Here’s a thought experiment: let’s say you go to a meeting and you haven’t met any of the players. You might be intimidated thinking this group will know more than you do and that you may not have the answers or information they need. You could hold back a bit, listening to what others have to say, assessing how your skills stack up. Meanwhile you’ve contributed nothing. Now, suppose before you entered that room you reminded yourself that you’ve been in your field for most of your adult life and you have all the knowledge you need to contribute to the conversation. Imagine your mantra was simply to participate and learn and to be part of the process. In the second instance, the project will progress because you were there.
We can apply the same paradigm shift to writing. You want to put your words out in the world, but you think you’re quite amateur compared to all the other writers who have been producing for years. They’ve published books, been on speaking tours, even appeared on Oprah. You’ve read their books and drooled over their talent. Simply to attempt writing seems like a charade compared to these real writers with their professional resumes.
Yet, you’ve been preparing to be a writer your whole life. Every person you’ve known, every place you’ve been, every observation you’ve made about life and yourself, this is your material. No one else has your unique archive or perspective. As a bonus, while you’ve been slaving away at your desk, writing emails and proposals and product descriptions and advertising copy, you’ve been practicing your craft.
You have not published a book yet, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. I don’t teach yoga, but I’m still a yogini. I’m not a trained chef, but I can still cook. It’s all a matter of degrees. There’s a lot of practice still to be done, but we’re starting from way past zero.
When we show up at the meeting or at the writing desk and a part of us believes we don’t belong there, we’re showing up as imposters. That is, we believe we’re faking it, practicing a kind of deception and hoping we won’t get caught. In work and in writing, this will bleed through.
Others will notice that we’re putting on an act, and they will smell our hesitancy. It’s palpable. It’s the person who doesn’t seem engaged or present, as if he or she has decided not to share completely with the group. It’s the writer who does a lot of telling and uses clichés and circles around the point but doesn’t just say it. It’s writing that feels contrived rather than genuine. That kind of writing can’t transform a reader any more than a barely present person can lead a room.
Our only recourse is to believe that we belong where we are. Try to remember as you start your task, in business or art or life, that you are a master in this field, that you have spent a lifetime making yourself ready for it, and that you are willing to bring you entire being to bear on this work. Your essential gifts will show, and – know this – they are gifts. The world needs them. Don’t hold back.