Originally, I wasn’t going to write a blog post on this, but I saw a post on Instagram (which I’ll show a picture of in a second) that was encouraging creatives to stop thinking of themselves as an imposter and that their work matters. But it got me thinking about the topic of imposter syndrome because I think it’s something that isn’t brought up enough. I’ve talked about my own experiences with imposter syndrome, but never in depth, so this blog post (and future podcast episode!) is the place for that.
The audio version of this blog post will be up on Wednesday! In the meantime, head over to the ‘Podcast’ tab on my website for my previous episodes.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is described as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. Usually people who experience this suffer from chronic self-doubt and fraudulence that keeps them from experiencing their own success.
Most people who experience imposter syndrome are high-achievers or perfectionists. Because nothing is every truly good enough, they constantly raise the bar of what is considered “successful” and what ends up happening is that they never feel that way. It’s a constant race against themselves and most of the time, there’s no winner.
What is Creative Imposter Syndrome?
For creators, this can manifest as feeling like they don’t have ‘real’ talent or that they don’t belong in the creative community. This can manifest for a lot of different reasons (ex. comparing yourself, not going a traditional route, etc.), but the core of it is that you think you aren’t worthy of your accomplishments. That it’s only a matter of time before your followers see that you’re not as good as they think you are.
My Experiences With Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is one of those things that can stem from a multitude of reasons. It may happen due to your personality traits/upbringing (i.e. high achieving personality or a home life that prioritized it over everything else), the culture you grew up in, perfectionism, comparisons, etc. It’s so complex, but everyone has at least felt it once.
Personally, a lot of my feelings of imposter syndrome stem from being a perfectionist, my own anxiety about the future and social media.
Despite what it looks like, I am a huge perfectionist. I’m one of those people who gets frustrated (and usually quits) if something doesn’t go right on the first try. I always start getting in my head about it and I block myself from continuing to learn. It mostly comes from wanting to get to the destination rather than enjoying the journey and because I see people who are doing it better than me. Which makes me wonder why I’m not doing it right. But the one thing that I try to force myself to remember is that everyone had to start somewhere. No one is ever going to be good at something on the first try. It’s just not possible.
As for social media and anxiety, they both go hand in hand.
I personally feel that imposter syndrome has become such an issue now because of the rise in social media. Now we can compare ourselves to other people with the click of a button. It’s impossible to hide away from other people’s successes. It makes it hard to enjoy what we already have if we’re constantly thinking about what we don’t have. I bet that you’ve thought “oh wow, their art is so much better than mine” or “damn, why isn’t my stuff selling as much as (insert random name) even though I’m doing all the same stuff too?” And then it starts to make you wonder if you’ll ever get there, that maybe this was all for nothing. I start having anxiety about my future and about if I’ll ever get to the point where I can do what I love.
But think about all the things you’ve already gained.
I have two examples in particular that would be great to talk about.
So for one, obviously I’m a writer. But I didn’t start trying to monetize off of it until I was around sixteen. By that point, I realized how much I loved writing and how I wanted to try and make a career out of it. Going based off that timeline, I’ve been trying to build my career as a writer for the past five years (I’m 20 now) and I still feel like I’m never going to get anywhere. I follow a lot of self-published authors online and when I see their success with publishing their books and the level of support they get, I find myself getting envious. Or if I see their work, I think that what I write doesn’t equate. I just keep thinking that I’m going to stay stuck where I’m at.
As for the second example, I also own a candle business. I started it during quarantine after being pushed by my family members and a couple of my friends. At first, I wasn’t too worried about gaining anything from it because I had just started. I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight. But now, after two and half years and a complete rebrand, I don’t understand why people aren’t flocking to it as much as I want them too. I see other people who started candle businesses during quarantine who are doing so much better than me and it makes feel so small. Like maybe my stuff isn’t as good as I think it is. Sometimes I think about quitting (same goes for writing) because I wonder how long it’s going to take before I see anything come of it.
But like I stated before, think about all of the things you’ve already gained.
With writing, I’ve published four books. Four. That’s amazing and everyone else seems to think it’s cool when I bring it up. I have a blog that’s doing pretty well now that I picked it back up. I started the podcast of my dreams. And I’m working on my fifth book that I can’t wait to finish. I’ve come so far even if most days it doesn’t feel like it and I should be grateful for that. Of course I’m going to strive for more, because who doesn’t, but I should also be proud of what I have accomplished instead of thinking that slowness equals failure.
The same thing applies to my candle business. I attended my first pop-up before 2021 ended and I really felt like someone. My table was amazing and I was really able to get myself out there. The past two and half years have been a period of finding my niche as a candlemaker and best believe I’ve improved a lot. So even though I’m not receiving as much money as I would like or I’m not like these other people who have thousands of orders, I’m still successful because I did something at 20 that most people wouldn’t have the courage to do. I had a dream and I achieved it.
So maybe my version of success is going to be different from everyone else’s. And that’s okay. The same goes for you too.
You’re not an imposter because you didn’t go down a “traditional route” or you feel like you aren’t getting to where you want fast enough. Everything you do is valid and you’re more talented than you think. Enjoy the things you’ve already accomplished and I promise you that your time will come one day.
How To Conquer Imposter Syndrome
Honestly, conquering it takes time. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I can give you tips on how to minimize it so that it doesn’t feel as overwhelming.
- Share your feelings: Find someone you trust and talk about what’s going on. Or journal about your feelings. The faster you get them out, the less you’ll fester over it. It’s a normal emotion that a lot of people feel, but it’s important to not get so caught up in it that you lower your own vibrations.
- Assess your abilities: Usually with imposter syndrome, we tend to think that everything we do sucks. So challenge those thoughts by writing down what you are good at and the next time you start to feel that way, just look back at it.
- Question your thoughts: I actually attended therapy for a couple months to deal with my anxiety and this is one of the biggest things I learned. The moment you start feeling that negative thought creep up, challenge it with facts. You feel like a fraud? Think about your accomplishments. You feel like you’re stuff isn’t good enough? Go back and see how far you’ve come so you can see the improvements. Most of the time these thoughts aren’t rational, so you have to be able to challenge them with logic.
- Stop comparing: This is so important if you want to start conquering imposter syndrome. Obviously this is something I’m still trying to work on and it isn’t something that’s going to get easier. But every time you compare yourself to other people, you’re just feeding into the fear that you keep having. So use them as a learning experience rather than a way to prove your own thoughts.
- Use social media less: Be as authentic as you can and stop striving for an image that you think you should be portraying because of what you see online. Of course social media is important to get yourself out there and it can be a great tool, but like everything, it should be used in moderation.
- Stop letting it hold you back: Keep going. Even if it gets tough, remember why you started in the first place. Like that Instagram posts says: you’re not an imposter and your work is just going to continue to grow. It’s only a matter of time.
Imposter syndrome is a bitch, but it doesn’t have to steal your joy.
It’s something we all have to work on, but it’s not impossible. You matter. Your work matters. And despite what you think: you are not an imposter.
Until next time!
-The Writer Chick