Imposter Syndrome: the tale of a fraudulent blogger

June 26, 2017
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A hand extends across the table: “Hi there, I’m Richard – Chairman of the tourism board and tonight’s host”. He shakes my hand firmly; the sort of handshake that suggests this is a man used to doing very important deals. “And what do you do?”

My night had begun ten minutes earlier, as I sat down at the table and glanced at the expensively embossed name cards surrounding me. They were filled with the titles of chairmans, CEOS and directors; the expert overseers of airlines, hotels and travel agencies. I looked down at my own card – ‘Laura Jopson: travel blogger’ – and self-consciously scratched the back of my neck. The room suddenly felt a few degrees warmer.

With Richard, seasoned businessman and deal-making aficionado, still smiling expectantly at me, I froze – unable to appropriately describe something that I’d spent three years passionately pursuing. In the face of these careerists, their expensive suits and pressing agendas, the word ‘blogger’ suddenly seemed to lose all legitimacy. After a moment of silence, Richard, thankfully, was distracted by a colleague, leaving me and my hot flush to recover. I was relieved. I knew that had I responded to Richard, it would have certainly been along the rambling lines of: ‘Oh, me? I’m just a blogger. No big deal – not as important as you. I don’t even know why you invited me. In fact, I better be off. Bye, thanks, see you later’.

I’d then be gone – off into the night, never to be seen again.

You see, Imposter Syndrome and I are very best friends. Something of a lifelong companion of mine; she’s that reassuringly pessimistic voice reminding me that whatever my achievements, everyone will think I’m an under qualified, raging idiot. It seems that despite Sheryl Sandberg’s very best assurances, I’m not totally convinced that I deserve a place at the table, instead, preferring to perch awkwardly on an uncomfortable stool by the exit. As my “blogging career” has become busier – more “successful” – I’ve noticed that Imposter Syndrome has upped her game and sharpened her knives. She’s in her element. Each time I meet a new Deal-Doing Richard, I can count on the fact that she’ll be there – centre stage with a megaphone – telling me that he will find the fact I’m a blogger hilarious/embarrassing/silly/childish/or unimpressive. Thanks to her, I feel the overwhelming urge to present to people like Richard a potted history of my entire academic history. To tell them that I passed my driving theory test first time, or to make a half-informed reference to the political situation in Syria.

Anything to make up for the fact I am, well – just a blogger.

This realisation makes me feel uncomfortable. By day, I plug away at our blog and hope for bigger and better things for it. I contribute daily to the supportive and kind online community that surrounds me, and look forward to sharing with people my photographs, words and thoughts. Yet by night – surrounded by the Richards of this world – I’m a traitor. I make excuses for any achievements and undervalue my work; undermining everything that I’ve spent my day working towards. It seems that my lifelong addiction to Imposterism has gotten the better of me.

I’m now the blogging world’s answer to Judus.

Last Thursday, as I sat at a beautifully decorated table in Kensington, surrounded by fascinating, talented and driven individuals, my defector-like status nagged at me. If this was North Korea, I’d have been hauled out of this stunning event, and probably sentenced to fifty years hard labour, somewhere in North Pyongan. Trying to push the paranoia to one side, I instead focused on listening to the stories that surrounded me; stories of individuals who had overcome depression, anxiety, financial worries, confidence issues and body-image problems. I learned that my fellow guests were budding chefs, writing cookery books; they were authors, signing deals with publishers; they were activists, campaigning for everything from animal rights to womens’ welfare issues; and they were mentors, inspiring people to pursue their own creative dreams. The event, of course, was the Blogosphere Blog Awards 2017. As Alice Audley – founder and Editor-in-Chief of Blogosphere – took to the stage to announce each award winner, I was bowled over by the quality, attention to detail and thought that had gone into each shortlisted blog. Each and every one was bursting with ideas, thoughts, opinions, advice and personal experiences. They were whole worlds reduced to small corners of the internet. And it was our small corner that (somehow) scooped a prize too – winning Travel Blog of the Year.

My defector like status, it seemed, had gone undetected.

Later that evening, as I left the event – award in hand – I thought back to my blogger-fuelled existential crises. I know I’m not the only blogger who has endured the doubtful tones of Imposter Syndrome. Nor am I the only one who has developed the involuntary “I’m just a blogger” tick. But why? Why – when faced with Very Important Richards – do we feel less than enough?

