how to overcome impostor syndrome
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The Antidote to the Impostor Syndrome – The “Teach as you learn” Model

The date was 27th February 2015.

I was writing this article on my other online course business called Creative Pad Media, where I create and sell online courses related to photography and videography.

This was the first of almost 100 blog posts I have written there.

As I was writing this article, I suddenly felt a bit weird. I didn’t feel good.

I almost started panicking.

Something did not feel right.

What had happened?

I was struck by a different kind of flu. A virus that is bound to affect a coach at some point or the other.

This virus is capable of creating its own pandemic amongst creative people.

This virus is the “Impostor Virus“.

It leads to a disease called the Impostor Syndrome.

A disease where you feel you are not adequate to be a coach.

A disease where you feel you have no right to teach others.

A disease where you feel you are a fraud.

A disease where you feel you don’t have enough authority or expertise to teach someone else.

A disease where you feel you are not good enough.

A disease which makes you want to give up being a coach because you feel you don’t deserve to be an influencer.

At some point, most coaches, trainers and creative people in general are bound to be affected by this virus.

It was not the first time I had felt like this.

Before being an entrepreneur, I was already involved in teaching management subjects to undergraduate and graduate students.

This disease had struck me that time too – “Who am I to teach all these subjects to these students?

But here’s the thing about the Impostor Syndrome – It doesn’t come into full effect till you are actually enjoying the benefits of being a coach– whether those be emotional, financial or both.

As long as you are struggling or suffering, it is happy to lie dormant.

It only comes into full effect when you are enjoying life.

The months prior to writing the aforementioned article had been great for me. After quitting over 10 jobs and trying my hand at almost 7 different online businesses, I had finally found something that was working for me – the photography workshops I was doing under the Creative Pad Media brand.

Something had finally worked and the Impostor virus was not happy about this new found success.

While writing that article it decided to hit me with all its might.

It told me -“Kush, who the hell do you think you are? Why are you teaching photography and making money?

You are no Steve McCurry (world renowned photographer)

Hell, you aren’t even Dabboo Ratnani (most popular photographer in India)

LOL forget that Kush, you aren’t even Sameer Belvalkar (famous photographer in Pune)

So why do you think you can teach others and charge money for it?”

I continued to write the article but in the back of my mind and in the depths of my heart these questions loomed over like a dark shadow of doubt.

They would come up every time I would conduct a photography workshop.

They were consuming my energy day in and day out.

Even though I knew I was doing an honest job and working hard at it, they never seemed to go away.

That was the case till I read an interview given by Steve McCurry (the photographer I mentioned above).

One of the last questions posed by the interviewer caught by attention. He asked Steve if he had ever considered teaching photography since he was one of the world’s best photographer.

The answer he gave proved to be a turning point for me in my battle with the Impostor syndrome. Steve simply said something along these lines – “I have no interest in teaching. I like to do photography. Teaching is best left to those who are good at teaching”.

To say that that was the most relieving and therapeutic of statements I had ever read would be an understatement.

The impostor virus was defeated because I had learned a big lesson.

The lesson is that the most important thing is your intention.

When it comes to teaching, you don’t have to an expert in your field.

What you need to be is someone who is passionate to be on the path of being an expert.

Even during my photography workshops, the first thing I always mention to my students is that I’m not some great photographer. But I strive to be the greatest photography teacher.

I am good at teaching photography.

I am good at breaking down complex photography principles and communicating them to you in an easy-to-understand language.

My job is not to be the best photographer. My job is to you teach you photography in the fastest and easiest way possible.

That’s where my hard work goes.

That’s why I’m a coach.

This is where the “Teach as you learn” model comes into play for online coaches.

Because a lot of online coaches never start their coaching business because they feel they need to be an expert BEFORE teaching.

And that makes them procastinate.

And that ultimately makes them lose all hope of ever starting that business.

What you have to understand is that what is more important than being an expert is your commitment towards being an expert.

Read that again.

