Facing Your Fear: Imposter Syndrome

im-pos-tor: one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception

The phrase "you are your own worst critic" describes the this syndrome quite well. You want to make a living doing what you love, but you feel that your results are never good enough. When success comes, it often feels like you cheated for some odd reason, like you'll get "found out" and scolded for passing yourself off as the fraud you really are. Why is this issue so prevalent, and how can you face this fear? 


Give Inspiration the Credit It's Due


Think of the actual process of creating. You do the hard work of showing up every day to act, write, sculpt, draw, play music etc. Then, when you're really in the flow of things, inspiration comes, infusing your work with colors, sounds, shapes, and gestures that blow your mind. You wonder, where did THAT come from?!? This inspiration ends up influencing your work in ways you weren't expecting, and yet, those developments often make more sense than what was initially planned.

Sometimes I'll look back at my own work and recognize a particularly good piece, yet I'll admire it with the odd notion that it was someone else's creation. This is the effect of inspired work.

To some, inspiration could be attributed to hard work, grit, or perseverance. To others, it could be symbolized by the Muse from Greek mythology. For my beliefs, I attribute this phenomenon to the Holy Spirit. The point is, when you're submerged in the creative process, inspiration is there, infusing and supporting your work in ways you didn't see coming. This is why we feel uncomfortable with all the attention, praise, and reward being solely focused on us. We feel like we don't deserve it, because we don't! Instead of feeling like a total fraud, however, simply recognize and give respect to the role inspiration has in your creative process. 

Have you seen interviews with the young John Lennon or Bob Dylan, when the reporter tries to ask about their personal selves? The boys deflect these queries with withering sarcasm. Why? Because Lennon and Dylan know that the part of them that writes the songs is not “them,” not the personal self that is of such surpassing fascination to their boneheaded interrogators.

— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Recognize the Lies and Replace Them With Truths


Imposter Syndrome bombards us with negativity:

"You don't know what you're doing."

"People will find out you don't what you're doing."

"You'll be exposed for pretending to be something you aren't."

"Was this even something you were supposed to pursue in the first place?"

"Maybe this isn't for you."

"You're not good enough." 

These phrases are lies and half-truths. Their sole purpose is to keep you frozen in fear so you'll never realize your potential. This is war. It's not enough to run away from these paranoia-filled thoughts, neither is it enough to fight them with inadequate weapons. You must recognize the lies for what they are and fight by replacing them with truths.

"You have a unique perspective to offer the world."

"No one else sees the beauty and tragedy of life the way you see."

"When you lose yourself, you find yourself."

"Your message will touch someone to their core."

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made."

"Failure is not permanent. You simply learned what didn't work. Keep trying!"

When you are not sincere about what really moves you because of fear, then all that reaches the viewer is a stale image, devoid of your voice. Creating is as much a discipline as a passion. Much like keeping any relationship healthy, there will be moments when the passion has died down for a time. Your responsibility is to remain faithful to create anyway. Authenticity, consistency, humility, passion, these are the qualities of the artist. To create your most authentic work, you must dig deep down to grasp the things that resonate most within you. Some things you find will be beautiful, other things will be hideous and loathsome. You must accept both as important to your work. Be encouraged to accept the success that comes with boldness and humility.

Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
It’s helpful to have some arrogance with paranoia. If we were all paranoia, we’d never leave the house. If we were all arrogance, no one would want us to leave the house.

— Chris Martin
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill