Back when I was running my first business, Filmmaker Freedom, I was plagued by imposter syndrome. Not a day went by where I didn't feel like a total fraud.
But hey, I'd read The War of Art, so I assumed my imposter syndrome was just another form of Resistance to push through. So I went to war with it. I wove together a tapestry of rationalizations for why these feelings were wrong and silly. I filled my head with all the right thoughts, and took all the right actions. But the imposter syndrome never let up. I felt it right up until the moment I decided to shut that business down. Once I made that decision, my fraudulent feelings were replaced by relief. It’s the damndest thing.
Looking back on those years, it strikes me as funny because I actually was an imposter. I was building a business for filmmakers, yet my own love of film had been on the decline for years. Towards the end, I had no desire to make my own films, or work on other people's projects, or even watch movies. None of it interested me. That part of my identity no longer felt true or alive, yet film had become the central theme of my work life, and I was economically-dependent on it. So I kept writing about the industry, immersing myself in those communities, and building products for filmmakers. Is it any wonder I felt like a fraud, a misfit, a liar?
With Ungated, I'm now striving to reinvent marketing from first principles. I'm hellbent on building a more beautiful internet. These are fucking huge, world changing projects for which I'm not particularly qualified or credentialed. Maybe I should feel like an imposter. But I don't. Not even a little bit. The more I work on Ungated, the more it feels right and true and like a perfect fit for the person I actually am.
So yeah, maybe our cultural relationship with imposter syndrome is a bit out of whack. Maybe it's trying to tell us something important, which is why it rarely seems to go away. Maybe when you feel it, the move isn't to go to war with yourself, but to listen closely, and see if it might be pointing you towards a truer version of yourself, and a more vibrant version of your life.
Rob's Daily Invitation
That last sentence of the piece—about moving towards a truer version of yourself and a more vibrant version of your life—that's the work we're doing together on The Frontier. Technically it’s a membership for people working towards 1,000 true fans, and who want a more nourishing relationship with business and marketing. But never forget, the real work of earning true fans is being more fully and unapologetically ourselves, even though internet business culture is always trying to turn us into something else.
Wow, you know...I hadn't thought about this before, but you're onto something here. Sometimes our imposter syndrome really is just us getting in our own way. But looking back on my experience with writing, content strategy, and inbound marketing over the past ~3 years, I can see a similar pattern to what you describe with your filmmaking business: I was convinced that content marketing, content strategy, and customer research were the path to the mythical land of 6-figure freelancing. At one point, I was going to stop writing altogether and just do the strategy and customer stuff. And I always felt like I had NO IDEA what I was doing. (Because I didn't. HubSpot certifications don't count lol.)
And then I started writing my own stuff again and doubled down on Being The Writer...and I don't feel that way any more. I still struggle with the fear that I'm taking the wrong approach to being a writer, but not with doubt that being the writer is what I should do. It's scary in the sense of being pushed out of my comfort zone...but it's exciting, too.
This is some "WuWei" stuff right there. The Taoists, Confucianists and others, even ya boy Bruce Lee knew about it!