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Stop Asking for Permission: How to Beat Imposter Syndrome for Good

Fear of ability and worth holds so many of us back from sharing our work or pitching ourselves. Here’s how to overcome that self-doubt.

I love a few things: Twerking in unexpected places, like the frozen food aisle of my local grocery store. Providing motivation and insight to others. Elevating overlooked perspectives. Soul music. Shea butter. But I love nothing more than good, quenching, one-on-one conversation — the kind that warmly cuts through the small talk into the deeper inner layers, with limited distractions.

Recently my one-on-one conversations have taken life with other women. Women who are creators, writers, entrepreneurs, and founders. Each conversation was a small window into their businesses and passions, with the hopes that I could provide strategies for how they can better position or promote themselves and their work to the world with my work as a storytelling brand consultant and performer.

As each conversation unfolded, a pattern emerged.

They would ask me if it was ok to make a specific action in relation to their work.

Permission along the lines of:

“Are you sure I can talk about that?”

“Do you think it’s ok for me to do that?”

“Would it be ok for me to try that?”

I want to be clear with you here.

You. Do. Not. Need. Permission.

Underneath this innocent ask is the real question, “Am I worthy enough to be seen?” We’re socialized to fear the backlash of taking a stand and sharing our passions. Even thinking about risk can send bubble-gut-inducing angst throughout the body. You do not need to ask for permission to take space, to express yourself, or to try something new. In fact, you doing these things are imperative for changing the status quo for the better.

Studies show your beliefs in your ability and worth shape your outputs. If you believe in what you’re doing, and who it is serving, you should also believe you have the right to express that outwardly to the world.

We spend 46.9% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing, listening to a constant inner voice that can be our biggest cheerleader or our harshest critic. One major way to overcome this running internal track of self doubt is to confront your negative self talk with a few simple exercises:

Step 1: Take inventory of your negative thoughts

When you think about sharing your work, what doubts or negative thoughts pop up? Write down every negative thought that comes up for 1 minute straight. For example, this could be thoughts like “No one will care about this” , “I am no expert,”, “I’m not creative enough”, “I’m not witty enough”, “I can’t ask for money for this”

Step 2: Challenge those thoughts

Many fears are just assumptions and aren’t based in a specific and real limitations. Write a counter argument for why every thought from the fears list you just created is likely untrue, unfounded, or an assumption. These can be statements such as “Someone will care about my story because I’m speaking authentically on a topic that affects them”, “All experts start somewhere, and I’m on the right journey”, “The value I bring to people with this product is worth paying for because it’s truly serving a need they have.”

Step 3: Identify which fears are based in reality and which are projections

We also have to be real that some of your fears could have real and specific reasons for existing. It’s helpful to identify which fears are based in real world limitations versus just projections. For example, there could be fears you have about taking a risk due to specific financial risks, versus an assumption that you’re not creative when research shows that everyone is capable of creative thinking and creating. Identify which thoughts are a projection and write the words False Narrative in bold ol’ letters next to them.

Step 4: Acknowledge proofs of your abilities and make a plan

For every fear that you identified as a reality, write one sentence about what you can do to ease those fears. Fears are usually just a response to unknowns, and having a plan of action for fears can reduce their significance and power. For example, if your fear of taking a risk and creating a business is financial, make a 6 month savings plan to cover your expenses instead of never leaving your job for fear of what you’ll do if you can’t make the money you need. Also take note of any skills and accomplishments you are proud of. No matter how small, recognizing skills you have and things you’ve been able to achieve up to this point in your life, can boost your confidence and soothe your fears.

Many of the things you have accomplished in your life had to start from ground 0. Remember learning how to walk? You didn’t take a webinar and google 5 tips for walking. You got up, you fell, and you kept doing it until you were a wobbly kneed walking pro. Remember that courageous, child-like spirit the next time you are bat shit scared of putting yourself out there.

Individuals who create without permission inspire me. Like Audre Lorde, a black writer, feminist, and civil rights activist who spoke on her truth, elevated her community, and created without permission — and even against serious opposition. Individuals like her, who are on the fringes of society yet bold enough to still create innovative works that moved people during their time and beyond, have lessons to teach all of us.

Your permission comes from your confidence in yourself. You only need to believe it.

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Need help with building a brand story that moves people to action? Scoot on over here for information on my storytelling program for innovators who are flipping the status quo through their lives and work.

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