I’ve only recently discovered that Imposter Syndrome is an actual thing, is more common than you might think and that I have a bad case of it in just about every aspect of my life.
According to Wikipedia, and I paraphrase, it’s about feeling like a fraud, – about to be found out at any moment – even if you’re good at what you do. And no, you don’t have to be a spy to suffer from it.
I’ve been working in IT for 15 years, but I can’t shake the feeling that one of these days someone is going to figure out that I don’t know much about vfilers, that I’m not fluent in every programming language every invented, that I haven’t been reading up about node, or how bitcoin works and why anyone cares. Of course, they probably have figured that out already and get together in groups to laugh about how I act like I know what I’m doing. Or not.
Yes, I’ve been taking photographs at monthly Long Dogs walks for the last four years, but someone is soon going to realise that I only have a crop sensor camera and that I am only just learning about studio lighting. And yes, a few people have paid actual hard earned money for prints, canvases and calendars with my images on them, but that’s just because they are really nice people with hearts of gold who don’t want me to feel bad, right?
Yes, I’ve been writing promotional emails and blog posts for a while now, and people have commented that they enjoy reading them, but that’s just family and friends, and some dachshund crazy people, and the odd stranger. Kind of a captive audience.
Yes, one of my Redbubble designs has sold 35 times and had over 7000 views, but that’s for charity, and no one is quitting their day job over 35 sales anyway.
…and that’s the way the though process goes. Something good happens, but that’s just because…. diminish, diminish, diminish.
I should state that this post is absolutely not about fishing for compliments. In fact I feel even more fraudulent when people say nice things about what I do, which may seem counter intuitive. I almost flinch when someone says ‘you’re so talented’, or ‘you have a gift’. I realise people say theses lovely things because they genuinely mean them, so why can’t I take that and glow with pride rather than think I’ve manged to somehow pull the wool over their kind and generous eyes? Maybe because I know it isn’t talent, it’s practice, and I have so much more of that to do.
Someone I respect very much advises the mantra of ‘fake it til you make it’. Wise words to live by. I’m just not sure if I’ll ever get to the that comfortable place of feeling like I’ve made it.
So why am I writing this? Partly because I now know I’m not alone in feeling the way I feel. And that gives me the opportunity to let others know that if they feel this way, they are not alone either. Also there is good news. Now in my forties I don’t let this feeling of being an imposter stop me from doing things as much as I used to. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Even when I feel like a fraud; that the next thing I do, say, or show will expose me as the newbie I really am, I do it anyway. I write it, I publish it, I share it, I say it. I don’t sit quietly by and let the opportunity slip past to be regretted. Why? Because even if I’m terrible at it, by putting tit out there, by giving it a go, I have a chance to improve. I’m getting better, I’m learning new things and I love and enjoy the things I do. That makes me a very privileged and lucky person and I’m thankful for that. If people end up liking the end result (outside of work where that’s a requirement), well then that’s just a bonus.
I’m sure I self deprecate more than is useful. I don’t know if I’ll stop doing that, but I do catch myself at it once in a while and try to stop. With photography I feel the added burden of being trapped between the sense of not being good enough to charge, and not wanting to be frowned upon by those who make their living from it by doing it for free. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue and all that.
Some people are wonderful at marketing and self promotion and I am deeply envious. I still apologise for my art, writing, photography, knowing it could be better, but the important thing is that I don’t let that stop me from putting it out there. And that means I get the gift of feedback for which I am immensely grateful. I have left perfectionism back in my twenties and thirties and I’m a happier person for that. It also means I’m going to publish this post today rather than dwelling on it for 6 months.
I am aware that there will be people out there who will agree with my inner voice that I am actually an imposter and don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about. Everyone has critics after all and pleasing everyone is impossible. Funnily enough, I don’t worry too much about those people. After all, they have me figured out already so there is no disappointing them.