Creatives who work for ourselves can find it hard to position ourselves as the kinds of creative experts we want to be. It’s why so many of us work with coaches, or the experts we admire, to give us that outer perspective. To us, they are that detective standing on the other side of a see-through mirror into our own interrogation room.
This room is the place we all go in our heads when we’re struggling with what to do or say about our business, our brand, or ourselves in our content, through our offerings, or on our website. Those are the outside places where we want to feel boss, but within is the power struggle with ourselves to make the right choices and to say right things. Like a scene out of a crime show you used to watch with your mom on Wednesday nights, the good-cop-bad-cop duo of our best strengths and self-doubts are battling it out right in front of us.
You may be an amazing writer, designer, maker, helper, advisor—but whatever your expertise is, when you’re in this sweaty hot seat of “figuring it all out,” you’re not feeling boss at all. You are feeling uncertain and a little desperate, and doing one of two things:
1. You grasp at all the ideas, messages, and strategies.
You can’t decide which to focus on, so you try a little of everything. Basically, you’re spilling your guts and saying anything you think will stick. “Maybe this, and this, and this, is what I need to move forward! To get more content, more clients, more money, more followers, more brand connection with other people!”
But your detective—whether that’s a real person or just your own sneaking intuition—suspects you’re overcompensating or (by no wrong intention of your own) creating a flashing, big top circus of a diversion from what you’re really all about and what your clients or followers really need and want from you. You’re telling them more than they need to hear—and nothing is quite ringing true.
How do you know if this is you? Most likely you are feeling scattered, spread thin, and unclear. But! On the other hand, you are really putting yourself out there, and that in itself is huge! Because once all of it is out there spinning and blinking and shouting “look at me!” right in front of you, it’s so much easier for you to see what you need to edit or add to shape, to share, to sell, and position yourself the way you really want. Sometimes you may even realize the message you’ve pushed into the corner (that’s been whispering to you all along) is the one you want to bring out into the spotlight.
What to do? Ask yourself this: “If I had to choose, what’s the one thing I want to be known for (on my site, in my brand, or within my offerings)? What would I want to do, share, and sell every single day? What would I stop doing?”
2. Or, maybe you’re not saying or doing anything.
Your natural reaction in the interrogation room of your own making may be the opposite of “do all the things!” Instead, your “all the things” are running in a loop through your mind, and you’re keeping your mouth shut until you figure out the exact perfect thing to say. So you do nothing at all. This only feeds the bad cop. She loves it. This is how she knows she has you where she wants you. But it really frustrates—even saddens—good cop because she’s your best strengths, and when you come to a standstill, she’s afraid she’ll never crack the case. The case is you.
How do you know if this is you? You feel like you’re going in circles. You feel stuck. You may even already have a very respectable website, a beautiful brand, a humming business, a clear offering. But then, when you want to evolve or do something new, it’s like starting over, and into the room you go, and it may be a long time before you can figure out “what’s next?”
What to do? Maybe borrow a little of that recklessness from the other creative that’s in the room next to you spilling her guts and ask, “If I had to just put myself and what I want to be known for out there in the world without overthinking it, knowing I could refine it later – what could I start sharing or selling, right now?”
Whether we’re the creative who does it all, or the creative who gets stuck in the not deciding, we both just want to feel like our purpose and message is clear. If we can get clear, then we can crack the case and move forward. In my work, I get to be the cool, calm detective on the other side looking in—taking notes, seeing patterns, gleaning the clarity, and helping crack the case for them. But believe me, in my own life I am rarely the cool, calm type. I have plenty of my own moments on the other side of that glass, wondering if I’m going to do or say or launch the wrong thing for my own creative business – for my own path.
But I have a secret that comes from being in that intense room and from seeing others in it so many times. The secret is – I like it. I like the room where you get to battle it out, make the decision, pause, rethink it, reframe it, and get the good cop and the bad cop on your side and working for you.
Because the bad cop (let’s call her the tough cop because, really, we love her) makes us pause, get logical, get real, and figure out how to get ourselves out there. While our good cop (inspiring cop because she’s what we know and believe) is the specialness and expertise we want to shape and share with others. She’s why people want to work with us!
The next time you find yourself struggling to express your best self in your brand and business, pretend you are in the room with your tough-but-inspiring duo and ask, who is looking in through the glass at me too? She may be the part of you that can stand back and see the big picture, or maybe she’s just the part of you that is rooting for you as you battle it out. Because for her, this is the show, the thrill, the grit, the work, and she loves it! And when you come out of the room? She can’t wait to see the amazing things you do.