Personal Development

How to Survive the Toxic Combination of Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome

I used to write. Up until… well, now actually, I didn’t write for a long time.

Did someone tell me I couldn’t? Did I get some harsh feedback that crushed my budding writer’s spirit?

No.

Actually the opposite. And yet I stopped. Why?

I actually had no idea until yesterday.

I was reflecting on some feedback from a mentor on the first thing I’d written in over a year (A recommendation for a fantastic business course I took recently), a podcast interview of Seth Godin, and a live stream interview of (also) Seth Godin.

All these inputs combined and brought about a realization.

I stopped writing because of the positive feedback.

That’s right. Boo hoo for me, I know.

But the reality is, the encouraging words from others actually made me feel that I could never live up to what they thought.

Surely, if they were being honest and they did actually like it, then it had to be a fluke. Now their expectations are too high and the next thing I present is guaranteed to let them down. And not only will it disappoint, but they will also see me for the imposter that I am.

I have no business here, better to stop now and not risk breaking the illusion and embarrassing myself.

If you’re giving me a nice, deep eye roll right now, I understand, because I am too.

The trouble with these kinds of thoughts is that they operate just below the surface of your conscious.

They slink around in the shadows, but the secret is, they’re really not that good at hiding.

If you happen to look straight at them, they stick out like a giant, throbbing sore thumb.

And this sore thumb smacked me in the face with its absurdity.

This toxic concoction of perfectionism and imposter syndrome results in an insidious mindset trap.

Perfectionism: I was overly harsh towards my own work, and when others only had positive things to say, I didn’t trust their feedback.

Imposter Syndrome: Any minute someone who liked me was going to realize I misrepresented myself and throw me out like the 2nd act of a romantic comedy.

Insidious Mindset Trap: If someone only liked what I wrote then they didn’t know what they were talking about. Or worse, if they did, then it wasn’t long before I severely disappointed them and was “found out”.

Either way, my writing wasn’t any good.

Wow.

No wonder I stopped writing… geez.

And then I heard this quote from Seth Godin yesterday, “I’ve written over 7,400 blog posts and I have just 4 great ones.”

Out of all the insightful things that man has to share with the world and that is the sentence that stood out to me in neon lights.

Who am I to expect that every time I write, or share advice that it has to shed the golden light of divine perfection?

Seriously, the best thing you can do for yourself is to tell your expectations to take a hike.

Who could ever live up to that?!

The absurdity of my thinking standing stark in broad daylight nearly shocked me (PSA: try not to have personal revelations while driving).

So, what do I do about it? What can you do about your own absurd thinking?

For me, the answer is now that I’ve identified it, write anyway. Share what I’ve learned or am learning, anyway.

Feel those feelings, watch those thoughts slink around in the shadows, and do it anyway.

That’s what you can do.

Just toss perfectionism in the water trough, like an old western movie when they try to sober up a drunk.

Change the locks and toss imposter syndrome’s bags out the window.

Seriously, we don’t have to tolerate those two.

Even if they try to hang around, you get to decide who you actually invite into your house.

And if we’re being honest, those two can just sleep outside.