A few weeks ago, a colleague turned to me and declared: ‘you know blogging is a fad, don’t you? Not a career?’ If my bonfire had been burning brightly before, it was now reduced to a smouldering heap. This tone is one I’ve come across many times: one that implies blogging isn’t a ‘real’ career. It apparently requires no skill, no talent, and is instead fuelled by narcissists and a global addiction to social media. Bloggers are get-rich-quick opportunists and contrary to ‘real’ people doing ‘real’ jobs, they haven’t the patience to build ‘legitimate careers’.

Hearing this so often is perhaps enough to dent anyone’s confidence.

But is it true? Initially, my first reaction would be to justify why bloggers are important, relevant and valued. I might speak at length about the fact that far from being wheeling and dealing Dell Boys, we are in fact harnessing what is in front of us: a social media landscape we are familiar and adept at navigating; sharing our passions and growing our businesses. Indeed, “Influencer Marketing” – 2016’s very own glittering gold rush – remains at an all time high. Forbes estimated that in 2017, 84% of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign, and the amount spent on these activities will double from 2016, averaging at $50,000 – $100,000 per programme. More than ever, our social platforms are offering us tantalising opportunities. The fact that bloggers – or Gen Y more generally – are harnessing this new economy, and building businesses upon its golden hills, does not mean that we are talentless opportunists. Instead, an entire generation are re-skilling, adapting and embracing disruptive technologies, to in turn disrupt the status quo. In an economy proven to be the perfect storm for us young millenials – riddled with debt, housing problems and job uncertainty – perhaps bloggers have found a way to navigate their way through this post Baby Boom Era; without the end-of-salary pension or affordable housing.

Furthermore, I might defend the skills that bloggers have and the effectiveness of the content we create. After three years of blogging, I can vouch that whilst I am absolutely not saving lives, building a blog – one that captures an audience – is difficult. Likewise, creating good content takes time. In 24 months, I have: attended writing workshops; completed photography courses; completed online courses regarding SEO; spent weeks learning the art of HTML coding; and versed myself on advertising standards. Moreover, from a ‘business’ perspective, far from being inane or frivolous, the content of bloggers is proven to be markedly effective. 94% of marketers deemed influencer marketing to be highly effectual; straddling both traditional glossy adverts and personal recommendations. As the Financial Times recently put it, influencer marketing is that coveted blend of: ‘word of mouth, at scale’.

Yet, to write these rationalisations is to perhaps fall once again under the curse of Imposter Syndrome. They are simply a list of justifications; nothing more than hastily presented evidence to validate what I do. “See, Important Richard, I’m not silly – I am relevant”. To write a long-winded defence of my own bearing and ability, only eggs Imposter Syndrome on.

She’ll of course find issue with each and every point.

After watching blogger after blogger go up on stage to collect their awards last Thursday night, hearing firsthand the enormous impact that blogging has had on their lives and the lives of others, I realised that it was just this – a shared passion – that was my justification. And furthermore, it was the only justification that I needed. When it comes to blogging, I’m not driven to write because I am aware of my relevance to influencer marketing. I don’t take photographs because I’m conscious that an image will offer excellent ROI to a brand. I don’t go to events simply because I want to meet the likes of Richard. Blogging has, and always will be, something I am excited to do, because I love writing. I love carving out stories, sharing them and hearing stories returned. I love the communities that surround blogging, and the confidence blogging has given me to overcome anxiety and depression. I love blogging because I value having a voice – however small – in a society now deafened by them. I love blogging as I feel comforted, happy and excited to read the thoughts and experiences of other. I love blogging, as it doesn’t need any explanation: the opportunity it offers to  simply write and share my experiences, is justification enough.

Next time I meet Richard, and he asks what I do, I’ll shake his hand firmly and reply: “I’m Laura, a travel blogger”. I’m that lucky girl living out my passion for travel and writing; and sharing this with a community I value. Nothing more, nothing less.

Even Imposter Syndrome can’t argue with that.

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34 Comments

  • Reply Natasha Higgins June 26, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    I’m only a small blogger, but I also feel silly telling people about it. I have no idea why! What you said really hits the nail on the head – I do it because I’m passionate about it, just like a musician is into music. And I should be proud of that! Thanks for your beautiful words, as ever.

