I woke up one day a few weeks back feeling like an impostor. It seemed like I was pretending to be all of the different things I consider myself to be or aspire to be and I felt very undeserving of the tittles I was giving myself. Architect? Writer? Fashion Designer? Blogger? Creative Consultant? I felt like an impostor.
Does this sound familiar?
Personally, it’s always been hard for me to accept tittles in regards to my creative endeavors. I never felt like I was “artist” enough to call myself an artist. Later on I learned that there is a thing called Impostor Syndrome which is when you feel like a phony, a fake, a cheap imitation of whatever it is that you want to be even if you do possess the abilities to claim those tittles.
It’s still a bit hard to confront these feelings as I write but I figured, what better therapy than writing it all out and looking at things from an objective perspective right?
Let’s decompose this Impostor Syndrome and get to the bottom of things.
The Emotional Roots
It is my personal opinion that the impostor syndrome ultimately boils down to a deep rooted feeling of not being good enough. Where that feeling stems from and when it started is different for each of us and will take some introspection and self assessment that we all have to do sooner or later in our lives but as soon as we figure out exactly where it stems from and start healing those emotional scars it gets easier to identify areas in your life where you might not be feeling good enough and heal them.
Personally, I have a couple I’m going to share with you. The first moment I remember feeling like I wasn’t enough in some way was when my brother was born and grown enough for my dad to teach him things like how to fix a broken extension cord. As small and insignificant as that might seem it had a bigger impact on me than I could have imagined. It’s not that I was ever really interested in learning how to fix an extension cord, but the fact that my dad never thought to teach me that but as soon as my brother as old enough to mess with electric cables he taught it to him made me feel like I wasn’t good enough or that he didn’t think I was good enough to handle that or that in some way I was less valuable to him as a daughter than my brother was because he was a boy. It’s definitely not something I registered or had the emotional maturity to articulate at that time but being older now I can finally express in words what that feeling was.
A second situation where that feeling emerged was when I realized I had many interests which were completely different from one another. I dabbled in learning how to play the piano, martial arts, volleyball, basketball, ballet and other forms of dance, etc. I felt like the reason my interests shifted so quickly and so vastly was because I wasn’t really good at any of them. I actually wasn’t bad at any of them and I could probably teach the skills I learned to someone else but I still registered that experience of flip-flopping through different interests as me not being good enough at any of them to claim the tittle that came with them. So these are just 2 examples of how deep rooted emotional issues can foster that feeling of being an impostor.
When you come across someone who has maybe put in more hours than you have, has been doing whatever you’re interested in for longer and therefore is better at it than you or is already established in the field it makes us feel like we’re so behind that we’ll never be able to catch up and that’s a very toxic feeling to harbor.
Another thing that looking at people who are already established in a field does is perpetuate this false belief that there is a specific way to go about doing whatever you are you’re interested in and that if you do things differently or in a way that’s not exactly compliant with the “norms” or stereotypes of how you’re supposed to work in that field we tend to feel like we might be wrong and therefore not qualified to hold the tittle of whatever it is we aspire to be.
A lot of times we get sucked into looking at our chapter 1 and comparing it with someone else’s chapter 20 and that’s not a fair comparison. Social media also tends to make it harder to look at things objectively because people mostly share the highlights of their journey to becoming what they want to become and when we go through the same road and find all the same obstacles they found but didn’t report we feel like we’re doing something wrong and that we must not be cut out to be what we aspire to be.
We need to understand that it’s not fair to compare our beginning to someone else’s middle or end and with social media, it’s important to always keep in mind that whatever we see are merely highlights and the true journey is always way rockier than people make it seem.
Something that helps me a lot with getting passed these feelings is reading biographies of successful people. They give insights into all of the other things we usually don’t see about their journey and help me keep a critical eye and have a down to earth, more realistic perspective about what it took for them to get where they got.
In regards to there being a “right” way of getting to where we want to go I have to mention something we previously talked about here on the blog: there are no gatekeepers and therefore there is no absolute right or wrong way of getting to where we want to go. Your unique approach to things might just be the next innovative way of accessing your particular field. It will give you a unique experience and that’s definitely worth exploring. There are no absolute right or wrong ways of doing things.
