The Artist’s Achilles Heel: Imposter Syndrome

“I’m not good enough for this job. At some point, someone will find out that I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t deserve this.”

If you’ve found yourself saying something like the above to yourself, you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome, a rather nasty form of self doubt that plagues anyone… including writers, actors and filmmakers.

“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud,” Megan Dalla-Camina writes in an article for Psychology Today.

This also presents itself as social anxiety, valuing your work less and frankly just believing you’ve only gotten where you are as an artist by luck.

Imposter Syndrome is present in people who consider themselves perfectionists, who strive to know every detail on a topic before they feel they can be an expert, or those who try above and beyond to make up for perceived shortcomings.

Famous people you would never expect have suffered from self doubt and full blown imposter syndrome. This massive list includes the likes of Serena Williams, David Bowie, Tina Fey, Lady Gaga and Tom freakin’ Hanks.

Maya Angelou said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find me out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”

Natalie Portman said in a 2015 Harvard commencement speech, “Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999. I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

As an artist, you can start by more openly sharing your work, and keeping track of personal accomplishments. Did you win an award for a piece of writing, or learn a new technique during your last film production? Know that art is a continuing education. If you practice it, you get better. And so will your feelings of self doubt, as long as you don’t let those feelings control you. 

Acknowledge the existence of imposter syndrome when it rears its ugly head, then find a way to reframe it. Knowing that other people in your position are no more capable than you helps. It’s also important to value constructive criticism and not take it too personally. Someone who can learn and grow from constructive criticism becomes a better artist, especially when they know who is a good judge for that sort of thing.

If you feel lacking in some area then practice that skill, study that subject and get legitimately better at what you want to be good at. The point is not to overcompensate and obsess, but to level up your skills and eliminate doubt.

You can also talk over these feelings with a trusted friend. Friends are great at reminding you of your best traits when you can’t see them yourself. Just know that if you need to delve deeper, it’s time to explore that with a psychologist.

 

Sources:

The Reality of Imposter Syndrome – Psychology Today

Yes, Imposter Syndrome is Real. Here’s How to Deal with it – Time.com

8 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Artist – Artwork Archive

12 Leaders, Celebrities and Entrepreneurs Who Have Struggled with Imposter Syndrome