Do You Feel Like a Fraud?

When people ask “What do you do,” do you find yourself making excuses?

“Well, I’m a writer…but I haven’t written anything that you’ve read.”

“I own a small business. ::quickly changing the topic:: What do you do?”

“I have a newsletter that I send out to a small list” (when your subscriber base is in the thousands.)

Chances are, you envy those folks who can “pull off” a fantastic, 30-second elevator pitch. You’ve tried to create your own so you can clearly explain what you do…but it never comes out right. Which makes  you wonder what’s wrong with you.”Everyone else sounds so polished and smart when they pitch their business. Why can’t I do that?”

Maybe it’s because…deep, deep down…you feel like a fraud.

Guess what. Every business owner, writer, and famous person has felt the exact same way.

Years ago, talking to big brand clients used to freak me out. I was convinced that everyone knew more than I did. What’s worse, I thought that someone would call me on my “you don’t know what you’re talking about” fear. It was almost guaranteed that I’d have a sleepless night before a big conference call or training gig.

Guess what? No one said, “Wow, why did we hire you again?” In fact, the emails I received after my presentation were exactly the opposite. People thanked me for helping them make more money, write better copy and finally being able to understand what the search engines were looking for.

So, nobody else thought I was a fraud…except for me.

This is a quirky issue that can hold you back in unexpected ways. When you feel like you don’t deserve your success, you…

– Don’t approach smart people who can help your career (what if they see right through me?)

– Don’t go for high-profile gigs that can make a lot of money (what if I mess up?)

– Don’t market your business effectively (I don’t have anything to say, so why bother.)

– Don’t spend money on things that could improve your business/life (I know that would help me, but I’m not sure where my next dollar is coming from. Better hold off.)

– Don’t let yourself out of your (very small) comfort zone (I’d love to try public speaking. But wow, I’m not ready yet…)

– Don’t feel good about your success, your business savvy or your craft (Well, yeah, I’m doing OK – but it was right place, right time.)

– You sabotage yourself financially.

(And all of these things spiral you right back into “I’m a fraud” mode.)

There’s a great post by Jodi Chapman that addresses the “fraud” feeling. Jodi said:

We are all simply playing the game. It’s a game that we are really good at – it’s a game that we know so well. Except, this game is truly exhausting, isn’t it?

Goodness, yes. It’s truly exhausting. And unnecessary.

So, next time you feel like a fraud, here’s what to do:

– Own it. Don’t ignore the emotion. Look at it – really look at it. Why do you feel like such a fraud? How real is the emotion?

– Read nice notes from happy clients. This helps you remember how good you really are.

– Remember that other people go through the same thing. You may think that they have it all together – but they don’t. They’re faking it too. :)

– Write down cool milestones and revel in your success. Starting a business is a BIG DEAL. Landing your first client is a BIG DEAL.

– Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. I know that this one is tough – it really is. But if you can share your insecurities, they’ll go away faster and help put things in perspective.

– Make a list  of what you are grateful for. Gratitude is a sure way to help drag yourself out of the “I’m a fraud” funk and ground you back into reality. (If it’s a Monday, you can tweet your grateful thought by using the #gratefulmonday hashtag).

– Refuse to let your feeling mess up your success.  You have come too far to sabotage yourself.

Remember that you deserve every drop of success. It’s not a “fluke” that you’re here. It’s not luck. It’s not right place, right time. It’s because you really are that damn good.

Isn’t it time to own it?

Photo gratitude to iJammin

21 replies
  1. Ingrid says:

    Thank you for the encouraging words! It’s reassuring to know that others face insecurities too, and that being successful doesn’t mean the absence of self-doubt, but the ability to overcome it. This is just what I needed to hear today!

  2. Craig Wright says:

    Another great blog! I constantly feel this way because I came into copywriting from technical writing and guess I feel that I am somehow missing things. That remark about reminding yourself how happy clients have been is a good idea.

    Nice to know that I’m not the only writer that gets self-esteem issues.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Heather says:

      You are very welcome! And no, you are certainly not the only writer who feels the slap of low self esteem from time to time. Most folks keep that to themselves (which is sad, because we’ve all felt that way…)

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Heather Georgoudiou says:

    Great post! I think anyone who takes a risk feels like a fraud. I have to fight those feelings every time I step out creatively .

    I run a writing group and our mission is to spur one another on – and chase off the “I can’t do it” demon.

    I love the grateful list! I’m going to start that today.

    Thanks for sharing your story Heather, always inspiring to discover you are not alone in your “fraudness.”

    • Heather says:

      What a great writing group – that “I can’t do it” demon is a scary one, so it’s wonderful that you can get (and give) support. Very cool!

  4. Katie says:

    I love this post! I often feel like a fraud – For years I was a screenwriter who had very few projects produced. I got paid, but no one saw the results of my work. Whenever someone asked me what I did, I said “oh, I write screenplays no one makes into movies.” Self-defense mechanism much?

    You hit the nail on the head: we’re all scared to death someone will call us out. Thanks for articulating it.

    • Heather says:

      Wow, Katie – great example. Especially since you still call yourself a “screenwriter who had very few projects produced.” As someone who has had NO projects produced, I’m highly impressed by your success! WOW!


  5. tealady24 says:

    Well, I just love this article (and your little dinosaur, he looks so sad)!
    We’ve all been there and sometimes, are still right in the thick of it.
    We just need to FOCUS on our accomplishments (and when you think about it, we all have lots of those), and stay positive!

    • Heather says:

      Tealady – I know, right? The dinosaur graphic is perfect! :)

      Staying positive is so important (and so hard to do sometimes.) If we can just shift our focus to a grateful thought, a happy moment or an accomplishment, we can break out of the “I don’t deserve this” funk. Easier said that done sometimes…but when we CAN do it, it makes a huge difference. :)


  6. Amy C. Teeple says:


    No matter how well we are doing this insecurity continues to pop up. What’s worse is when you have that one – shall we say, “trouble” – client that you cannot seem to please. Even if you have hundreds of clients praising you, that one client who questions your writing skills can throw you for a loop.

    I just had a conversation today about stress (and panic attacks) and it was mentioned that even taking a minute to list what you are grateful for can turn your attitude around.

    Thanks for this post and thanks for being a sounding board when I need it. :-)

    • Heather says:

      Insecurity sucks – those days are HARD! You can have 100 happy experiences – and then, just one bad client experience throws you off your game. For the rest of the day, that ONE instance dictates how you feel about yourself.

      If we can distract ourselves and focus on something else – just for a little bit – it can certainly help our mood. Thank goodness. ‘Cause being in an insecure place is a bad place to be.

      You’re welcome for the post. :)

  7. Jim says:

    I am and have been afflicted with this … sometime to the degree that when you get praise, you just figure they didn’t see the fraud and that somehow you got away with it! How twisted is that?! :)

    Thank you for this!

    • Heather says:

      Hey, Jim!

      Yeah, it’s twisted…but it’s also normal, too. I know a lot of folks who feel the exact same way sometimes (including me.) Amazing how we can discount our success, eh?

      Thanks for your comment!

  8. Matthew Newnham says:

    Hi Heather,

    Another great – and timely – post. Thanks for your wise counsel and great encouragement.

    My strange associative mind is kicking in with a song for each one of your posts. For this one, what came to mind instantly was: “We Are Family”.

    Kinda hard not to smile in the face of insecurity with *that* going on in your head, no?

    Best wishes from Scotland,



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