Episode 35 – Do You Ever Feel Like a Fraud?

I think the title of this sort of says it all.. Do you ever feel like a fraud? And I’m pretty sure I know the answer. For almost everyone that answer is going to be yes. Because there has been a time at some point in our lives where we felt like a fraud. An imposter. Total fake.

Maybe it was at work. Maybe it was hanging out with the cool kids. Maybe it was at a school meeting or giving advice to a friend. That sense of doubt has a tendency to sneak in on all of us at some point or another, even if we are super successful or seem to have it all together.

This morning I got up, completely drained and completely exhausted from being up with the kids a million times through the night and because the cat decided that 4am was a great time to attack my feet. Michael was gone for work already so I got up at the last possible second and got the kids out the door to school, before coming home and climbing back in bed for a quick nap that turned into a nap with an extra hour and change of hitting the snooze button cause I just didn’t want to get up.

In those moments of trying to convince myself to get out of bed and get started on the day, I felt like a fraud and a failure, which is ridiculous because there is zero reason I shouldn’t have gone back to bed to refresh and have a better jump on the day, but it is SO easy to feel like we need to be perfect. To criticize ourselves or beat ourselves up for every little thing.

I could look at the morning and think “geez, I give out parenting advice on the regular and here I am on a school morning asking my 8 year old to get the 5 year old cereal and help her get dressed and make sure his brothers are up too because I want to hit snooze one more time” Which honestly, if it were every day wouldn’t be ideal, but truthfully, because its NOT every day, he probably felt really proud that he could help Mom out and contribute in such a big way. It probably gave him a sense of significance and just isn’t that big of a deal.

Its THAT easy for it to start though. It can be the littlest action or thought that leads people to question everything, and for some it can be paralyzing. They don’t move, they don’t change anything because they feel like people will find them out. Obviously the simplest answer is just to be completely authentic, and not present any kind of façade or front, show people just as many of your imperfections as what you would want them to see and accept your entire self, for who you really are… but what about when you doubt even the things you are really and truly good at?

Last summer I had a client show up for a maternity session, and she brought her bestie along to the appointment. As soon as they walked in the door I felt like I knew the friend. Maybe not in real life, more like she reminded me of someone, or looked and sounded just like a celebrity. Of course since I pay very little attention to the celebrity world and am pretty terrible with names and faces, I couldn’t peg exactly who it was, but I figured it would probably come to me in the middle of the night, at which point I would email my client and prove just how much they looked alike. We joked that she must have a celebrity doppleganger, and that we should take a picture of her and run it through a similar image search on google to see who came up, and then moved on to creating the maternity portraits for my stunning client.

I feel like its important to note that this client was just gorgeous. She knew her angles, her body was incredible and she made my job of creating stunning portraits super easy – this will be relevant later in the story. About half way through the session is dawned on me who this girl looked like, but of course, being terrible with pop culture I still couldn’t remember the name of the actress, the show (actually I remembered it as a movie) or even the name of the character she played, but I described the show and my client was pretty quick to pick up on which one I was talking about. Oh! That’s Life Unexpected. Yes. That’s it! I had watched the entire thing on Netflix, and had a total girl crush on the main character, so I go on to confirm, that yes that’s the one and then poorly describe the other characters. Yes, with the Dad, I think he was played by Dax Sheppard (totally not, Dax Sheppard, I seriously suck with this part – if you ever have me over for a trivia night make sure I’m on the other team)  They quickly corrected me, with the name of the real character and at this point I am just super impressed with THEIR knowledge and thinking that if I were to play trivia on THEIR team I might actually win for the first time in my life.

But yes, this is definitely the show and so I look back to my client to confirm, does she not look EXACTLY like the girl from the movie? Like its really and truly uncanny how much these two look and sound a like. My client laughs and says “totally, that’s totally her”. Me, still not getting it, says “right?! Its crazy, they are twins” and then she laughs again and says, no no, it IS her, she’s the actress from that show. Her name is Britany Robertson and not only was she in that show, but she’s been in tons of other things, including a Dog’s Purpose which I had literally watched 3 days before.

At that point we all had a pretty good laugh and I jokingly told them off for leaving me hanging and not telling me when I first said she looked like a celebrity and got on the with the shoot.

The point of this story though, is what happened immediately AFTER making this realization. I went from thinking “This is a blast, these two are so awesome, confident and fun, I wish I could be friends with them so we could hang out like this all the time.” To realizing that this celebrity has probably been photographed in the most glamorous studios, but the most talented photographers in North America for magazine covers and promotional pieces for her movies and then completely and totally second guessing my skills as a photographer. What kind of garbage is that?! I have been in this industry for over 10 years and have spent thousands and thousands of hours perfecting my craft. I literally have THOUSANDS of happy customers to back up that I do, in fact know what I’m doing and I’m great at it, but this one little realization and comparison suddenly had me feeling like a complete and total imposter in my own studio.

Let me be clear. This was ALL me. They did nothing, said nothing. There was no judgement from anywhere except my own brain. Nothing actually happened or changed, except my own thought pattern, and thankfully at this point in my life I was able to quickly recognize exactly what was happening and stamp out the negativity really quickly. My client loved her images. Of course she did, she was incredibly beautiful and I am professional whose job is to make people like ever MORE beautiful.

