Impostor Syndrome and Building Capital

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There will be days when you feel like you have nothing to say. You might wonder why you should be the one talking about anything when there are people out there who are much more experienced than you. You feel like you’re acting more knowledgeable than you truly are.

I have been there. Even now, I feel like an impostor, wondering if my understanding of impostor syndrome is worth talking about. Every creator, everyone speaking in public, knows this feeling. It is a part of our brain’s wiring to try to protect us from the unknown dangers that we might attract when we put ourselves out there.

Embrace the fear, invite it in, hear it out, and then ignore it.

You know what you want, and even if you don’t have a clear plan, you know how to get closer to a better, more fulfilled life. Working in public takes courage, and it often is a harder choice to make than just staying silent. But it’s always a choice.

Remember this: real impostors don’t suffer from impostor syndrome. Growth always involves new and unknown territory, and you will learn how to navigate it.

Understand that by building in public, you are building capital; you’re building wealth. Even if you fail or disappoint some people, your struggle and your journey will mean something. People will follow you because of your vulnerability, not despite it. Over time, this shared learning journey and progress will build a following that will be there when you need them. Trust that every small success, every step forward is something valuable to you, your future achievements, and the community that’s watching.

You, the Bondsmith

In his epic fantasy novel series The Stormlight Archives, author Brandon Sanderson tells the story of a character who ascends to the magical profession of a Bondsmith. This person can connect the minds of people with a single touch. He can summon a well of light that feeds and amplifies other magical beings’ powers in the vicinity. The Bondsmith does not fight; he connects. What he creates is meant to unite and elevate the people around him.

This is who I model my life after. As cheesy as it sounds, if I feel that my deeds and words build connection and opportunity between and among people, I live a full and meaningful life.

Start by being an ambitious learner. Share your journey, share your learnings, and become a person that people in your community want to engage with — because you lift up and unite everyone around you.

You, the Hero

All the historical and fictional narratives that mean the most to us involve the Hero’s Journey. Someone goes on an adventure, runs into trouble, things start looking better, then a catastrophe happens, the problem is overcome, and then things turn out for the better. While our personal journeys look quite different in reality, they are just as interesting to the people to whom we matter.

Jamie Russo writes about Lual, a South Sudanese man who spent his youth in a refugee camp, later teaching himself how to code, and ending up building a video game that put the player in the shoes of a refugee. The game struck a nerve, and Lual found a platform to spread his message of hope and peace. Quite literally, Lual put his uniquely personal experience into his work and created something that no one else could create the same way he did. His unique backstory gave him the power, urgency, and insight to leverage his personal journey.

In entrepreneurial terms, Lual productized himself. He took something profoundly unique and created something valuable from it. Every single one of us has some outstanding quality, experience, or disposition that we can turn into an unfair advantage: something so unique that nobody can easily copy it.

That doesn’t mean that people won’t try. Success attracts imitation, and quite often, those who try to copy your business will start acting in questionable ways. A couple of months ago, I talked about Mike Rubini and how he found that someone had cloned his business and put up a product comparison page that trashed Mike’s product. It was quite upsetting for him, and the founder community was there to comfort and support him. Fast forward to a week ago: that copycat competitor has now shut down. However, Mike is still in business — because Mike cares about his customers. His mission is not merely to make money, but to empathetically help an audience of people he dedicates a large portion of his life to.

This will impact the way you engage, empower, and create valuable content. Don’t create a faceless brand. Be yourself, your honest, truthful, quirky, imperfect self. Who do you think the people you care about want to follow: a fake, perfect, and idealized version that is always in full control of yourself or the version that sometimes comes up with unfunny jokes and wants to share them with your friends? Who would you rather follow if you had the choice between a plastic replica and a real human being with a story?

This also serves as a great way for people to self-select themselves out of your audience. So they don’t like the things you say or the way you say them? Well, that’s great news: you won’t have to interact with them anymore. Why spend the energy building a relationship with people who won’t reciprocate? This is not about them becoming your customers either; it really starts with making sure that you surround yourself only with people who you would want to be surrounded with in the first place.

Your Hero’s Journey may not be written yet, but you can bet that people will want to be along for the ride. Be yourself, build an audience that appreciates you, and you will get your 1,000 true fans in no time.

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