How Do Artists Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt?

How Do Artists Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt?

Do you ever wake up and think you don’t quite cut it as an artist? That just maybe you aren’t the real deal and you’ve been fooling yourself, and the world, all this time? You’re suffering from IMPOSTER SYNDROME!

Artists overcome imposter syndrome by being open and sharing their experiences. Artists must be transparent with no pretensions and no trade secrets. Above all, an artist must be genuine, not the best.

Does this sound familiar?

  • It doesn’t matter how often you are praised you still have an underlying fear of being exposed as a fake
  • You don’t deserve to be recognized for what you do or what you’ve achieved
  • You feel like you’ve fooled people into believing in you
  • You’re not as expert or talented as people think
  • There are many more artists that are better and more capable than you.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Let’s explore this further.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome

Self-doubt is the price you pay for being creative.

Selling your own work means you’re seeking to please complete strangers and that’s not an easy task.

Let’s face it, you are creating something completely new in this world. Your creation has never existed before, not until you made it happen.

You dreamed up the idea, planned it, composed it, drew or painted it.

It took you hours, days, weeks even.

Then you present it to the world in the hope that at least some people will like it enough to want it in their home.

You can hardly do anything more insecure than that. Of course, you’re vulnerable. It’s scary stuff.

Every time you put yourself on the line, there’s a chance you’ll be knocked down.

Even the most successful artists question themselves. Perhaps it’s even worse at the top.

They have high expectations to deal with, and intense pressure to be amazing.

And you know what? They have the same fear as the rest of us. The same imposter syndrome

And those at the top have the furthest to fall.

Everyone shares these anxieties. We all compare ourselves to others. Its folly, we know it, and yet we can’t help ourselves.

False Comparisons Make You Feel Like an Imposter

I skim through Instagram and find such amazing work that sometimes I feel like giving up. Instead of finding inspiration, I get dejected.

I have to tell myself that comparing myself to a self-selected ‘best-of-the-best’ is insane. Why do I beat myself up? What’s the point? Yet I still do it.

Every single time I set up and show my work I have the same worry. Maybe this is the day that the public will see through me. It’s like I start anew every time. Each day might be my last.

It doesn’t matter that I did well the day before and the time before that. It doesn’t even count that I’ve been selling this way for 20 years, I still fear the worst.

One thing is for sure, I’ll never take things for granted. I may come across as self-assured and confident to strangers but it’s not the case.

As soon as I achieve a goal I find that the posts have moved.

Self-care and mental health can be easily overlooked. I found this class on Skillshare (affiliate), it’s only 39 minutes long and gets good reviews. It might be worth checking out.

Perfectionism Only Feeds Your Imposter Syndrome

I can never be fully satisfied and happy with my own work because it never meets my own expectations.

Inevitably, I fall short.

I know what I could’ve done, I know what I set out to do, and it’s not what the public sees.

And praise doesn’t change that feeling.

I hear the compliments and a voice in my head replies ‘yeah, if only you knew. I botched that one’. Or ‘That was a happy accident and I could never repeat it’.

There is some truth to the adage,

‘Perfectionists are never happy’

That’s where the imposter syndrome kicks in.

Most artists go through something similar but I’m not entirely convinced that it’s all unhealthy.

Imagine the intolerable conceit of an artist who’s in complete agreement with public praise. Who admires a self-satisfied big-head?

And where would you go if you cracked it, and reached the peak? Downhill probably.

Your art would be stale and on rinse and repeat.

There is something to be said for pushing yourself. It keeps you from being complacent and moreover, keeps you grounded.

Perfection isn’t achievable but striving for perfection is admirable. All that means is you’re giving it your best shot.

Beat Your Anxiety to Deal With Your Imposter Syndrome

You are only an imposter if you make out that you’re something you’re not. Open up about your motives, aims, and abilities, and people will respect you for it.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Your anxieties will reassure others who might be putting you on a pedestal. What you see as a failure in yourself might well be another guy’s idea of success.

You’re an expert to anyone who aspires to be where you are at. Just because you also aspire to be somewhere further along the line is not relevant.

You’re the best you can be at this moment in time. If others wish to follow along and enjoy that progress and find pleasure and inspiration in your hard work, it’s not fakery, quite the opposite, you’re being genuine.

Social Anxiety

If you accept that Imposter Syndrome is a type of anxiety it becomes obvious that anyone with social anxiety (whatever happened to the word shyness?) is going to be very susceptible to the condition.

Art is a solitary pursuit and it comes as no surprise to discover that many artists are inward-looking and introverted.

Being self-contained and focused is a positive consequence of being insular. It only becomes unhealthy when it’s taken too far. Cutting yourself off from the outside world won’t work, we all need help, guidance, and motivation and that comes from being around other people.

Finding Support

I read an interesting article when I was browsing this subject and it relates to finding support from your peers.

The study revealed that reaching out to your friends and family or people who are unrelated to your talents, is more likely to reassure you, than reaching out to your competition.

In other words, as artists, we may be better off not finding solace within our professional peer groups. Not for reassurance anyway. Interesting and slightly counter-intuitive.

In short, the way to deal with feelings of inadequacy is to step aside and put things into perspective. Acknowledge your feelings and accept them for what they are and don’t try to fight or overcome them.

Sometimes you need a helping hand to see life clearly. Check out this Skillshare class by Jonathan Van Ness (affiliate). It’s highly recommended. Look at the reviews, they are exceptional.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome – Final Thoughts

It’s good to know that these anxieties are shared by all of us. We are our own worse critics. No one is as harsh as your own inner voice.

There’s no need to hold back or to hide anything. We are all on a learning curve and we all benefit from sharing what we know.

It’s the only way to keep the monster IMPOSTER SYNDROME at bay.

Family of elephants. A pencil drawing by wildlife artist Kevin Hayler
‘Family Life’ by Kevin Hayler

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit: (Amazon affiliate links)

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How Do Artists Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt?