Are you having doubts about the quality of your work?
Do you feel like your creations are never quite good enough?
All creatives struggle with insecurity.
How do you find a way to move past it and do the work you’re meant to do?
Maybe you shouldn’t think of your insecurity as an enemy. Maybe you should think of it as an ally.
We think the creative people we admire have it all figured out. In reality, the world’s most successful creatives still carry self-doubt with them throughout their careers, no matter how much they succeed.
Do they succeed in spite of their self-doubt, or because of it?
A healthy dose of insecurity could be the answer to creating amazing work, but the line between healthy and debilitating is razor thin.
How do you stay on the right side?
Your Personal Cinderella Story
Everybody loves a “Cinderella story.”
The unassuming team rises to the top against all odds. The loser becomes the hero. Cinderella goes to the ball.
There’s a lesson to be learned from these stories.
The underdog has nothing to lose.
If you’re just getting started in your creative career, realize you don’t have anything to lose. This gives you the opportunity to play loose and carefree. There’s no reason to put pressure on yourself to succeed.
You’re at square one. Nobody knows who you are and you have no connections. What’s really at risk besides a little dent to your ego?
Not a damn thing.
Write like no ones watching you, because they aren’t. Come up with your product idea in the dark, because you’re not under the limelight. Use your time in obscurity to your advantage.
You have plenty of room to screw up, and you will screw up. Why waste your time bathing in insecurity when you’ve been handed the ultimate opportunity to craft your work in peace?
Your rise will be that much sweeter because you never really thought you were going to make it in the first place. You’re just giving it a try to see what happens. Try taking this attitude instead of the “must succeed at all costs,” mindset and give yourself room to grow.
Insecurity Creates Genius
I wrote this post more than 10 times before I published it. The ideas weren’t coming together the right way. It sounded jumbled. I wasn’t sure if the problems I saw with it were real or if they were all just in my mind.
I sat on it. I waited weeks before I published it. To be honest, I had no plans of publishing it at all.
Then, one day, I looked at it again, and all the ideas clicked together. I knew which holes to fill and which ideas to expand.
Everything worked out for the best.
When I’m overconfident in my work, I rush it. I don’t stress over details. It feels better emotionally, but the work itself suffers.
You don’t want to fall into the perfectionist trap, but your insecurity can help you take a little bit more time to refine your work before you share it with the world.
There’s a delicate balance. If your self-doubt causes you to hide your work from the world forever, then it accomplishes nothing.
Be critical of your work up to a point, but ship it.
I have dozens of half-baked ideas and posts stored away until I need them. Some aren’t ready to see the light of day, but when they are, I know where to find them.
I have thousands of words to draw from because I write thousands of words regardless of how I feel.
Continue to do your work even when it doesn’t feel good — especially when it doesn’t feel good.
Being prolific beats being perfect. Create as much as possible and choose your best work to share. You shouldn’t publish everything you do. Some of it belongs in the dark, but it’s part of your practice.
The practice matters most. You’ll find the gems among the junk. Your insecurity causes you to work harder and make smarter decisions.
Insecurity Helps you Prove Yourself
I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book until it was finished.
I was insecure about my work. I’d never written anything as substantial as a book before, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing at first.
I kept my dreams and goals inside, did the work, then announced it once I was finished.
Seeing the proof copy of the book in my hands made me feel a sense of pride I never felt before.
My insecurity lead to accomplishment, even though that wasn’t the intention. I wasn’t using insecurity as a strategy. I just wanted to prove I could do it myself before I told anyone else.
Had I told people about my idea for a book I might not have finished it. I’ve seen it happen before — people make grand announcements about what they’re going to do — but they never do it.
Many of the words greatest creations started out as nothing more than a side project by someone who wasn’t ready to share it with the world right away.
You don’t have to announce to the world you’re going to be a writer. Just write and publish until you’re confident.
You don’t have to tell everyone about your big business idea. Go find one customer.
Maybe your insecurity is trying to get you to do the work first, instead of puffing up your chest for no reason.
You can talk a big game with a false sense of confidence, or you can be a little insecure and use it to push yourself to prove your worth through your work.
Insecurity Keeps Your Ego In Check
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re constantly telling ourselves stories about our life, our worth, our art, everything. Telling yourself a story that feeds your ego can lead you down a destructive path.
In the book Ego is the Enemy, the author Ryan Holiday says “be humble in your aspirations, gracious in your success, and resilient in your failures.”
Be humble in your aspirations. That sounds like another way of saying, carry a small sense of self-doubt.
Not a debilitating amount, but just enough to remind you of the importance of creating a story about yourself with your work instead of a story about yourself with no merit.
It’s okay to think you’re not good enough. Truth be told, you probably aren’t.
Maybe you shouldn’t ever think you’ve arrived.
I’ve only been writing for three years. Once I got a teeny tiny amount of traction, I started getting cocky.
I’d write a few successful posts and believe I had the “magic touch.” Every time I start to think I know what I’m doing, my work suffers.
Always remember the work itself comes first. Use your insecurity to feed the work, make it the best it can be, and to humble yourself before your ego takes control.
Feed Your Work With Insecurity
You’re only as good as your last blog post, your last book, your last product, your last idea.
People want to see what you’re doing now, not what you’ve done before. Don’t fall prey to being “good enough,” because the minute you believe in your success you’ll stop trying to push past your comfort zone.
When I’m not sure about the future success of a post readers receive it in one of two ways. When I’m sure, it almost always fails.
Maybe you shouldn’t aspire to have absolute confidence in yourself. Building yourself up through a false sense of confidence can make you fall from even higher heights.
You need confidence to succeed, but it should come through your work. Your insecurity fuels your work if you use it right.
It makes you ask important questions:
“Is this the best I can do?”
“What can I improve?”
“Is this ready to ship?”
Insecurity exists to remind you of the fact you’re headed toward a worthy goal and to push you to create your best work.
We don’t need to live in a world where everyone is too confident because it would fill the world with too many mediocre ideas, products, and creations.
Being a little bit insecure makes you do the fourth edit on your book chapter and add a critical part to the story.
It helps you refine a feature in your product before launch that changes its trajectory forever.
It makes you take some more practice shots before you step onto the court for the real game.
Your insecurity isn’t going away. You can use it to help you or let it stop you.
The choice is yours.