I wanted to touch on several subjects that have held me back in the past with my art – and with my life
I will admit this – I struggled for several days on what I should talk about for this story time.
And after several days of brainstorming, writing incomplete stories, and failed recordings, I finally decided to open up a little bit about my past mental struggles as an artist- particularly dealing with the effects of imposter syndrome and self-worth.
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What is Imposter Syndrome and Is it Real?
For those of you who are not familiar with what imposter syndrome is, it’s basically….
a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, no matter how much success they achieve.Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Imposter syndrome can manifest itself in a variety of different ways such as the following:
- Feeling like you don’t deserve to be where you are today
- Feeling like any success you actually have had was just pure good luck and not based on achievement
I wanted to do more reading on this subject, and I was surprised to discover that imposterism is more likely to occur with people who have perfectionistic tendencies and hold their work to a great expectation …
….and with this great expectation, they often find that no matter WHAT they do, how well they paint or are praised for their painting, they feel their painting is complete garbage.
They feel that they are imposters, pretending to play artist with a brush.
And man, as I sat and stared at my computer reading this, I found myself nodding along.
I came to realize that I had unrealistic standards on what an artist is and feels like….
To me, artists were confident, daring, bold, original, willing to color outside the lines kind of people.
They were people who breathed creativity no matter what they did. They had supportive, healthy relationships with their significant others and family members who believed in them and always wanted them to be an artist.
or so I thought….
I had this vision of what the artist “supposedly” feels like, and when I compared that to my own feelings, I did not see a lot of parallels.
Sure, I love to paint and yes, I loved drawing even before I could talk.
But I hadn’t touched a paintbrush in such a long time. I have never showed anyone else how to draw, paint, sketch, compose a drawing EVER. My drawings were always kept close to my chest – and, for the longest time, were for my eyes only.
Yet, the itch to become an artist and do what they do was always there. But because I didn’t see myself as what I thought an artist could be, I felt unworthy of the title.
Imposter Syndrome is a Real Bitch
The greatest minds, talents and artists of this world, like Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, David Bowie, and Serena Williams have had their own bouts of imposterism – all of whom combated feelings of not being good enough, of being called a fraud, a nobody playing dress up.
And yet, we hold them in such high regard as people who have shifted the hearts and minds of many people.
So, does this mean imposter syndrome is kinda normal?
And from what I have read and experienced, the answer to this is….well…yes.
Feeling like you don’t belong when you are in a room of accomplished people may seem daunting. But what we all tend to forget is that every one of those people are just people.
They eat. They sleep. They laugh. They cry. They burp. They poop. They are human beings.
And in this age where we focus on how good someone else’s life is compared to our own dumpy one (ahem Instagram), we tend to forget that what we see is only a highlight that person chooses to share.
Little do we see the meltdowns, the sobbing uncontrollably into a corner, the feelings of inadequacy, the constant negativity received from relatives or friends.
We don’t see any of that.
And because we don’t see any of that, we cannot help but compare our life, our thoughts, our mindset to these happy, picture-perfect ideals that are just simply unrealistic, one-sided, and can cause major anxiety and unwarranted negative feelings of self worth.
So, let’s dive into the self-worth thing for a bit.
This is the subject matter that I found myself struggling to address the most. And this is because I have had a shaky sense of self worth, ever since I was a kid.
Growing up, I found it really hard to love myself and be proud of who I was – mainly due to overwhelming imposed and self-imposed expectations placed upon me.
I felt I wasn’t girly enough, I wasn’t attractive enough, popular enough, thin enough, smart enough, obedient enough, selfless enough, hardworking enough and on and on and on and on. And whenever I fell short of what was expected, I often found myself breaking down, beating myself up and telling myself every negative thing I could think of.
Because I felt I deserved it.
I deserved to get a B on my project. I deserved to be yelled at for not cleaning something as well as they would have. I deserved be feel belittled because I don’t know anything about anything and have no concept of what it means to be an adult. And the best part, I deserve to be called selfish after I make a hard decision that is best for me.
In all these situations, I told myself I didn’t deserve happiness. And it was in those situations that I held myself back, over and over again.
I chose to believe the words and thoughts of others about my life – and when I played along, would be constantly living in state of disappointment, anger, and sadness.
Why am I even sharing this with you? Why is this so depressing?
I wanted to really paint you a picture of how hard I had to fight to get where I am today. It took courage, nearly peeing my pants every time I took a step in the right direction. And I was able to do so because I finally convinced myself with this one little trick.
You are worth it.
These 4 words are so much more powerful to me than any reprimand, anxiety, sadness or doubt.
And it truly is significant.
If you always believe you don’t deserve good things in the world, you will walk through life truly believing whatever bad thing happens to you is warranted – and you give up the reins of your life and hand it over to someone else who has their own perceived idea of what makes life a good one.
Breaking the Low Self Worth Cycle
I had to break this cycle – and I had to build up my self-esteem, telling myself that it was OK to feel what I felt and assess my life’s purpose.
In years to come, what will I tell my future grandchildren were my greatest stories? Do I have any regrets? What can I share with them to help avoid the deep, dark pits of despair within which we all can easily trap ourselves.
When I thought about these questions, it made me realize that if I wanted to live a life without regret, I would first need to embrace myself. This took a lot of time, a lot of therapy, a lot of talking with friends and loved ones who were willing to listen.
If you identified yourself at all with my story, I always recommend you to seek any form of therapy, whether it be talking to a good friend, reading self-empowerment books, talking to a counselor, or even just drawing/painting.
Ironically enough, creative outlets have profound mental benefits and can help one express their inner feelings and thoughts without having to always use words. It’s a great way to process emotions. And well, with this painting you see here today, I think my feelings definitely manifested themselves here.
But all in all, at the end of the day, you need to truly believe you are worth it.
Because I know you are worth it. You are so worthy of love, respect, and happiness – despite what others believe or say about you.
The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD bless you, and keep youNumbers 6:25
To this day, it still feels weird for me to call myself an artist.
As crazy as that sounds.
I instructed acrylic painting sessions, did hundreds of hours of touching brush to canvas and I STILL felt like I was a poser, and don’t always feel I am worthy of the title of artist.
But that is perception. Not the reality
Perhaps the moral of the story here is this…
Don’t let imposter syndrome prevent you from doing the very thing that makes you happy. Whether that be drawing, singing, crafting, dancing, pole vaulting -whatever it is – just go and live that life.
Embrace yourself, your wants and needs, and know you are beautiful, worthy of love, happiness, and success.
Amanda is a self-taught artist and founder of The Buzzed Artist, dedicated to teaching adult beginners how to art with confidence using acrylic paint and love themselves in the creation process. If you want to get started right with acrylic painting, be sure to enroll in her FREE mini-course The Acrylic Artist’s Toolkit.