Are you an Impostor?


Sometimes when I’m at a market, I feel like the products that I sell just aren’t good enough to sell. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking money because I’m not a big name company and someone is going to realize that and call me a fraud.

Does this ever happen to you?

I always thought that this was just insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. However, I learned today that this feeling is called “Impostor Syndrome”.  Wikipedia describes it as

[Impostor Syndrome] is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”

The common signs of Impostor Syndrome are minimizing praise, overworking, being a perfectionist, having a fear of failure, and undermining your own success. If you have ever thought “I just got lucky”, or “I can’t fail”, or “I feel like a fake” then you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome.

This is very common for vendors. We often feel that our products just aren’t good enough to be sold and that others can do it better than we can. We vendors also feel as if what we sell can be created by anybody.

These feelings and thoughts are very common and natural. However, they are mostly distortions and must be overcome. I often tell Monica that there is nothing special about how I make a razor and that anybody can do it. She usually replies with a the question “so why don’t they?”

In order to be a successful vendor, you need to specialize in some skill or talent. Whether it is growing mushrooms, making leather bags, sign making, or making soap, you specialize in that area. While it may be true that just about anybody can do what you are doing, they have chosen not to. Others have not invested the years of practice to hone the skill necessary to match what you are doing. Others have not invested in the tools and material to do what you are doing. They have chosen to specialize in whatever it is that they do. Therefore, they need you and your products or services.

Another differentiator between you and others is your talent. At a market we were at this weekend, I kept hearing about this lady’s pickles that she had for $20 a quart. $20 a quart? Pickles are just cucumbers that have been marinating a brine. I can get pickles far cheaper at the grocery store! This lady’s talent just happens to be in pickles. She grows her own cucumbers and picks them at just the right time. She has had decades to perfect her recipe which was probably her grandmother’s recipe. She makes amazing pickles and commonly sells out during this show. So pickles are not just pickles. Hers are special.

Your products are special too. You have put in your time and talents to make whatever it is that you are selling. That is worth something to people who either don’t have your talent or have chosen not to take the time to do it themselves.

Remember that nobody deserves to be here any more than you do. Get out there and show the world what you are capable of.

LifeHacker has some good advice on starting to overcome Impostor Syndrome. My favorite piece of advice all the way at the bottom of the page is “realize that when you are holding back, you are robbing the world.” As an honest person, you don’t want to rob the world of your talents and abilities do you?

In speech class, they taught you to imagine your audience all in the buff to get over your fear of speaking in public. The same goes for being a vendor except that you have to realize that nobody really knows what they are doing. We are all still learning.

See you at market!


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