According to the dictionary, imposter syndrome refers to “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”
Basically, it’s that annoying voice in your head telling you you’re a fraud, your success is just luck, and people are going to catch onto you soon. Out in the world, people may be praising your achievements, your art may have gone viral, or your products may have increased in popularity. But internally, you can’t help but think, “Surely this is a fluke. I’m not good enough to deserve this.”
A vast majority of the population will experience some form of imposter syndrome over the course of their lives. As creatives, it can be easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, as success in these fields can be so subjectively defined. The good news is that there are ways to overcome these negative thoughts and feelings.
A Brief History
Imposter syndrome was first studied by Drs. Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s, when therapist Dr. Clance noticed that a number of her undergrad patients expressed that they felt they did not deserve their place at the university, despite having high grades and praise-worthy achievements.
Since then, it has been studied across different age, race and gender groups; and while it is not defined as a psychological disorder, people who experience it may often experience feelings of anxiety, stress and depression along with it.
Typically, people who struggle with IS fail to internalize their successes. They may underestimate their achievements, while overestimating the achievements of others. They may believe their success is a result of chance or luck, and often end up overworking or self-sabotaging to combat these feelings of inadequacy.
Kick IS in the A**
Imposter syndrome sucks. We know. As creatives, it can often negatively impact our work and leave us feeling demotivated or unwilling to continue doing what we love.
So the question is, how do we deal with it?
Well, here are 6 tips to help deal with imposter syndrome:
Tip 1 – Get Off Social Media
Take a minute to think – and we mean really think – about how you feel after spending time on social media. Now, whether you believe social media is good or bad is up to you. But we can almost guarantee that at some point in your scrolling, you’ve looked at a photograph or video and thought, “Damn, I wish that were me.”
The problem with social media is that it is so easy for us to fall into the comparison trap, which really isn’t good for the self-esteem. We’re not saying you need to quit social media once and for all – there are certainly benefits to it, especially when it comes to marketing your tattoo work or your art – but it’s healthy to take breaks. Often.
While seeing what others have achieved can be inspiring, there comes a point when looking at all the great things that people are doing leaves us second-guessing our own success and abilities, since we forget that there are real human beings behind the curated feed, experiencing the same real human problems we are.
Set up timers and reminders to get off Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. And when you do decide to do some scrolling, take everything you see with a pinch of salt.
Tip 2 – Get Distracted
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of insecurity, take a step back, take a deep breath, and do something that makes you feel good. You might not have the mental capacity to process and deal with your emotions in the moment – and that’s okay. Sometimes it helps to just shove the feelings down for a minute and get distracted doing something easy and enjoyable. Try going for a walk, listening to some music, or petting a dog. Petting a dog always helps.
Tip 3 – Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Think back on your past achievements and ask yourself, what have you accomplished today that younger you could have only dreamed about?
The problem with imposter syndrome is that we don’t really think about all the steps we have taken to move forward and achieve our goals. When we set goals and achieve them, we tend to quickly forget the feeling of satisfaction that comes with it and move straight on to work with the next one. Take time to remind yourself of all the cool things you’ve done.
Nailed a new tattoo technique or style? That’s an achievement. Hit 1000 views on YouTube? That’s an achievement. Completely booked up for the next month? That’s an achievement. Won an award for your work? That’s an achievement.
Whether an achievement is big or small, you need to remember that because of you and YOUR hard work, these things happened. Sure, there may have been others in your circle that worked just as hard and also deserve recognition and praise, but you’re allowed to acknowledge your part in it. You’re allowed to give yourself a pat on the back.
Focus on the good stuff. Congratulate yourself as if you were congratulating a friend. Sounds cheesy, but it works.
Tip 4 – Get It On Paper
Writing down your thoughts and frustrations can ease stress and diminish negative thought patterns. So take out a piece of paper and a pen, and let it out. Rant and rave. After all, no one has to read it but you. Write down every thought, feeling and belief you have about yourself. Doing this can put things into perspective. And once you’ve gotten the bad stuff out, try writing down some things you’ve done over the last while that you’re proud of. Go on, hype yourself up a little bit.
Tip 5 – Say It Out Loud
When imposter syndrome hits, it can feel like you’re the only person on earth who could possibly feel this way. Try talking to a close friend or co-worker about what you’re feeling, and you might just realize that there are others who feel exactly the same. In fact, you’ll probably find that most people in the creative industry have experienced some form of IS throughout their career. Opening up to someone you trust can be extremely cathartic, and some more experienced folk might even have some advice and tips of their own to share on the topic.
Tip 6 – Use It as a Tool
Imposter syndrome often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt, which can leave you feeling emotionally crippled and creatively drained. If there’s one piece of advice we want you to take, it’s to not let these feelings stop you from continuing to do what you love. Use these feelings of inadequacy to fuel your passion, to continue to work hard at your craft, and as a reminder to stay humble when opportunities and success comes your way.
Also know that when IS arises, those feelings are normal and you’re not alone.