You show up at a conference or participate in a Zoom meeting and strive to put your best foot forward and sound successful. However, not far below the surface, seemingly obvious to everybody else, you think to yourself – "What am I doing here? – Do I belong here? – These people are true professionals, not like me." These are classic symptoms of the fraudulent syndrome and are experienced by numerous professionals, especially freelancers, not only in the beginning of their career but for many years. I first had this feeling when I attended my first conference and only filed it away a few years ago. The impact of a sense of inadequacy is not only emotional but financial. Freelancers in particular market (some would say “sell”) themselves more than their services as the quality of the latter will only be known after the initial project is completed. Therefore, entrepreneurs must work through the challenge and change their self-value to from negative to positive if they want to build a proper customer base.
|[Half-full cup of water]|
Low self-esteem is not the only trigger for a sense of inadequacy. In reality, in any given field, a professional will find colleagues that are better in one or more aspects. That statement is accurate at all stages of a career. Thus, people can only control how they view the situation. In my opinion, the following facts are true to one degree or another for 99% of all professionals:
1. Many of my colleagues earn more money than me but many of them earn less money.
2. Many of my colleagues can produce a higher quality product or service than me but many produce lower quality work.
3. Many of my colleagues worry less about income than me but many worry much than me.
4. Many of my colleagues have more experience than me but many have less.
5. Many of my colleagues are more recognized than me but many are less.
In other words, the cup is half empty, give or take a few drops. Freelancers can choose to enjoy the success they have achieved and strive to add to it. The relatively greater success of others does not fundamentally detract from the achieved success nor does the size of the group with less achievements eliminate the need for continual improvement. If freelancers, including translators, focus on the liquid, not the air, they can feel pride in their work and, importantly, transmit that confidence when working with customers.
Clearly, the vast majority of entrepreneurs do not develop this confidence overnight. It is a continuing process, shorter or longer depending on the circumstances. First, it is natural, especially in the beginning stages of a career, to feel less qualified than your peers. On the other hand, generational differences create reverse inequalities. Younger professionals often have superior knowledge and skill in computers and marketing, for example. Thus, it is important to keep the negative comparisons in perspective. Furthermore, fortunately, people cannot read our thoughts. It is important to project confidence in your ability and skills, hard and soft, as colleagues have a tendency to accept your self-assessment until you prove otherwise. This projection, derogatorily referred to as faking, most curiously becomes natural over time and becomes ingrained. In other words, through achievement, growth and active reinforcement, the projection becomes a reality. Instead of pretending that they belong to a group, confident entrepreneurs “know” that they belong. The alternative, projecting negative skills and potential, does not create any growth. If freelancers work on the belief that they have been personally successful so far, the belief becomes a reality.
Clearly, confidence and arrogance are two different attitudes. The former is a realistic assessment of one’s actual and potential skills while the second is boasting beyond any sense of proportion. For example, when inexperienced translators that are born and raised in Israel state that they can translate doctoral theses from English into Hebrew because they have studied the field of the thesis, I have no problem believing them. However, if they insist that that they can translate into English like a native English speaker, I am very skeptical about the claim and person. Especially in the early stages of a career, do like Theodore Roosevelt suggested and speak softly but carry a bit stick as it is more effective approach. Wile E. Coyote, Genius is not an ideal marketing model.
Human beings are both worthy of respect and often troubled by doubts. Entrepreneurs, especially freelancers, must project the former and work on the latter. They not only can but must strive to overcome the sense of inadequacy and realize their worthiness as professionals in their own right.
* Caption pictures to allow the blind to fully access to the Internet. All pictures via Pixabay.