Insecurity is natural, and there are few people—prolific artists included—who don’t experience it, at least occasionally. So if you doubt yourself or feel like you don’t belong in certain communities, please know you aren’t alone. These feelings are completely normal and can be worked through over time.
We’re all learning different lessons all the time—whether it’s avoiding comparison altogether or trusting your intuition—and the more we know ourselves, the better able we are to talk ourselves through challenging situations or limiting beliefs, including creative imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome, in a literal sense, means exactly what it translates to: You feel like an imposter. You may question why you’re invited to an event or included in a community. You might feel unworthy or like you don’t “deserve” to be there. Imposter syndrome feels different to each person, but it can include feelings of anxiety, shame, depression, and more.
Imposter syndrome tends to affect high achievers, which is ironic because by all external measures, these are the people doing a “great” job—hello, Maya Angelou! People with imposter syndrome tend to constantly move the goal post of when they will have truly “made it.” Nothing will ever make you feel like you belong when you’re always raising the bar for yourself; nothing will ever feel good enough.
What is Creative Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can affect creatives particularly hard because there’s no quantitative way to measure what a “good” job is in artistic areas. This is called “creative imposter syndrome” or “artistic imposter syndrome.”
The work you’re producing as a creative person tends to involve putting yourself out there, whether it’s by revealing your feelings in a poem or letting yourself be vulnerable in a stage performance. This can make it hard to detach from your work and not take it personally.
As a creative, you may constantly worry that people are going to discover you’re nothing special. You might feel like you haven’t worked hard enough to deserve the recognition you’re getting. Maybe you didn’t go to school for what you’re doing, or perhaps you feel you didn’t go to the “right” school. There’s always something our minds can use to trick us into believing we didn’t earn our accomplishments.
How to Get Over Imposter Syndrome: 10 Tips
It’s important to address imposter syndrome because its most insidious effect is that it can keep us from going after opportunities because we feel we don’t deserve them. Or we can just get so tired of battling ourselves that we give up and remove ourselves entirely from the scene.
The world needs your contribution; don’t give up. While there’s no way to “cure” or “fix” artistic imposter syndrome, the good news is that you can learn how to deal with imposter syndrome in a sustainable way. You can work with your feelings and start to challenge the underlying thoughts that cause imposter syndrome to flare up. Over time, you’ll get better at recognizing when you’re doubting yourself and know how to coach yourself out of it.
Note: It’s worth pointing out that all the self-work in the world won’t help if you’re in an environment that marginalizes or oppresses you. There is increasing recognition around the fact that many people are told they have imposter syndrome when in fact they work in racist, sexist, transphobic, etc. environments. Please know that we are not advocating for you to work on yourself in order to stay in an unhealthy environment.
1. Find a Therapist You Trust
Finding a professional that you can talk to, and who makes you feel safe, can be a valuable way to work through and process what you’re going through. This can be especially true if you’re struggling with depression or having a hard time finding the motivation to work through your feelings. Your therapist can be a helpful mirror for you and help you start to identify how to overcome imposter syndrome.
2. Start a Log of Praise and Positive Achievements
Reminding yourself of your accomplishments can be a good way to counteract your insecurity. Seeing everything you’ve done thus far can be quite surprising and make you realize there isn’t a lot of evidence that supports you being fraudulent or not worthy. If you’re struggling to get started with your list, ask people who love you to offer up some of their observations.
3. Disconnect From People Who Make You Feel Bad About Yourself
Misery loves company—but hanging out with people who are negative or, worse, try to bring you down to feel just as bad as them, isn’t going to help you in the long run. If you feel negative or drained after being around someone, or if this person makes you question yourself and your value, consider how you can detach or take a step back from the relationship.
4. Notice Your Thoughts—and Treat Them as Such
Remember that we are all human and thus can have any number of thoughts, whether wanted or unwanted. Try not to judge yourself for what you’re thinking, and take time to practice new thoughts. What would you say to a friend who was struggling with the self-doubt that you are? Can you practice talking that way to yourself?
5. Join Communities That Understand Your Identity
Spending time with people who have been where you are, or who share some of your experiences, can be incredibly validating, make you feel less alone, and help you feel more supported in other areas of your life. If a community you’re looking for doesn’t exist, can you start one in your area? There may be others feeling the same way and searching for a community.
6. Practice Self-Love and Acceptance
You must find the love and acceptance you’re searching for within yourself first. Try a primer on how to foster self-love to start. You can also make a list of things that make you feel good and make sure you’re taking time to do them regularly, or use mantras like “I belong here” or “I accept myself” to be gentle and kind with yourself.
7. Recognize This Is a Lifelong Journey
Sometimes you may feel like you’ve finally “figured it out” and you’ve arrived at a place in your life where you feel like you are doing well—only to be reminded later that your past feelings are still there. Don’t get discouraged if this happens; remember that your feelings of worthiness and confidence may come in waves. The important thing is to keep showing up and caring for yourself.
8. Continue to Learn and Refresh Your Knowledge
No matter what industry you’re in, continuous learning is likely part of the deal. Keep on growing as an artist; take classes, refresh your knowledge in an area you feel less-than-confident in, and always be open to learning new things. This can help remind you that all of us are out here learning and growing.
9. Consider Being Vulnerable and Sharing About Your Imposter Syndrome
Brené Brown believes that being vulnerable about our shame can be our superpower. How do you feel when you read those words? Could sharing your journey with imposter syndrome help you connect with others and feel more empowered as a result? Could talking about or revealing your vulnerability actually be a great strength?
10. Go in the Direction of the Things That Scare You
In order to grow, you must keep doing the things that intimidate you. This is a critical part of how to deal with imposter syndrome; it also has the added benefit of also giving you more information to add to your list of accomplishments. Fear tends to lessen as you continue throwing yourself into situations and refusing to feel small, so trust that every hard step you take today is in service of your future.
You may always have that voice in the back of your head wondering if you truly belong, but at least now you know you’re far from alone. Even people you consider experts suffer from imposter syndrome, at least from time to time. Using the strategies outlined here on how to overcome imposter syndrome can help you stay in the game and care for yourself over the long term.
Want More Practical Tips?
Imposter Syndrome vs Creativity.