I have a confession to make
I’m not a real artist, I’m just pretending to be an artist. There, I said it. Yes, I am making art, I went to art school (and then dropped out for financial reasons), my art is starting to get noticed, I’ve been accepted to art shows and I could probably get into a gallery if I tried, but I feel as though I’m a fake. I feel like at any moment I’m going to get called out, “She’s not a real artist, she’s just pretending to be one” and the jig will be up. The whole reason that I’m an artist is that I’m calling myself an artist and no one has caught me yet. The more progress I make in the art world, the stronger this feeling gets. Sometimes this feeling is enough to make me want to quit and change course.
The thing is though, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not alone in this. I heard that there’s a name for what I’m feeling, “Imposter Syndrome”, which according to Wikipedia is:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. 
So knowing that this is a thing and I’m not alone helps me to feel better, it doesn’t solve the problem though, the feelings don’t just magically go away. I hope that by sharing my story this issue can start to be discussed more and by it being discussed, fewer people will feel alone. Does anyone else feel this way, and if so, how have you managed to overcome it? I would love to know, please comment below to share your experiences, as I would love to hear them.
Me with my art
4 replies on “Confession”
Carley, you ARE, an artist…..for obvious reasons. So you didn’t finish art school…..so what? So it’s not considered professional because you don’t have a degree or training….so what? To hell with that nonsense, to hell with the so called syndrome. You need to FEEL that you’re an artist, step into it! Your “not feeling enough” will become an obstacle eventually. “Professional” is just something society created, but your talent is god given. Your higher self knows you’re an artist.
I’ve recently come to this knowing. I am just stepping into who i truly am as well. We can’t deny our abilities.
I felt like an imposter the first 3-4 years in my graphic design job after graduating college. It is common, there’s a reason “fake it till you make it” is a thing. Most people at different times of their life feel like imposters, feel like they shouldn’t be where they are. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t help with these thoughts. Once I acknowledged that, and came to the realization that this was not unique to me it helped me move on from those thoughts a bit more. I still feel like an imposter in certain situations, but recognizing it can be a great first step to moving on from it.
I believe personal development and understanding of self can help lead you out of these feelings and thoughts as well. Acceptance of self, the less I internally judge myself and just let myself feel whatever it is I feel in that moment in time helps me move past the bad feels. Try not put judgements on your feelings, “Oh I shouldn’t feel this way, b/c it’s bad” isn’t helpful. I’ve been doing meditation called Loving Kindness that’s been extremely helpful to keep these judgements from overwhelming my brain space.
Finding a community of good positive people to surround yourself with, your positive feedback loop friends, people that inspire you, motivate you and support you can also build confidence. I know I go to dark places in my own head when I lose track of those allies and haven’t socially engaged with them in a while. Having that community around you empowers you and can keep you moving in a positive direction.
The more practice, the more doing of your craft, your art, your skill you build confidence and in time those feelings of feeling like a fake fade. I feel labels and titles can lead to constricting you as well. You may think “artist” means a, b & c, and if you aren’t a, b & c then well you must not be an “artist”. After 10 years of being in my job I have much more confidence in what I do and how I feel about it. Those feelings of being an imposter in my day job have largely faded. Recognizing the progress you have made and keeping your focus on that instead of where you “think you should be” can be a good way to reset your mind and keep you focused on the positive.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Carley, as always it’s helpful to hear from others dealing with these sorts of struggles. It feels less lonesome, knowing there are others that stumble in the dark as well.
I feel that way. Thank you for sharing this, and for giving the definition. I am working at changing my self perception, but it takes courage. Props to you for sharing!
I feel you. It was very enlightening to see a definition of “imposter syndrome.” thanks for sharing.