Only in the past year, when someone asks me the inevitable cocktail party question, “What do you do, Andi?” have I become comfortable with giving an answer. Considering I’ve written my blog for three years and published my first book in 2014 to great reviews, “I am a blogger” or “I’m a writer” would be a fair answer.
Making a declarative statement about who we are in this industry called “blogging” is tough for so many of us. Why is that? As so many of us prepare to head into the new year striving to monetize our blogs, or take the next big step to gain an audience answering that cocktail question with “I’m a _______”, it can absolutely make your knees shake. Even if you’re working the 9 to 5 by day and hustling to grow your blog by night, “I’m a ______ and I have a _________ blog,” is the perfect way to answer that question. But so often there’s a fear in that. What is that something that holds us back?
As someone who's gone from blogging as a hobby to scoring my first book deal in 2014, I see my experience as one so many bloggers can relate to – because here’s the truth: with each stepping stone to success, answering that question wasn’t getting any easier for me.
Most of us have heard of “The Imposter Syndrome,” which is the psychology of internalizing our accomplishments with fears that we’re a fraud. If you’ve ever been that person I’m talking to at that cocktail party, when I casually respond with, “I’m a writer and a blogger, and I have a boutique branding company” here’s how I really feel:
“WHERE’S THE ‘MAKE ME INVISIBLE' SWITCH?!”
Why? Because I assume that your first thought will be: “Oh yeah? What Best Seller list are you on? I follow all the top bloggers and I don’t know you”… or something along those lines.
In one of my favorite books, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield says: “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really an artist?” chances are, you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
For me, the imposter syndrome didn’t hit me until I decided to strike out on my own.
I’m currently working on my second book. It’s a girl’s guide to traveling stylishly, and it's being published by a fantastic and reputable publisher. I spent half the year traveling, writing, and preparing for what I hope to be the biggest achievement of my professional life to date. There are (often) mornings that I wake up and I am mind blown that I get to do this for a living.
Here’s the backstory:
After college, I spent 12 years in the beauty industry. I hustled like hell to move up the corporate ladder, worked 80 hours per week minimally, and traveled non-stop. I would do anything for the client! In those days I had no trouble with sharing who I was, and what I did.
What was different? I worked for someone and they saw value in me, and so I behaved how I assumed they viewed me. I was in my twenties, and the job and promotions defined me. This was on my list of what was important to me: a fabulous shoe collection (“best shoe award goes to…”), a house with a pool, and a weekly salon appointment (straight hair, totally cared).
I was probably more of a counterfeit innovator than I’d like to believe. But what I know now is that giving up that six figure job, opening myself up to vulnerability and potential failure, and then actually failing a few times until I was counting every last penny, freed the artistic entrepreneur inside of me, and released extraordinary possibilities.
In 2011, I founded a company that focused on giving independent fashion designers a platform to show their work. The second I began working for myself, the self-appointed “creative director” “producer” and “designer” things changed. Around that time I started my first blog. To gain momentum, I had to dig deep for a different type of confidence. There would no longer be a boss to impress to give me the assurance that I was excelling in my role. There was no time for paralysis.
It started when I was on a plane to Vegas for a trade show; I ended up sitting with a beauty industry friend – she’s a marketing powerhouse – and I decided to run an idea by her. I showed her some photos I’d styled (“I’m a stylist!”) in partnership with a local designer and proposed the idea of showcasing independent fashion designers at a fashion festival. I’d create beautiful editorials to market the program, share those on my new blog, and invite industry insiders. And, well, New Orleans loves a festival, so surely people would show up! Right?
By the time the plane landed, we’d planned the first NOLA Fashion Week. We brainstormed for three hours on that flight and then, declaring it into existence with her guru level marketing wisdom, it took on the speed of a rolling snowball. I called a few designers, sat down with some PR gals in town, and everybody was game. The community and the industry showed up and supported.
I look back sometimes and can’t believe what we pulled off. In the end, that program wasn’t financially successful. I had challenges with a business partner, and learned a million lessons. However, it opened up my eyes and so many other doors. That process happened again when I started my branding company, and when I pitched my first book concept.
Now that I am reflecting back on how I gathered the confidence to execute on my personal vision, four things stand out as the keys to success for overcoming “The Imposter Syndrome”:
1. Make the Declarative Statement.
I’m a writer and a blogger (insert that thing you want to be here) and I have something the world needs to see. That statement is my battle cry. Freeing yourself of constraints and the idea that someone else determines who and what you’ll be and what gift you have to share allows for enormous possibilities.
2. Allow in the Guide.
Each time I’ve stated my vision with this level of force someone has shown up who could see the potential in it and offered me affirmation, direction, and support. They’ve said, “Get to work on this thing, and–by the way–I’m here to help.” Every time, that guide knew way more than I possibly did about my potential undertaking. The successes I’ve experienced while being true to my vision have been supported by graciously brilliant women who offered their expertise and mentorship.
3. Do the Work and Do the Work You Love.
Once the troops are on board, the real work begins, and the real work never, ever ends. Each time you take on a new project, the key is without a doubt, to do the work, and do the work you love. Be a student of your art. Study it to the depths and wake up every single day prepared to run farther than you’ve ever run before. Be that warrior for your calling. Even when failures happen (because they will), fail fast and move forward.
4. Give Yourself Ten Minutes.
When your brain does what mine does at that cocktail party and asks: “Who do YOU think you are?” “What gives YOU the right?” You’re NO expert in this.” Allow yourself no more than ten minutes of that, and then move on. Time yourself if you have to, just don’t let it go on for any longer than that.
When we meet at that party, now you know when I make a break for the champagne or see me hanging by the cheese tray just a little too long, this is exactly what I’m doing. As you move into the new year make this your time. Go for it and give it all you’ve got. And in that second you start to doubt yourself, remember to give yourself ten minutes and make that declaration, envision one of those brilliant guides cheering you on, and prepare to hustle for what you love the moment you come back up for air.