Do you ever worry the Fraud Police are going to stop by your cubicle or descend into your lunch meeting where you need to close a deal? I worry if I reach out to a new contact, that they will not return my call because they will know I am not good enough. But that never happens. When I reach out, people want to work with me.
I built my own website, have run eleven successful international travel writing awards with over 1600 writers from over 75 countries but I wonder is this good enough? I was invited to the United Nations to help with a project but I am concerned should I call myself a travel expert yet? I have traveled to over 95 countries, was hired by Hilton Garden Inn for national television and invited by United Airlines to the red carpet for the Oscars and I am still wondering what do I call myself. Am I a travel writer? An on-camera host? An entrepreneur? The biggest obstacle to my success is that I have joined the Fraud Police and keep stopping my progress by not believing in myself.
I learned about imposter syndrome during my first week at UCSF Medical school. A psychiatrist addressed our class and said, “It is very likely you are looking at the people on either side of you and wondering how did you get here. Many students are concerned that we accidentally admitted them to this class and they will be found out. We did not make a mistake. You deserve to be here.” I keep acquiring evidence that I am an expert. But I still wonder, am I good enough or big enough yet? I have 600 travel videos. I film all the time, I edit, I take classes, and I get paid for my work. I am a professional but a professional what?
Lately I have been asking for more specific help. I read “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help,” by Amanda Palmer and was amazed about the commonalities of my musings. She writes:
“I’ve had a problem feeling real all my life. I didn’t know until recently how absolutely universal that feeling is. For a long time, I thought I was alone. Psychologists have a term for it: imposter syndrome. But before I knew that phrase existed, I coined my own: The Fraud Police.” —Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help”
Palmer writes about “telling my artist friends that it was okay to ask..for money, and it was okay to ask for help,” and wonders, “Why do we find it so hard to ask, especially if others are so willing to give?” I often tell people I am a travel writer but I rarely lead with the videos that I do all the time. I spend much more time on video but I worry that I am not trained enough or skilled enough or good enough to say that is what I do.
“American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.”
This year I made a plan to participate in five conferences to study how to build my business and learn about the income avenues. People have been generous with their time and ideas but blogging and making money on the internet often feels like I am living in the wild wild west. I am realizing that what I need to do is take up space and go my own way. I need to take a deep breath, pull up my big girl pants and keep going. I am creating my own path. I am an entrepreneur.
As Palmer says, “When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn’t visible before.” This is the work I want to be doing, connecting people and places and shared experiences to show how our very big planet can seem tiny at the same time. All over the world, parents want a better life for their children, they want to feel love and share love and find community.
I love how Palmer defines artists, because I do not consider myself an artist but when I read her words I know that I am. Palmer says, “Artists connect the dots—we don’t need to interpret the lines between them. We just draw them and then present our connections to the world as a gift, to be taken or left. This IS the artistic act, and it’s done every day by many people who don’t even think to call themselves artists.” When you meet me the next time, I will say, “I am an artist.”
I get to decide when I am ready to believe in me. I have to decide to say, “Yes I am a success.” It appears that the only one who cannot see it yet is me. There is evidence and I get to decide.
This quote from Palmer’s book rang true for me:
A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house. “What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend. “It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.” “Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend. The farmer deliberates on this and replies: “Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”
It is hurting me not to believe in myself. I can decide to get up off the nail anytime now that I am aware of my it. I can resign from the Fraud Police and enjoy what I have built. I am an artist and an entrepreneur and a writer and an on-camera host.
In Palmer’s words, “In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.” I am ready to fully take my place as a professional. I am creating something where I can share what I believe in. I hope you will join me in believing in yourself and leaving behind imposter syndrome. Join us by sharing your story in my We Said Go Travel Inspiration Travel Writing Award starting in January 2017.
Lisa Niver is an on-camera host with 600 videos on YouTube, Amazon Fire Tv and Roku. She currently has 900,000 video views and knows that one million is just around the corner. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel and writes for many on and offline publications. She had her first solo art show last month as part of her project, 50 New Things Before I am 50.