‘Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.’ - Kate Winslet.
How often have you done your best to convince yourself that everything you’re doing is wrong? Or perhaps you don’t deserve any of the success or accolades you’ve received so far? Sounds familiar? Well, that’s called imposter syndrome. The sinking feeling that you are a phoney and people will find out one day that you aren’t as talented as they think you are: that is imposter syndrome.
Let me tell you something that happened to me just a couple of weeks back. I submitted a post for the Sketch Design Repeat blog that seemed thorough and well-written at that time. However, within a day, I began doubting the quality of my writing. I read and re-read the article till I was sure I had turned in the worst piece of writing ever! I had this gut-eating urge to rewrite and resubmit the blog post, but instead, I did everything it took to make peace with what I had already written.
Imposter syndrome can affect people from all walks of life, but it is more common in writers and artists. We often see seasoned artists and designers talk about their work with confidence, but that does not mean they don't suffer the wrath of imposter syndrome. Most people deal with the feeling of being insufficient at some point in their lives.
Do you have imposter syndrome? 5 signs you should look out for.
1. You don’t like making mistakes.
You cannot bear the thought of making mistakes, which is why you work extra hard. People might even call you an overachiever, but you don’t seem to agree. You beat yourself about for even the slightest flaw in your work.
2. You don’t think you can do something well.
This might seem contradictory to the part about you being an overachiever, but the two go hand-in-hand. You put more effort into a task than required because you believe you aren't capable of doing it well.
3. You set lofty goals you know you can’t achieve.
See how this builds upon the two signs we already spoke about? You think you can't do justice to a task you undertake. So you set out to hustle and do more work than you need to. To do so, you end up setting goals that are either impossible to achieve or will lead to burnout.
4. You can’t accept feedback.
Here's what this can look like: You just put in 200 per cent of your effort, energy, and time into a task. You don't realize that hard work does not always translate to perfect results. An outsider sees what you've done and suggests how you can do better. Instead of taking it as constructive criticism, you're sure the other person does not value your talent and abilities.
5. You are a people-pleaser.
Why does feedback seem like an attack to you? That's because you are a people-pleaser. You don't accept the simple fact that you cannot make the whole world happy.
Did you just realize you have imposter syndrome? Well, there's no need to fret because all it takes is keeping in mind and practising ten simple strategies.
10 Ways You Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Artist
1. Don't fake it until you make it.
Have you ever heard people telling you to fake it 'til you make it? IMHO, that advice is complete BS, and let me tell you why. For starters, it puts a lot of pressure on you to perform. Second, it adds to the feeling of being an imposter. Instead, practice till you make it, and you'll feel way more confident.
2. Do a SWOT analysis
Did you think companies alone do SWOT analyses? I thought so too until I had to teach my students how to do a SWOT analysis for themselves. In case you didn't know, a SWOT analysis helps you take stock of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
3. Focus on your strengths
After noting your strengths and weakness, you might feel tempted to work on the latter. That is typical of someone with imposter syndrome. But when you focus on your strengths, you identify what you're good at and leverage that to build your confidence.
4. Practice helping others/mentor other artists
To leverage your strengths, try helping others hone their skills. Consider mentoring artists who are just starting their professional journey. You don't have to consider full-fledged teaching yet. You could perhaps answer simple questions that they have so that they know they can turn to you in times of need.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Artists.
I know this is a tough ask, but comparison with other artists is way more common than you can ever imagine. So many times, I wish I could use more texture in my work (and maybe I will), but that desire comes from peer pressure, which is neither motivating enough nor sustainable. So, stop comparing yourself to others because your approach and perspectives are unique, and no one can deny that.
6. Share Your Work
Sharing your art with the world may seem intimidating at first. But as I keep harping, practice can solve this problem as well. Muster up all the courage you can the first few times. As you make sharing your work a regular thing, notice how you start looking forward to it.
7. Go easy on yourself
Do you hold yourself to high standards all the time? This might be a good time to pull the reins. Success isn't a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. What success looks like for me will look different for you. So give yourself some grace if you don't always meet your expectations.
8. Stop trying to please everyone
When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. No matter what we do, we need to accept the hard fact that we simply cannot dance to everyone's tunes. Instead, make art because you love doing it.
9. Ask for and take feedback
I know I just asked you to make art because you love doing it. But to see improvement, brace yourself to ask for and receive feedback. Believe me, most people are kind and honest, and will give you feedback that will help.
10. Work on your self-confidence
Finally, it all boils down to your confidence. I know it isn't easy to be confident when you have imposter syndrome, but it's the only thing that can help you manage feelings of inadequacy.
Need some help building your confidence? Check out these easy-peasy confidence-building exercises.