Who am I to talk about photography? What do I know? My photos aren’t as good as they should be. Why would anyone pay for my services? Other photographers would’ve done a better job than me. I don’t deserve any attention around my work.
If you’ve ever had similar thoughts, you know that the imposter syndrome is real. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started with your creative journey or if you’ve been doing it for years.
Amateur and professional alike, the imposter syndrome is something we all encounter at some point in our journey. Most likely more than once.
While it can easily lead down a destructive path, I also believe that it can help us grow. It’s part of life.
I’m no psychologist and if you’re looking for a quick fix to your doubts, I’ll not be able to help. But I’ve encountered the imposter syndrome multiple times through my creative journey. In fact, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, I’ve been dealing with it recently as well.
The thoughts shared below are those I’ve accumulated throughout these moments. It’s the things I’ve done, and failed to do, in order to turn it into something positive rather than a pure destructive encounter.
Hopefully, my experiences can help you too. Just know, you’re not alone.
When the Imposter Syndrome Leads to Creative Blocks
There are many phases of the imposter syndrome and I believe most of us experience it slightly differently. Sometimes it’s just a faint whisper in the back of your head while other times it leads to an abrupt stop in your work.
It’s the latter that I find to be one of the most difficult aspects; when it leads to a creative block. My job is to create, so how can I put food on the table if I’m unable to pick up the camera or even write a sentence in an empty word document?
During this phase, it seems impossible to create anything. This is, in my experience, the darkest place to be. It’s the destructive path that we need to get out of as quickly as possible.
But getting out of it is easier said than done. More often than not, we end up beating ourselves over being stuck in this phase. That only leads to more self-doubt. Nothing you do seem to be good enough.
I’ve gone through months of being stuck in that dark place. All I want to do is to create but nothing I do is good enough. So, I don’t share it. I stow it away.
The longer you’re stuck, the harder it is to get out. But you will. Don’t quit. It gets better.
Leaving this destructive path requires work. You’ll need to push yourself. Maybe even step out of your comfort zone. Here are some things that can help:
- Spend time in nature. Leave the camera behind and simply observe your surroundings. Notice the smells. The sounds. The colors. Just observe. Just be.
- Find inspiration outside your craft. Being stuck within the bubble of your genre isn’t necessarily a good thing. Actively searching for inspiration in other crafts can be of big help when you’re feeling stuck. Go to a museum. Look at paintings. Listen to music. Browse galleries of artists in different genres of your craft. Try to enjoy the art and maybe you’ll find the motivation to keep creating.
- Take a break. Sometimes all you need is to put down the camera for some days and focus on something else. I find this especially important when it comes to social media – take days off! More often than not, you’ll come back refreshed and with new inspiration.
- Join a course or mentorship program. Admitting that we can always learn more is essential for our creative growth. Purchasing an eBook or course, attending a conference or signing up for a 1-to-1 mentorship program will help, especially during difficult times. I’ve been working full-time with photography for years but I still set aside money each year for developing.
- Engage in conversations. You might feel alone but it’s important that you know you’re not. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other artists and engage in conversations with them. We’re stronger together.
- Force yourself to create. If you’ve been stuck for a long time, you might need a harsher approach. Forcing yourself to create is one way to do this. Make sure to dedicate time each day for creating. Be it to bring the camera out each evening or spending an hour each night editing photos. It’s going to be tough in the beginning but it’s an efficient way of reconnecting with your passion.
The one thing I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t stop creating just because you feel your work isn’t good enough. All that does is make it more difficult to get back to it.
Using the Imposter Syndrome as Motivation
The times I’ve struggled the most with the imposter syndrome are the times where I’ve let the self-doubt, or the noise inside as I like calling it, take control. It’s when stepping back and not doing anything about it that I really get stuck.
A much better approach is to turn it into something motivational. I know this is easier said than done (trust me, I know).
Turning your negative thoughts or self-doubt into motivation to create more is something that can help you grow as an artist. It’s in those exact situations you can dictate who you want to be as an artist and person.
Don’t feel like your images are worthy of the response they’re getting? Then work harder to create images that are. Start pushing your boundaries. Think outside the box.
I find that some of my best work comes as a direct result of breaking out of a negative spiral. Simply because I put all my effort into creating something that I can’t help to be happy with.
This can be by going through old hard drives and finding good photos that I never did anything with, it can be re-editing images I feel could’ve been better, or it can be going out and creating a completely new image.
My point is, try to twist your negative thoughts into motivating thoughts.
Why the Imposter Syndrome is Important for Creatives
The title of this article is The Imposter Syndrome: A Friend or a Foe for Creatives? I think it’s both. It can be both destructive and rewarding.
However, I believe it’s a good sign. I’d be more worried if you never felt that your work isn’t good enough. Self-doubt is a sign of ambition. It’s a sign of passion. It’s a sign of growth.
Don’t be afraid of encountering the imposter syndrome. Most creatives go through it frequently.
Even the most successful artists go through periods of self-doubt. Perhaps it’s when exhibiting their art next to other talented artists, or maybe it’s after signing a big licensing agreement. Maybe it’s feeling unworthy of the number of social media followers they have. It comes in many shapes and forms
The imposter syndrome will always be there. It won’t go away when you start achieving your goals. Accept that it’s part of the journey. Accept that it’s part of growing. Do this and you can turn a negative spiral into a positive experience.
Having periods of self-doubt is to be expected when you’re on a creative journey. There will always be a reason to feel like you’re not good enough or haven’t deserved what you’ve achieved.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. There’s no magic pill to take you out of a potential negative spiral.
I know that things feel impossible when being at the bottom of a dark hole. It seems like there’s no way out. But there is. Who knows, maybe your best art is waiting on the other side?
Have you encountered the imposter syndrome before? Share your stories below!
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