Expert vs. Committed to being an expert.

These are two different things.

Going for the former will mean you will have to postpone your coaching business. Going for the latter will mean you can START NOW!

That is why the better questions to ask yourself should be the following –

  • Am I passionate about getting better and being an expert in this field?
  • Am I passionate about changing my student’s lives through the research and findings that I will be communicating to them through my teachings?
  • Am I passionate about being the best trainer in this field?

I always followed this model at Creative Pad Media and guess what happened?

I actually became a better photographer as I taught photography.

As I became a better photographer myself, my teaching improved too and so did the quality of my workshops.

And the cycle continued like this.

That is why they say the best way to get better at something is by teaching it.

But if I had waited to get some sort of official validation (degree/certificate/PHD/official projects/fame) that made me appear to be a qualified photographer, Creative Pad Media would probably not have existed.

I remember feeling the same resistance when I created my videography course in 2019 – “Kush, photography is fine but Come on! Who are you to teach video making?

But this time I had the answer – “I may not be a great videographer but learning how to make videos changed my life and therefore I genuinely want to help beginners when it comes to creating videos. I am committed to teaching them this art and also committed to improving at it myself. And in return I expect to get paid well for it. Now shut the hell up Impostor virus!!!

BOOM! That was it- I got started and finished creating that course in 45 days.

The result – This course is currently my best performing course on Udemy, purchased by students from multiple countries. Even though I was never an expert in making videos.

What you have to remember is that the time will never be right!

That perfect moment will never come!

You will never gain enough expertise!

Start with whatever little you have and build things from there!

Once you accept that perfection lies in accepting imperfection and moving forward, many possibilities will open up.

And finally, you’ll realize, there was no Impostor syndrome.

It was just your mind playing tricks.

It was just your mind trying to protect you from an unknown and new feeling.

What is this “feeling”?

The actualization of your own potential.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

P.S – The Impostor Syndrome is just one of the many things that affects an entrepreneur or a creator. If you want to read a life-changing book on how to deal with all the obstacles that come in front of you as a creative person, then the first book I will recommend to you is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles War by Steven Pressfield. I read this book back in 2016 and till this day it remains my favorite book on this subject. Pressfield names these obstacles as “Resistance” and the book goes into detail about how to overcome it. The concept of “Resistance” will stick in your mind forever. It’s a deep and heavy read but certainly worth it.

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    1. Nice article which can be very helpful for the beginners to overcome from fear and doubts.

    2. Well done, Kush. Your blogs and article are awesome and always read.

      You are creating great values in the thought process for all of us.

    3. This is a difficult subject to write and explain. I appreciate how lucid and effective this article is. The coherent strings of word made me read the article from beginning till end without skipping a single line.
      And yes I am one of your Udemy student who has benefitted greatly from the video making course.
      Thanks and regards

      1. Thanks Sarajit! I can say the same about your comment – lucid, effective and coherent. Cheers!

    4. This is absolutely mind blowing Kush! Infact all your articles leave a positive impact on us. I wonder how do you write about the exact challenges that people go through. No words to express how I feel but just want to say that we are proud to have a multi-talented personality as our mentor.

      1. Thanks a lot Tapashi! Such comments are very encouraging. Through my blogs I intend to communicate the real life human experiences coaches go through and I’m glad it’s helping!

    5. This is indeed true. I am a professional stock market trader. And this hit me like anything “The best way to get better at something is by teaching it.” To be frank, I started teaching, how to become independent professional trader and make consistent profit in stock market. My skill has improved drastically since I started to teach.

      Amazing article, which has connected my journey.
      And I am here learning from your course to make use of my upcoming online course journey.

      Thank you Kush.

      now let me continue learning from your course 😉

      1. That’s great Faaiz! I’m glad you could related to what I wrote. It’s very true. The degree at which your own skill improves when you teach something is phenomenal.

    6. Great,great article I had ever read..its like exactly written for me at this point of me. Every line is answering my inner struggle..thanks kush.

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