But it is that easy for us to suddenly feel like a fraud, and if we aren’t aware we can quickly spiral into believing it and acting accordingly. This is SO dangerous to our lives and businesses. You start second guessing and suddenly boundaries disappear, compromises are made, discounts are given and it is all because of your own thoughts and feelings, not because of reality of anyone else’s perceptions. Or even worse, other people’s perceptions end up being shaped by your lack of confidence.

Think you are a bad parent and feel super unsure of your decisions? Well, kids have the best BS meters I’ve ever seen and if you don’t believe yourself when you tell them to do something there is a good chance they aren’t going to do it.

Lacking total confidence in your job? No one is going to put their faith in you. I remember starting out as a baby photographer and my clients would walk all over me. They would try to change the way the baby was posed, move the lights, tell me we needed to go to a different spot, ignore my requests to not try to get the baby’s attention, and so many other things that completely messed up the session. It drove me nuts, because when super passive people came in and just sat quietly on the sidelines I could get great images, but as soon as parents with bigger personalities came in and started taking over it went downhill fast and I was never happy with the images. This wasn’t their fault though. It was mine. MY lack of confidence in what I was doing made them view me as an amateur and second guess my abilities, so they would try to help me – even though they had even less clue about what they were doing and couldn’t see the vision like I could. My lack of confidence meant we both lost out.

As I gained confidence in my skills and developed a really good system of running my sessions I found I ran into less and less pushy parents, and more and more people trusted me to do my things and create their images while they relaxed and enjoyed the magic. I wish that I had realized this sooner though, that even though I was nervous I needed to show up confident in my skills and talents and take the lead. It would have led to a lot less stress for everyone involved. – So if you are just starting out please keep this in mind and learn from my mistake!

Now obviously we have to have some self awareness. Don’t claim to be an expert if you don’t know anything about the topic, or just started your journey this morning – we need to be as open to consuming information and content as we are to producing and sharing it – but also recognize that in your own field you probably have a lot of experience and knowledge that seems like no big deal to you, but is actually completely ground breaking for someone else.

My sister illustrated this beautifully for me this morning. I do not consider myself to be an Instagram expert by any means. As much as I want to love it I just don’t find myself spending a ton of time of the app, and consistently fail to be consistent when it comes to sharing stories and posting. I have however done a ton of research because I knew it was something that would help my business, I hoped that I would learn to love it (who knows, maybe someday I will) and I knew that my listeners and other photographers in the industry needed help with it. So, tons of research done so that I could produce episodes to help myself and others be more effective with the platform. I used my own tips for a while to make sure that it worked and the research was accurate, but then fell off the bandwagon. Sometimes I look at my numbers and feel like a fraud for releasing those episodes on Instagram. Why am I pretending to have knowledge on this when I have such a small following? But then my sister texted me this morning, with a  screen shot of her Instagram profile and the comment “Your Instagram tips really worked!” She had gained over 2000 followers since putting my tips into practice, and is seeing a dramatic climb. A great reminder that while sometimes we feel like the things we are doing aren’t having an impact – they are.

Its easy enough to wake up feeling like we don’t know much or don’t have anything to offer the world, to guide and contribute to the lives of others – not only in business, but life in general – and this is such a horrible thought, because contribution is so huge to our happiness. We need to give in order to feel fulfilled. We need to understand that we are not only participating in the world, but contributing to its success as well. So while it may be easy to fall into this trap, if you look at your experiences, education and accomplishments you can probably really quickly list a ton of ways that you can help others.

Maybe you had to go dairy free and can share all of the amazing recipes you have learned and substitutes you have found. Maybe you have raised a child with ADHD and can support other parents who are just starting their journey. Maybe you have a killer weight loss or strength program that you tailored to yourself after having a baby. Maybe you have spent time learning the ins and outs of marketing on social media or know how to make a fool proof budget. You don’t need to have a masters or PHD in any of these topics to be able to help someone else, you just need to look down the ladder to see who is a few rungs behind you, who hasn’t had the experience or opportunity to learn the things that you have and then share that with them.

There are so many things that we each learn in life based on our own experiences and it means that each and every one of us has SOMETHING to offer and those things are valuable – both as a contribution to society and in many cases, monetarily. Don’t doubt your worth. Don’t doubt that you are worth charging for your skills and talents in your business, or that you are a valuable contributor to our society, because ironically that doubt actually takes away from your value.

So next time you feel like a fake or a fraud, just remind yourself that no one knows everything, everyone is learning as they go and you have so much to offer this world. Allowing yourself to get swallowed up by feelings of inadequacy is only going to deprive the rest of us from sharing in your gifts or benefiting in your knowledge. Get out there and spread around your knowledge, your talents, build your business and trust that as you improve your life, you will also be helping others and improving their lives as well. We all rise when we lift each other.

If you are looking for more connection, to learn from and share with others, please come join us in the Updraft Insiders group on Facebook, or if you are a photographer join the group Newborn and Baby Photographers Beyond the photos. I am hoping to build up communities where we can support each other in our journeys and want to be able to help as many of you as possible!

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