on the other side!

So tell that little gremlin to be quiet! You’ve got this.

If you’d like to explore more signs and symptoms of Impostor Syndrome or steps you can take to address it, visit The Truth About Impostor Syndrome and How to Overcome It.

Stephanie LH Calahan is the founder of Calahan Solutions, Inc. and is known for the fast transformations that she facilitates working with busy, service-driven entrepreneurs. You CAN blast through your blocks, get comfortably visible, and create a wildly profitable, life-loving business of impact, meaning, and guilt-free freedom. Sound interesting? Let’s talk:

Kim Galloway
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