It’s Overcoming Month here at Society6, and we’ve already tackled how to combat creative burnout, but before February comes to an end, we want to fight some fears, too.
Imposter Syndrome. It’s a long-established psychological pattern, but one that made newer headlines this past December when Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama admitted that she too felt it in her prior position—that gnawing internalized fear of being a fraud, failure, or inadequate despite one’s accomplishments—and still does. Here, seven artists and creatives reveal how they clash with, cope with, and overcome imposter-dom.
BETH SARAVO, Photographer
Day in and day out, I am my own biggest critic, sometimes to the point of self-sabotage. The feeling of inadequacy can sit with me in the biggest, most pivotal moments, and when this is combined with stress it is a hard hole to dig myself out of. The idea of failure creeps in quite often because in my industry there’s always someone doing bigger, more impressive things and boasting about it on social media. In an effort to remind myself, I like to journal and write down everything I have done, every accomplishment. Seeing it on a page allows me to step back and view my career from fresh eyes, rather than just constantly reaching for more. Finding my own balance helps as well, being mindful of my physical and mental health. | @baeth
LORENZO DIGGINS, Multidisciplinary Artist
I spent several years building my name as a designer through my previous brand “The Essential Man,” and in 2015 I made the transition to start pursuing my own art practice as an illustrator and photographer. Early on, I was blessed with some opportunities that I essentially felt I didn’t deserve simply because in my mind I hadn’t put in the same amount of time (professionally) as some of the artists I admired; this used to be a big problem for me, to where I even started declining things because I wanted to pay these imaginary dues. Long story short, I learned (and am still learning) to accept that what’s meant for me is meant for me and I can’t block my blessings trying to follow these unwritten rules. This is still an internal battle that I have, but I constantly try to remind myself that I either belong in a room I may feel I don’t or that I deserve an opportunity that comes my way. Also, it helps that I’m a hard worker; I’m not just sitting around waiting for luck to happen. To summarize, speak positively to yourself. | @essentialman_ld
AARON RICHTER, Photographer
Although “Imposter Syndrome” can feel crippling and overwhelming, I’ve always tried to harness any instinct that I don’t belong or that I’m not good enough—or that, gasp, I’ll be found out and replaced (ahhhhhhhh!)—as extra motivation to push myself. To some extent, feeling like you’re comfortable, feeling like you’re among peers professionally, can build complacency. Essentially, you run out of levels to strive for. I moved to New York to throw myself into a world that intimidated me, and I’ve always produced my best work (or, I’m at least motivated to stab at my best work) when I’m striving toward somewhere that I feel like I don’t quite belong yet. Ultimately, “belonging” has become less and less important as I’ve been able to see the value of the work that I’m producing on my own terms, regardless of if it meets whatever imaginary standards I’ve established. In other words, simply, if the work that I produced made me happy, then that’s kind of enough. Also, if we’re keepin’ it real: The more I’ve worked in my industry, the more I’ve witnessed how many people legitimately have no idea what they’re doing, and in comparison I handle my own shit pretty well. | @richterfit
SHAKIRA BARRERA, Actress (Glow)
I first felt ‘imposter syndrome’ while sitting in my Catholic school classroom at the age of 8. Surrounded by primarily middle-class, white children from Leonia, NJ, I began to feel resentful about being one of the only students who lived in Englewood. “Don’t go past the train tracks.” “Do not walk alone past 5 pm.” “Be careful with the kids doing drugs behind the house.” All very familiar phrases that my single mother would shout at me often. It wasn’t like that when I went over my friends’ houses in Leonia, however. The next town over always seemed like the better way to live. Most of my friends had both parents and a traditional American family. Something I had always seen on television. Something that seemed unattainable for me to have. Looking back at the 8-year-old sitting in that classroom, I would have told her to begin to practice self-love everyday. I would tell her to choose her words carefully. I would tell her to replace words like “less fortunate” and use words like “hard-working.” I would tell her that this journey of “imposter syndrome” would be a very long one but that by loving herself, these moments would become easier and she would one day feel like she actually belonged. | @shakirabarrera
WHITNEY BELL, Writer (Teen Vogue)
I don’t know that it’s necessarily something you “overcome,” nor am I sure that I want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked very hard over many years and many hours of therapy to be able to see my own worth and value my potential, but it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and be humbled by your opportunities. That doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard, or that those achievements aren’t your own; you shouldn’t feel undeserving, but there are a lot of other equally qualified people who didn’t get that spot. You should feel lucky. Recognize and be proud of your achievements but be humbled by what they’ve brought you. | @kidd.bell
DABITO, Interior Designer
I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome throughout my life and still go through moments of self-doubt to this day. Here are some ways that have helped me manage those moments better and not let it manifest itself into something long-term: I took a few meditation courses that helped bring clarity and a positive outlook on life. I try to remind myself how grateful I am about all the opportunities I’ve been given. It’s good to have daily affirmations. Gradually, I’ve learned to let go a lot of my insecurities, acknowledge my weaknesses, and embrace my own strengths. A friend of mine said that you can be humble and confident at the same time and that’s something I’ve learned to apply to my life as well. | @dabito
LOVEIS WISE, Artist
When my career first began I was always unsure of myself and how long things would last. I found myself continuously second-guessing who I was or even my ability to be an illustrator. One day, I took some time and started to question why I felt that way towards myself because it became so overwhelming on me. Thinking about this made it easier for those doubts to begin to chip away. It honestly takes practicing being kinder to yourself, giving yourself more compassion, and pushing past your fear no matter what. | @loveiswiseillu