I used to be constantly living in a state of fear. I was obsessed with this creeping feeling that I was a total fraud, and sooner or later the world would have to realize and hate me for it. I felt like I was only faking everything I did, stumbling through it blindly with a mask of competence, and when that mask fell away the entire world would see me for the walking disaster I really am.
I know that's not a unique thing to experience, and to feel. I'm not the first person to write about or talk about imposter syndrome. It's crippling, and so many of us experience it. My best friends do. My partner does. My business partners do. We're all struggling with it.
And we all look at the rest of the world and think Fuck, why can't we be as together, and focused, and deserving as they are? Why can't we be the real entrepreneurs, like the people we look up to. Or, why can't we run a real business, not the messy, crazy, chaotic beast we're desperately trying to tame so people don't see it's almost out of control.
We all think we're frauds, and it's killing us. We all think we're frauds, and it's destroying our chances of getting anywhere.
What if everyone actually feels the same way?
You have to remember, that the rest of the world does not feel like they have their shit together any more than you do. When I'm caught in the throes of my fraud-panic, I try to imagine Tim Cook staring into the mirror in his office at Apple and worrying that sooner or later the board, or his staff, or the consumers will catch on to him.
I try to imagine Barrack Obama delivering a speech while a voice in his said whispers, "holy shit, what do I do when they start to see through me???"
I try to imagine Paul McCartney watching a documentary about the Beatles and thinking man, if only they knew the truth.
Because despite the fact that Cook, Obama and McCartney are all hugely successful people who I respect and look up to, I know they're only human. And I'm completely sure that even they suffer from impostor syndrome from time to time. Even they worry that they're not the real deal, that they haven't worked hard enough, that they don't deserve their success, that they've managed to fool the world.
Even the biggest names on the planet in politics, music and business still worry about being frauds.
Have hope. You're probably not a fraud.
I think the only way through it is to try and get out of your own head and imagine what it's like in someone else's. For me, when I worry about whether the people who read my blog, and the clients I work with, and the companies I help find deals are going to think I'm a fraud, I have to remember that they'll never see me like that.
They'll see me as a writer, with over 100,000 words about business, startups and creativity, with credits in major publications and a book that (might) eventually be finished. They'll see me as an entrepreneur, with a few companies under my belt and enough failures to make me an expert in fucking up. They'll see me as an adviser, with startups relying on me for guidance.
They won't see the scared kid, still worrying about where he's going and whether it'll all be worthwhile. That kid's a part of me, but he's not the whole story.
You're probably like me. You're a person who has succeeded at some things, and sucked at a few other things, who knows a lot about one or two subjects and can admit they don't know nearly enough about others.
You're a person who has worked hard, who is trying to build something great, and who isn't perfect. That lack of perfection doesn't make you a fraud. If anything, it makes you authentic. Remember, if there's one thing you can never fake, it's authenticity.