“I’m not qualified to create.”
It’s a thought reminiscent of that persistent adulthood myth. You know, the one that says when you’re finally an adult you’ll know what you’re doing. When you sign your first mortgage papers, get a real job, have kids—then you’ll finally feel like an adult. Then you’ll feel confident in completing those adult-ish tasks. But the years pass and you start checking off those boxes. You spend time chatting with a friend who has the mortgage and the kids and you realize that it’s been a sham all along. Adults don’t know what they’re doing. The day when you’ll feel like you have things under control is not coming. The shoes are always going to feel one size too big.
How to create with confidence.
When it comes to creativity, how do you get out there confidently? I see this question splashed all over the creative forums and it echoes inside me, too. What if I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing? How do I learn enough to start teaching? When do I know I’m expert enough to write this post, teach this course, start this business? The answer is: you’re not expert enough. But also, you are.
The comparison game.
I’ve come face to face with this several times over the last few weeks and it’s been a reawakening. I see a team leader entrusted with a task and I realize that they don’t totally know what they’re doing. I read things like this in posts on successful blogs: ” . . . trying to cram their copy and content full of jargon and long words. While this might make you feel like the next Hemingway . . . ” (Please tell me someone else realizes why that’s funny.) And I think: Oops. Probably not the literary reference you were looking for as Hemingway is known for his simple, direct and clear writing style. Then I realize that those experts who are out there succeeding and making a difference aren’t there because they know all the things. And they’re not pretending they do. They’re going out there consistently and with confidence and passing on everything that they do know and that they continue to learn.
You want to know something amazing? That could be you. What’s holding you back from creative freedom, entrepreneurial success and sharing your skills and talents with the world isn’t your lack of expertise. It’s your confidence. (And it’s mine, too.)
Expertise or excuses?
I read an article recently on women in the workplace and what often holds them back from applying for jobs. A huge section of those reasons was a perceived lack of expertise. If the job posting had a list of ten requirements, women were more likely to believe they needed to check off all ten (or at least nine) of those boxes. Not necessarily because they didn’t have confidence in the skills they did have, but because they believed it was necessary to have all those skills in order to fulfill that role. I don’t think this discrepancy only applies to men and women. It’s something that applies to a lot of people—especially creatives. I discussed this with a group of coworkers (both men and women) who understood this perfectly. The diligent, meticulous creatives—the ones dedicated to their craft—were much less likely to volunteer for leadership or to insert themselves into a project unless they were certain in their expertise and they’d had a chance to test their skills. Consequently, they were also the ones who ended up working quietly away in the background until they were sure they had what it took to complete the task, while someone else was off and running with the project.
This dedication and diligence is certainly not a negative thing, but when it lacks the gumption to step out in front of the pack it does both the creator and those around them a disservice. Because you can bet those people who do have the confidence will get out there and do it instead.
Now you might be tempted to panic and think, “Oh goodness, the world is being run by a bunch of confident idiots.” But that’s not my point here. The world needs all types (and not everyone who’s confident is an idiot). My point is about you, the diligent creative. The one who is determined to learn what she can before she jumps out and acts. The one who meticulously hones her craft, dedicated to doing her best. I admire you. I applaud you. Most of the time, I am you.
The take home.
Here’s what I want you to know: you and the world will benefit most from your creativity if you step out before you feel ready. If you feel confident in the skills and knowledge you do have, and sure that you’ll learn the things you don’t. You’ll get things wrong sometimes. You’ll use an incorrect literary reference or mess up your punctuation. But you’ll learn from that and you’ll course correct. You’ll show up consistently and confidently and the world around you will be enriched by your creativity.
So how do you know when you’re expert enough to write that story, design that poster, become that creative entrepreneur? When you don’t feel like an expert. Because as soon as you feel like an expert, you’ll have nothing left to learn.
What lack of expertise holds you back from creating? How do you find creative confidence? Download the creative confidence worksheets for your next creative project. Because sometimes you just need to see it in writing.