Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an Artist
I’ll let you in on a little secret — this so called “imposter syndrome” is a UNIVERSAL experience that every single person encounters at some point in their life. They may not all put a name to it, but it’s there.
I really believe as artists we are especially at risk to this Imposter experience — our art is SO personal, and at our core we are more aware and in tune to these emotional shifts (this sensitivity is exactly what makes us good artists!) so consequently combining our passion with desire for profit comes at a cost.
I, myself, face this daily and it’s taken many forms over the years — beginning out of college when I just started selling my work… “Who I am I to be an artist? I don’t have a Masters (nor a desire to get one). My work doesn’t pose deep, conceptual questions or challenge the status quo of contemporary art. My work is just pretty. What would my professors think of me?”
Writing those out now, I’m acutely aware of how many of these fears still linger with me. (Mainly, my professors opinion of me… those I admired so much through school. What would they think of my work now, I can just imagine them describing it as “decorative” with their noses in the air, especially selling it through my own website and not a prestigious gallery) Well, one — a former painting professor is now selling her own work through her own website, ha! And, two — I just can’t care. And more than anything, I think/hope they would simply be proud of me — one of the few working artists from my graduating class. Even if it doesn’t fit the mold they shaped throughout my four years at university.
And even now, with the launch of The Studio Source I have found myself in moments of sheer panic and anxiety — Maybe this was all a mistake? Who am I to think I could lead a group of artists? There are so many more artists out there who have been doing this longer, and more successful than I am. Who would want to learn from me? What if they find out I’m just a fraud?
Real talk: I almost deleted that last paragraph out of fear and insecurity. It’s taking all my strength to leave that in and expose my vulnerabilities.
But here’s what I’ve discovered: The success you have as an artist, or business owner, is not dependent on squashing your fears and insecurities altogether. I’m not totally sure that’s even possible. But instead, success is determined by how you cope with it. How you acknowledge those fears, examine and really understand why they are with you, how are they making you feel, and then build resistance and tolerance towards them — get comfortable being uncomfortable.
By sharing artwork so personal to you, you are inevitably putting yourself at risk. But you must realize those fears are simply indicators of growth, of pushing beyond your comfort zones, and you must persist in spite of them.
Eventually, with time and experience, you will move beyond it. I promise. Your confidence grows, your insecurities silence, and you will look back and have a hard time imagining how you ever felt that way. (But guys — sorry to break it to you, this typically is the time to move onto something bigger, take another huge risk, and have this cycle starts all over again) = Growth.
Please know you are not alone in this. We are all facing these struggles. But those that are most successful, are those that have learned to not let those fears determine their future.
Acknowledge your fear, understand it, and then get comfortable existing in a space with it.