[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love creating, but hate sharing it. I despise people complimenting my work. I hate it because I never believe it is good enough – nor note-worthy, nor original, nor finished. I often ask myself, “Who am I to think I can contribute or make an impact in this world?”. It’s difficult to not self-doubt when looking at others’ abilities, achievements, and talents. After all, all I see on socials are people putting themselves out there. Sharing what they’ve made, seeming so proud. I find myself waiting for someone to yell “joke’s on you!” and catch me out as the imposter I am. I have imposter syndrome and it sucks, so I thought why not write about it and ALL the shit I think comes along with it.
Basically, I am always criticising and finding problems with what I offer to the creative gods.
I know I am not the only one. A lot of us have this issue with imposter syndrome. Feeling that we are going to be caught out any second. I can hear it now, “She thought she could create something meaningful – haha”.
I know a lot of us struggle with this because even Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein did! It is scary. I am trying to fix it, figure out how we can back ourselves more and find a balance between being overly confident and having already accepted you are a complete failure.
I went away for the weekend and sat staring at the pier as the sun set. The waves were gold-rimmed and the air was sweet and for a second, I felt like a real author somewhere in the south of France.
There was a man fishing on the pier. He threw in his net and pulled it up, but to my disappointment it was empty. It happened again and again and again. I kept wondering how he was able to continue. Why would he keep trying? I would’ve given up after the first two, being completely self-conscious about the fact that I was obviously failing. And then a fish lay flopping about on the wood and I was jumping up and down with excitement. Obviously, the fisherman was not excited – this was normal, this was expected – but to me, an outsider, it was the best thing ever. And then he continued to draw more empty nets until it got dark and he couldn’t see anymore. He was content, I could tell.
This moment stuck with me. He knew what he was doing. He knew what to expect and didn’t care what it looked like, or so it seemed. I wish I were like that. But this feeling of being an imposter would have kept me from even trying.
How do we solve imposter syndrome?
I looked up imposter syndrome and watched a really good Ted-Talk on it. In it I learnt that one of the biggest things we can do to help ourselves out of this self-doubting shit show is to actually admit that we feel that way. So, I do it. I message Melissa, one of the founders of this online publication and a woman I look up to as an artist and creator, and I admit that I think I suck. She can confirm that with every post I submit I tell her “this is the worst one yet. So bad, you don’t have to publish it.” (I will obviously do so with this one as well) And every time she reminds me that it isn’t. But she also acknowledges that she has the same fears, and that helps. If she feels like that, if an amazing artist has imposter syndrome then I am not alone and then my imposter syndrome is just that. Not truth that I am an imposter, but just a syndrome or experience.
Maybe the fisherman felt that way too, but it didn’t seem that way to me, because there isn’t a real threshold to success. How do we measure it? We are always aiming for higher, but where is the highest? If Einstein wasn’t it (according to himself) what is? We don’t think we are capable because we cannot recognise our own skill level and abilities. That which only we have to offer this world. And we all feel alone, in our own little boats.
How amazing would it be if we all just confessed? Confessed that we think we know nothing. That we feel like we are faking it till we make it. We will break so many false ideas and free people to be able to offer to the world what they were made to. It isn’t an easy road, and I know it might never be completely gone. It will always be there, the little whisper… but I can manage it getting better. I can look at an artist’s creation, be in awe of it and know, know that they struggle with the same fears and I can encourage and uplift them.
Instead of doing that we turn to jealousy and the need to prove we are better… or at least equal. I do anyway. I think it’s the easier way. It’s easier to turn your fears in to fuel than to face them and let them go. So, we post more and compare likes, and delete a post if it didn’t get enough traction.
Do you do that? Do you compare? Am I the only one? I hope not because that might make me seem like the worst human ever. When we create something that gives that external validation, the unicorn piece, then we feel better for a while, but the whisper comes back. And we chase the next high.
What if we flipped it? What if we celebrated ourselves? Celebrated the ability and beauty within ourselves, while admitting we fear being an imposter. How much greater will our art be, how much more authentic, real, and raw? And then, maybe then we might celebrate each other and see ourselves in others, rather than just competition. Just maybe we might not feel like imposters, but family, being excited for one another as I was about the fisherman catching that one fish.