The Illusion Of Complete Originality
At the risk of ruffling some feathers here, I believe the basis for everything we’re ever going to create has already been invented. There are no completely new and original ideas out there. But before you crucify me, hear me out…
The Truth About Creativity
A creative idea is a unique combination of all the previous ideas that already exist in the universe. Now, because each of us has a different set of influences and life experiences there are infinite ways to combine these already existing ideas that will be unique to each and every one of us because of our different life experiences and influences and how we combine them gives birth to the “creative” idea.
A lot of times, we feel like if our idea isn’t completely fresh, never before thought of by anyone else then it’s worthless and that simply isn’t true. There is a certain “newness” to the way YOU formulate a particular idea because your particular life experiences give a uniqueness to that idea.
This is something I’ll never get tired of repeating: the way we speak about things shape the way they appear (or lack) in our lives. I still struggle with calling myself all of the things I aspire to be or by some measures, already am. It’s important to claim the tittles you want. If you write and publish your work, even if not that many people see it, you are a writer (or blogger, if you feel more comfortable with that term). Claim that. If you make music in your basement and only share it with your friends because you’re not confident enough to share it with the world yet, you are still a musician. Claim it.
Now, I know some people who are already established in those fields might get offended by this. I know particularly with photography there’s this stigma because everybody who buys a DSLR calls themselves a photographer and I do understand where the discontent comes from. There is a difference between a person who’s hastingly claiming a tittle because it’s fashionable at the time and a person who truly enjoys the art, has the skills and/or is taking strides to become better and better at it. So if you fall onto the latter description, by all means claim it.
We Severely Underestimate Our Abilities
And this is a topic I’ll expand on in the near future but the essence of it is that we tend to underestimate our knowledge/ability to do things. And I guess it’s mainly a societal disease because society tends to glorify things like low self esteem and we internalize this without knowing and the consequences of this internalized low self esteem reveal themselves when it’s time to turn our ideas into reality.
“What do you mean by society glorifying low self esteem?” you might be asking. Well, for example, look at how the idea of the “beautiful girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful” is portrayed as ideal or even romantic. What’s beautiful about having low self esteem? What’s beautiful about needing other people to validate your beauty?
Another example is how, when someone gives us a compliment we tend to downplay it because the idea of “modesty” is glorified when what it’s really doing is teaching us we don’t really deserve the compliment we got. For example, when someone compliments your outfit and you say “Oh, this old thing?” or “I put this together in such a rush” and mention all the things wrong with your outfit or what you’d need to make it perfect instead of accepting the compliment with a “thank you” is a clear sign of how we’re encouraged not to acknowledge our own good taste or beauty or intelligence or abilities to do different things. Now, I’m not telling you to go out to the world and brag about any and everything you’re good at, what I’m saying is to stop downplaying your skills and abilities.
A Note On Outside Validation
Don’t wait for other people to acknowledge that you are good at something for you to start to believe it. Linking your self worth to other people’s validation is a very dangerous thing to do because once you’re in an environment where people don’t have the time to tell you you’re good at something you’ll start to doubt yourself and that’s not what we want. Validation needs to come from the inside. We have to learn to tell ourselves all the good things and compliments we wish others would tell us and learn to believe ourselves when we do.
Sometimes we are very stuck on old patterns of negative self talk like telling ourselves we’re not good enough at baking to be a baker for example and talking to ourselves like that is highly detrimental. Imagine if your best friend told you day in and day out that you’re not good at the thing you love to do and have been working hard at. How would that make you feel? You’d probably stop hanging out with that person pretty quickly and find yourself a new best friend. Well, then why do we accept that kind of negative self talk from ourselves?
It’s Not Going To Change Overnight
Like most things in life, especially with habits and mindsets, changing the way you feel about yourself, your skills and abilities takes time and active effort. Practicing these little things like calling yourself by the tittle you’re afraid to claim, acknowledging and accepting compliments and practicing not downplaying your skills, taking the time to analyze the root of those feelings of not being good enough and healing them, all of this takes time and practice but as you do them you’ll feel more and more secure and confident that you are a writer, a musician, an actor or whatever it is you aspire to be. Healing takes time.
And that’s it for today! Thank you all for sticking with me and coming back to check on the blog while I was gone dealing with my own impostor syndrome. Glad that’s over! Now it’s on with our regularly scheduled program!
Do you battle with an Impostor Syndrome? What do you do to combat it or what are some specific areas in your life you’d like help with feeling more confident about? Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them all below!!