How impostor syndrome may slowdown your creative professional career?
I’ve been working with artists and creatives from various different fields for almost 20 years now. Especially lately (thanks to social media’s pressure and comparison it agitates), I’ve noticed that more and more creative professionals are talking about the heavy burden of the impostor syndrome they are dealing with. Musician who has practiced for 20 years tell me they still are not sure if they are “allowed” to be professionals. Designer who is sending work to international clients thinks it’s not enough to say they are successful in their work – it’s just luck, they say. Painter who is exhibiting in a gallery and praised by the art critics thinks the critic is perhaps trying to please the gallerist or has a “hidden agenda”. The person feels like they could be exposed as a fraud at any moment by anyone.
All these stories of not being enough, not trusting yourself and especially not trusting other peoples judgement is causing negative side effects. Aiming low, talking down to oneself, or not enjoying the little successes – make the creative process heavier and sometimes even meaningless. Creative process itself is already a slow and self-critical enigma and even hard to verbalise. The selection of emotions in a creative process vary from anger to euphoria and all that already is so self-judging engagement, so how about giving yourself some compassion and letting go of thoughts that let you down.
In this following list I want to briefly write down some ideas how to overcome negative thoughts which strengthen the impostor syndrome.
Be kind to yourself, if you find even one of these ideas useful try adapting it slowly – change is a slow process.
– The nature of creative work is making you more vulnerable for feeling inadequate. Even more so if you are not classically trained. By understanding this you may understand that actually you are strong enough to work with private and personal thoughts and feelings others try to avoid facing sometimes their whole lifetime. Give yourself credit for being fearless and true to yourself.
– Dissatisfaction can of course push people to better results, but the secret is to develop positive habits. Think what are those positive habits you can do everyday – some people love lists others love eating healthy. We are all different – choose your own habits you can maintain.
– Talk about it. You’re not alone – in many cases there will be many, many others suffering from the same thing you are. Creative work often isolates people – global pandemia has that effect too – make time to see or hear from other people.
– Relax and take a break. Don’t push yourself to extremes. Sleep – make an effort to get a goodnight sleep. Do something else than creative work: exercise, go for a walk, watch a documentary, cook, unwind. Do something you have been avoiding to do.
– Sharing your creative content is really personal so you are brave by sharing it. Congratulate yourself for being strong enough to share the work you loved to create. You are always winning your insecurities by sharing your work – take credit for it.
The list above is just a short reminder that there actually are things you can do to change your habits. Remember you can change and not everything has to be perfect all the time – enough is just good enough.
This series will share thoughts about how to focus on more compassion, supportive and hopeful way of working as a creative.
The texts are based on Laura Köönikkä’s experience and professional practice as a solution-focused work coach and mentor for creatives and other professionals.
Photograph: Ninni Vidgren