Fighting Impostor Syndrome

By • 6 years ago with 13 replies already

Creatives, it’s time for a hearty dose of motivation. We’re well into February and, for many of us, the fresh start attitude of the new year is wearing off, and our excitement for achieving our goals and resolutions is starting to wane. When you start feeling like “faking it ’til you make it” is all faking and no making, here are some things to keep in mind to help you fight Impostor Syndrome.

There is no such thing as the Art Police

When you’re feeling more discouraged than inspired, it’s easy to start believing that little voice in the back of your head that says you’re a fraud or that you’re not a “real” artist, photographer, designer or creator. You might start thinking, “what if someone finds out that I’m just pretending?” When we’re feeling good about our creativity, we know these thoughts aren’t true. If you are creating art, then you’re an artist! It’s as simple as that. Remember that there is no such thing as the “Art Police.” There is no great authority on creativity that is going to show up at your door to tell you that you’re not allowed to create. If you’re feeling like you need permission to accomplish the things you want to do, remember that you don’t need it!

Even “successful” people feel doubt

Here’s the big secret about Impostor Syndrome: nearly all of us deal with it at some point in our lives! Even the most well-known and prolific creators sometimes feel as if they’re waiting for someone to catch on that they’re just making it up as they go along. A quick internet search will bring up all sorts of famous creatives who sometimes feel like frauds: Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, Neil Gaiman, Sheryl Sandberg, and Tina Fey are just a few names you might recognize. The truth is that no one has everything figured out, and we’re all trying the best we know how. If you’re feeling like a fraud, you’re in good company with some great artists. If they can feel the same way and still keep on creating, so can you.

Every failure is a step toward doing better next time

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” This quote by Samuel Beckett sums up a really important idea for all of us, not just creators. The most important thing to remember as a creator is that every “failure” is simply practice! The vast majority of people aren’t going to be immediately stellar at everything we try. Every time you “fail,” you’re actually just learning. When you frame your thinking this way you realize how important your failures are, and how important it is to keep on “failing better.” You’re on a journey, and the only way to move forward in your journey is by practicing, trying new things and trying again even when the results aren’t perfect.

Be inspired by others, but only compare yourself to yourself

There’s a whole wide world of inspiration out there, and some amazing creators that can open our eyes and minds to brand new ideas. Doing research, studying masters, and taking in new things are all great for inspiring our creativity. One pitfall to avoid, however, is viewing all of the great art that already exists in the world as a milestone for your own work. We should all have goals, but the only creator you should ever compare yourself to is yourself! When you take a step back and see the difference that practice and perseverance have made between “Past You” and “Present You,” you’ll have the right perspective to see just how much you’ve achieved.

Stop thinking, start doing

The best way to fight Impostor Syndrome is to DO and MAKE. When you dwell on the feeling of not being good enough or not being a “real” creator, it allows that feeling to grow. When you’re not feeling like a “real artist,” the best thing to do is to actually create something – anything! When you stop thinking and start doing, you’re immediately proving that feeling wrong. By making something, you’re refusing to let Impostor Syndrome have power over you to keep you from accomplishing your goals. Then, when those goals start small and grow incrementally, you’re setting yourself up for success. Don’t get bogged down by one big goal that you feel you need to achieve right away – take your journey step by step and you’ll find you’ve come a long way in no time.

Impostor Syndrome is something that nearly everyone experiences at some point in their lives. If you can recognize this feeling for what it is, you can set it aside and not let it keep you from trying again and creating more. Keep going!

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13 thoughts on “Fighting Impostor Syndrome”

  1. You’re bang on with the comment that if you’re creating art, you’re an artist. As soon as you put brush to canvas, pencil to paper, pen to graphics tablet, then you’re an artist. I think that it’s in creating art that we are most in touch with who we really are!

    As for comparing ourselves to others – I saw Sam Smith, the singer, on television a while back and he said something that touched a chord. When he had been feeling that his music career was going nowhere, and that his peers were succeeding, his mother said to him, “Sam, their success is not your failure”.

    As we say in Scotland – Always listen to yer ma!

  2. I have not drawn in several decades, both freehand or digitally. I look at others work, and it greatly inspires me to want to draw again, but then yet — I can’t help but get that sinking feeling that my work would not compare to .. theirs.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Liz. I have to admit I do periodically feel I’m not really an artist. But I do know that I’m a creative and that I am compelled to create something on an ongoing basis.
    When I was in New Mexico studying art therapy, I discovered that creating is not only satisfying but it is healing. I saw so many people benefit from the creative process. To this day, I encourage everyone to find a way to express themselves creatively.

  4. Great post — I get Imposter Syndrome all the time – especially as a digital artist in a world of traditional media artists. Thanks for the inspiration — I’m sharing this post on my FB page today.

    1. Yes, exactly! As a digital artist, it’s so easy to feel that you’re an imposter since you’re not creating with a paintbrush or with pastels. I totally agree with that feeling.

  5. Thanks for a really great article! There are some really good points here. That even famous people sometimes doubt themselves. That failing is learning. And that sometimes one can be over thinking things; there comes a time when you need to just do it! Thanks for these great reminders.

  6. When in a creative slump I find that trying out something entirely new that I have never done before gets me back in the groove. For instance trying out new design software that I can’t possibly be good at gives me a boost of creative energy and a sense of accomplishment when I create something with it- doesn’t matter if it’s good or not!

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