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Natasha. And that’s a really good analogy re the musician – I bet they don’t feel embarrassed telling people they are pursuing their passion! xx

  • Reply Angie Silver June 26, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I feel this all the time and I always have to actually stop myself saying ‘I’m just a blogger’. Sometimes we have to remember that it’s very hard work and building our blog that has led to these amazing opportunities. As well as workshops and classes a lot of our skills are self taught and the result of honing and practicing! Many many congratulations on the award, it was so well deserved!!!

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      I think I need to be more like you, Angie! I should pause before I quickly reply in a panic and give myself a little shake! x

  • Reply Emma June 26, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Congratulations you two, so so well deserved and a brilliant post too! The whole community needs to be proud of what blogging has and is achivieing 🙂 xx

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Definitely – we need to remind ourselves we have a whole community behind us (and a huge community at that!) xxx

  • Reply Ana June 26, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Laura, I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling, not only in the blogging world. But my advise is, first do not compare yourself!! You are doing what you love, with passion, and that is something you dont get from a degree and is so much worthy. Specially nowadays where you find such a few really capable of living like that. And second, next time the imposter syndrome shows up to the event, remember this: ( and trust me when I say it) some of us here online would love to make it to that level one day!! And you girls are inspiring!!
    Hope this helps 😉 Cheers from Argentina!

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Oh Ana, you’re so sweet!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I will remember your wise words next time I get myself in a panic xxx

  • Reply Valerie June 26, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    “I was bowled over by the quality, attention to detail and thought that had gone into each shortlisted blog. Each and every one was bursting with ideas, thoughts, opinions, advice and personal experiences.”
    That describes your blog perfectly!
    As a loyal follower (but merde I still dont know who is who :D) I want to take the chance and say that I like your blog so much because you have this good sense of humor I feel while reading your posts.
    xx

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      Hahaha! I’ll forgive you for not knowing the difference, Valerie! Thank you, I think it’s important to have a sense of humour these days, or life would be pretty miserable, hey! It’s so lovely to know you take the time to sometimes read our blog. Thank you xxx

  • Reply Lucy June 26, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    This just made me smile so much! You are awesome and amazing at what you do. I adore your writing and am happy that after this event you feel you can confidently say you are a blogger. 🙂 I can relate completely to this impostor syndrome, though we still have a long way to go to make our blog a success and really reach a wider audience, I truly love what I do and work incredibly hard on it. I’d like to get better at standing tall when saying I’m a blogger, so thank you for the inspiration! 🙂
    Lucy xx

    http://www.theblossomtwins.com

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Lucy – you’re literally the kindest cheerleader we have out there. I have no idea why I get nervous, when we have you two behind us. The power of Twinning! xxxx

  • Reply Alice G June 27, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Another piece of stunning writing, Laura. So much of this rang true – I am always saying I am ‘just’ this or ‘just’ that. But surely if I’m passionate about something, it doesn’t matter what I do! At all. Keep on killing it Twins! x

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks Alice. Definitely agree with your comment regarding passions! xxx

  • Reply Eppie June 27, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Such a wonderful piece of writing. So much truth that we all relate to. I find the people who don’t understand are either just ignorant or jealous to what blogging is and simply haven’t opened their eyes to it. But they will and in the meantime we just gotta boss it 😉 x

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks you beaut! Definitely – one day they’ll realise. And we’ll be standing tall 🙂 xxxxx

  • Reply Dannielle June 27, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I can massively relate to this! I’ve definitely shied away from actually introducing myself as a blogger, but now I’ve quit my dream job (where I had the WORST imposter syndrome) to pursue blogging full time, I’m going to have to hold my head high and say it proudly when people ask what I do. Huge congratulations for the win!

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Ohhh you quit! AHH! Congratulations (in a backwards sort of way!) I love your blog so I hope you’re holding that lovely head high! xxxx

  • Reply Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi June 27, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Yes yes yes!! I would also like to add to ‘I am just a blogger’ that you are also a photographer, marketing strategist, entrepreneur, slightly crazy, passionate, a writer and a cheerleader. Let’s see where our dreams may take us!

