5 tell-tale signs your brain is cheating on you – AKA Imposter Syndrome


So it’s been hard to sit down and write this post today, I put up a post over the weekend about having one of those crisis of confidence where I wonder if I can do anything right, and if I can even call myself a writer, let alone a creative director.

My head was so far into my problems that I didn’t notice the tell-tale signs that my brain was cheating on me with that bad-boy ‘doubt’ and his good mate ‘panic’. Doubt is the part of my brain that wants to hide under a blanket and eat ice cream. Panic is the one who makes want to down Jager / wine and cry.

But here’s the thing with imposter sydrome, it’s in your mind! So just like the monster under the bed (I had one of those), soon as you realise there is nothing wrong with you, it’s just a temporary case of ‘not-good-enough’ then we can start weeding out those negative thoughts.

Tony Robbins (the god I worship) talks about breaking down negative beliefs like knocking the legs out of a table and destabilising the ‘belief’ that makes up the table-top. SO if your belief is “I’m an imposter!” it’s made up of 4 stabilising thoughts – “My client said my work wasn’t good”, “ I don’t have enough training”, “My teacher in year 7 said my drawing was crap”, “I’ll never be as good as (insert creative you admire)”.

What we need to do is knock those legs out from under it. Your teacher in year 7 was a dick, who says that to a child? Your client believs in you or wouldn’t have hired you, so adjust your approach and make it better, you won’t know if you’ll ever be as good as that creative if you sit around crying and drinking jager under the blanket, and if you need to train more, do it! Read more books, take another course or just practice again and again until you banish that niggling thought.

OK, so that’s how you stub out imposter syndrome, but how can we tell if we have it before it comes knocking with its negative little backpack slung over shoulder and full-blown moves into our brain

ONE. You’re procrastinating because you’re afraid.

I love procrastinating. I’m procrastinating right now as I write this. When I was supposed to write this last week I procrastinated on Insta. But there’s a big difference between procrastinating because your idea isn’t fully formed, and procrastinating because you’re scared. The latter is a tell-tale sign you think you are not good enough.

TWO. Charging less than you would

Can you offer a product your clients love? Is it something they can’t do themselves? Then charge accordingly! Figure out if you can deliver, then charge according to the value of the product you deliver. If you’re a marketer and know for a fact your can increase your clients’ revenue significantly, then that’s your value! What is your product worth? Know it, write it down if you need to.

THREE. Taking course after course after course and not doing any actual work

Stop learning stuff on Udemy! Just do some work already! Learning is good, but work out whether you’re learning because you really need to, or if you could start creating some spec campaigns or just take on your first client.

FOUR. You tell people what your bill-paying job is when they ask what you do and then add your passion as an afterthought.

“Oh I work in a bar, but really I’m a photographer”. “I work in sales, but I write books too.” Turn it around! You’re a writer who works in telesales! (If only I could go back in time and give this advice to 26 year old me.) If your write books, you’re a frigging writer. It doesn’t matter if they’re published. You don’t need to get paid for it either… How many dudes did we have walking around in like 18th century Europe calling themselves poets? I do not know the answer to that but I’ll just leave that there anyway.

5) You’re reading this because you have a voice in your head telling you you suck

That’s your doubt and anxiety. They will stop your creativity in it’s tracks.

Remember, not everyone will like your work. But the moment you stop moving forward, you’re dead in the water. Just keep creating!

I’ll leave you with a final thought / personal story  about Imposter syndrome and I’ll try not to ramble. When I started as a copywriter, I had 0 idea what I was doing. I worked on a reception desk to pay some of the bills, and this one gig I got was at an ad agency, as the receptionist. I had to interview for the position with the Creative Director who looked at my CV on which I’d added (also a copywriter) next to my receptionist credentials.

This dude glances at my CV silently, looks up and gives me a tired look. “So you want to be a copywriter” he said. That ‘want’ stung so much because I thought I WAS a copywriter. And yes, I had given myself that job title on LinkedIn but people were paying me to write and sometimes even liked my work! I didn’t get hired by that agency and it was not a foot in the door. They never did see me as anything other than the receptionist who wants to be a copywriter.

A few months later I got my first job in the industry, my contract said “Copywriter”.

Now the moral of the story, is that it shouldn’t have taken an agency hire and an official contract for me to believe I was a copywriter. I should have believed my own ‘hire’.

Say you’re a photographer, Creative Director, designer, whatever! Say what you are, say what makes you you and don’t let anyone, or most importantly your own brain make you feel like you don’t deserve that title.

Have a lovely Sunday (or whatever day of the week it is when you read this)





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