We are creatives. We create, we imagine, we envision, we develop, we inspire. We also have a ton of problems, and most of them are because of our self-esteem.
Too much, too little, it doesn't really matter – being creative is a life contract, as we sell our life away to the muse of inspiration and to lifelong sessions of second-guessing our own ideas. It is not healthy. Yet, deep down, we love it.
And while a viral outbreak is out there raging in the streets (over-dramatisation), we are stuck inside with our own minds, bodies and skills. Poor skills, awful skills, skills that are never great and we will never see as great because our heart goes one way and our mind goes the other and it's too difficult to even reflect on our own creative choices and what about our life choices even and what if we will never–
Stop. Don't listen to your mind and your impostor syndrome. You are great at what you do. And here is why.
Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels
Do I have the Impostor Syndrome?
Way too often have I heard someone telling me that some creatives have an ego the size of a skyscraper. Whether that is true for every high-achiever or not, I know I have an issue with my own ego, and I too can come across as self-absorbed sometimes. Other times, it means I strive to get better with any given task or skill. In all these cases anyway, not a day passes by without me thinking that I'm a complete fraud.
The 'Impostor Syndrome' (or imposter syndrome) is a psychological pattern by which one believes constantly to be inadequate for what we're doing. It means believing to be worth less than one actually is, second-guessing our own opinions and creative ideas, and overall just plain thinking others are way better than us in our very own field.
I've met other writers who would think that all the time, and the result was always the same: their work ended up being one of the best in the room. Whether that is true with all creatives, I absolutely ignore it – but it is something that I see over and over, something I've even heard from Golley Slater creative director Ben Keylock.
I've met many writers with the impostor syndrome whose work ended up being the best in the room
And even if these indications felt too vague, the impostor syndrome is actually quite easy to pinpoint:
- Do you constantly feel like you don't know enough (that's me) and you will never be an expert in your field, even when those around you say differently?
- Do you always strive to reach perfection in everything you do, and even then, chances are you won't be satisfied with the result?
- Do you ever work yourself too hard because you feel you will never be as great as your coworkers?
- Do you sometimes feel that you'd be better off doing the job alone, perhaps for fear of being judged?
- Do you still feel inadequate even when reaching stellar results in your work, study or personal life?
If one or more of these sound like you, well... Know that you fit like a sock into Dr. Valerie Young's categorisation of the 5 types of impostor syndrome.
Now, I have by no means the ambition nor capability to summarise Young's work in a bullet-point list – again, probably my impostor syndrome kicking in – but it's easy to feel completely out of scope with your creativity when you fall into one of these categories.
Chances are, if you are one of the creatives mentioned above, your ego the size of a skyscraper is a way to compensate your inner, massive impostor syndrome. Though of course it may just be an out-of-scale self-esteem (in which case, I envy you deeply).
How to battle the Impostor Syndrome... Or not?
As with most things, knowing that you do suffer from the impostor syndrome is the first step into battling it by coming to terms with your own self, and by being conscious about your own limits.
It doesn't mean you should try and fight it with all your being, however – though now, knowing that you possess a potentially harmful psychological pattern may sound daunting after all. The truth is psychological patterns and behaviours tend to follow us for most of our lives, and chances are even my own impostor syndrome is so deeply rooted in my psyche that nothing will ever make it budge.
So, shall we just give in and let it do its course?
Not at all.
You know you probably have the impostor syndrome by now. Nothing to be scared of – in fact, you should probably see it as a chance to improve your own creativity, by embracing that same impostor syndrome that pushes you farther and farther each time.
For example: stop looking at other people's work for comparison reasons. Stop comparing yourself with the best in the field. Those creatives have been in your same position before and they've only managed to get where they are by focusing on their own style, identity and personality.
Everyone wants to be successful. All writers aspire to become Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Still, both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling managed to get where they are because of their own resilience. And at least one of them almost threw away the first draft of Carrie, believing it was absolute trash.
Second-guessing yourself only means you have your own way of constantly improving your skills
Start believing in other people's feedback when it's positive, but especially listen when it's negative. Learn something from both sides to understand where you can improve, what is already great, and why.
Most importantly, start believing in yourself more. No one else can land that dream job, client, book deal or commission which, when it finally comes, will feel tailored to you and you alone. That will be when you'll realise there is nothing better than being valued, appreciated and understood for who you truly are – without having to look at others for validation.