    • Reply The Twins June 27, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Damn, I thought I’d kept the crazy aspect hidden from public view! Yes, let’s. LET’S DO THIS! x

  • Reply Maggie June 27, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Such a beautiful post Laura! Before I started blogging I suffered terribly from imposter syndrome in my day job, I used to think ‘one day I’ll get found out and they’ll realise I’m a fraud. That lasted 11 years before I hung up my corporate boots so it’s definitely a topic that so many women relate to regardless of their profession. When I first began blogging I felt the same too but now I feel so happy and content with writing that I don’t care. It’s such a beautiful wonderful feeling but not one that has come easily. Blogging is such hard work and takes such dedication but it’s so incredibly rewarding. People who sneer their nose up just don’t understand and probably never will but that’s ok because our community stands stall and so incredibly proud 🙂 xx

    • Reply The Twins June 28, 2017 at 7:45 am

      I loved this comment, Maggie! And love your story of giving up the Financial World to pursue blogging. That makes me feel super inspired too! xxxxx

  • Reply Sabrina Chakici June 27, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Hun, this article is absolutely amazing. I read it like reading my favourite book, desperate to hear how that night ended. One of my favourite blogposts I’ve read in a while and something I think a lot of bloggers will read with a smile and give themselves a pat on the back afterwards. Good for you and well done to you and Claire for your amazing rewards! x

    • Reply The Twins June 28, 2017 at 7:48 am

      Sabrina, you are just the bestest girl that ever did live – thank you so much! Watching you killing it always makes me feel super inspired to do the same xxxxxxx

  • Reply Dee June 27, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    Congrats on the award! I’m a travel blogger with just a small following, but I feel my blog is more important and significant to me than my “prestigious” day job 😀

    • Reply The Twins June 28, 2017 at 7:47 am

      Hi Dee! Definitely – i’ve always felt so much prouder of this teeny tiny corner of the internet than anything I’ve done in my day job! I just need to remember that when I meet the likes of VIP Richard! xx

  • Reply Anna July 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Such a beautifully written, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing, Laura ❤️

    I’ve looked up to you girls ever since I stumbled across your blog, and coming along to your talk at Traverse this year was just a dream. You taught me so much about my value as an influencer and, even though I only do it for the love at the moment, who knows where it will take me?

    I’ve actually just started working in marketing in the travel industry, and it was actually my blog that convinced my new employers that I knew what I was talking about. I might still feel like an imposter, but it’s led me to do something I love. I’m ever so grateful to the blogging community for helping me get there. Bloggers and imposters unite! xx

    • Reply The Twins July 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      Oh Anna, this is such a lovely comment. But even as I was reading it, I thought ‘gosh, I feel so bad she saw us at Traverse’ as I felt like a bumbling idiot, who made NO SENSE! But thank you so, so much for coming along, and even more for taking the time to read the post. Massive good luck with your new job and that’s so good you used your blog as evidence that you actually know what you’re doing – and that we’re not mindless idiots!

      Yes, LET’S UNITE!!! xxxx

      • Reply Anna July 2, 2017 at 7:22 pm

        You were hardly a bumbling idiot!! In fact, yours was probably my favourite talk as you two are just so relatable 🙂 Please keep doing what you’re doing! xx

        • Reply The Twins July 2, 2017 at 7:54 pm

          Well, I just love you! x

  • Reply Jenny July 3, 2017 at 9:36 am

    This was such an interesting post to read. It’s such a shame that you feel that way and that so many other bloggers feel the same! I have to say that I also feel the same! I don’t tell anyone I know about my blog, apart from my husband, because I feel embarassed somehow! No idea why x

    LuxeStyle

    • Reply The Twins July 13, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Aww no Jenny, it’s all about self-promotion! xx

  • Reply Anna Tiner July 16, 2017 at 6:44 am

    It’s always startling to hear successful bloggers like yourself admit to feeling like you’ve accomplished less than you actually have. I only just started travel blogging last month, and so as you can imagine, I feel pretty silly telling people about my site at times. Hopefully with time confidence will grow! Anyway, congrats on your award, you deserve it! <3

  • Reply Thais Nascimento August 3, 2017 at 10:35 am

    One of the best posts I’ve ever read, and a feeling so familiar to me even as a small blogger… Congratulations on putting everything I feel into words and on the award! <3

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