They’ll have just received an urgent tip that I’m to be brought up on fraud charges immediately.
They’ll break through the door of my house, and drag me kicking and screaming (more like sobbing uncontrollably) from my bed. I’ll be tried in a court of my peers, or at least by a jury of my twitter followers. They’ll show, in painstaking detail, that I don’t know anything about what I do for work, that I should never give another human being advice and that everything I’ve ever created is utter garbage.
There’ll be pie charts and expert witnesses. My expensive lawyer will spend most of the time with his face buried in his hands because there’s nothing he can object to. The evidence will be so clear against me that the judge will start getting bored at how one-sided the whole thing is—she may even start playing Angry Birds.
I’ll be sentenced to wear a suit and tie in some beige office with a non-ironic water cooler forever. It’ll be 4 or 5 consecutive life terms, with no hope of parole. No visitor rights either. I’ll never see my wife and pet rats again.
I’ve played this scenario out in my head many times.
This is a common fear for the self-employed, especially ones that deal in creativity or creative services. We often feel like a fraud or an impostor in the work we do. Even if we have work or if we’ve been doing something for years. That feeling doesn’t go away.
It seems the Creative Police are always one day away from solving the case and naming us as the prime suspect. So how do we deal with this fear? How do we move past it to start working or to keep working at what we know we should be doing?
This isn’t just something we might feel when we start something new; it’s something most of us (barring the criminally egotistical) feel at many points in our careers. If we don’t know absolutely everything about what we do, we feel as though we don’t know anything, which obviously isn’t the case.
Understand that everyone feels this way—and be honest about it. If I don’t know something, I say so. Being an expert doesn’t mean you have to know everything; it just means you know enough to offer value in your work. I feel like an impostor with work I’ve done for years, just as I feel like an impostor with work I’ve done for a few months.
That feeling is always there. I acknowledge it, try to remember that most people also feel it, and get down to doing my work. I best way I know to face this fear is to keep going more of what I do. It tends to lessen if I stay focused on the work at hand.
Tackling this fear is important, because it makes us present and accountable, and keeps us living a meaningful life by testing our limits and potential. We have no idea what we’re capable of achieving unless we try things and stretch the limits in our minds and push against our fears.
Challenging what we’re scared of can also create our proudest moments. I feel good about myself when I do something that I feared. Almost everything I’ve been afraid to do has turned into something I can’t believe I feared–and that I actually enjoyed.
I wake every morning without a warrant for my arrest. I’m free to go about my day and create new things. And I’m free to share those things with the world, and risk a possible arrest. And so that’s what I do. I risk arrest and get to work.
How are you going to challenge what you’re afraid of in the work that you do and risk a knock on the door from the Creative Police?
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Assistant Ed: Bruce Casteel / Ed: Catherine Monkman