Confessions: Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever feel like your accomplishments and successes are nothing more than mere luck, rather than accepting the fact that you did something well and should be proud? Do you worry that people will somehow find out the "truth" (it's not the truth) and think you're just a phoney who doesn't know what they're doing?

Guess what! You are not alone, and you're also wrong. And I mean that in the best way.

"Impostor Syndrome is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud"." —Wikipedia

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I have a feeling that creative people experience this quite frequently. For me it isn't an ongoing feeling (thankfully) - it just comes in waves every so often. My feelings about my work and my business fluctuate. Some days I'm thrilled with a new accomplishment, or meeting an awesome new client, or delivering finished artwork for their home... everything is going well and I'm excited about the future. But then some days come, and for whatever reason this little part of my brain insists that I don't know what I'm doing at all. The beautiful images I've created are mostly just luck... that any new photographer could do better work than me if they tried... that my clients and followers will think I'm no good, etc.

Why do our brains do this? Rationally I know that this voice isn't telling the truth, but it can be hard to fight it on those days. I know that I've worked hard for years to get to where I am right now. I know that I've built great relationships with my clients and they genuinely do love my work. I know that I do have a skill that not everyone with a camera can replicate. But I think sometimes our brains don't allow us to feel "too much" pride in our accomplishments. I think we subconsciously remember how often our society has shamed people for feeling "too confident" in themselves. So if things are going really well for us and we're feeling really good about our achievements, our brain decides to knock us down a peg, just to keep us in check.

I really wish it wouldn't, though! Most of us already spend so much time feeling bad about ourselves and having low self-esteem. I've finally found something I'm pretty good at and I thoroughly enjoy, so it's nice to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride sometimes. I'm sure the same is true for you as well!

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"I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'" — Maya Angelou

To combat Impostor Syndrome the last time it appeared for me, I decided to write some affirmations to myself. I reminded myself of the things I knew to be true every other day, even though it was hard to truly believe them that day. I reminded myself of my worth, of my skills, of the time spent educating myself in this field and business, of my clients who love their images, and of all the other things that I am usually reminding others of (on their bad days). That day I had to remind myself and give myself the same pep talk that I'm usually giving to friends and colleagues. It helped a lot to write those things down and remind myself that they were true. And after talking with my fiancée about the negative feelings in my head, I was able to refocus myself and get back on track.

Have you experienced Impostor Syndrome before? How does it manifest itself in your life? And what do you do to push it away?

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