“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – The amazing Marianne Williamson, in “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of ‘A Course in Miracles’”
Have you ever struggled with Imposter Syndrome? It’s that feeling that everyone else is supposed to be here but you’re not, that somehow you got let in to some place or some program by mistake and now that you’re here, everyone is going to realize that you don’t belong. This can be anything from a master’s program to a birthday party, or even just your social circle or life in general.
Imposter Syndrome is something I constantly battle in my mind – I think a lot of us do. One of my greatest fears is that I look great to everyone else on paper, but in reality I’m just really good at bullshitting and making it look like I’m a lot more awesome than I really am. The gremlins in my mind are constantly telling me “Who are you to write a blog? You don’t really have anything important or original to say. Who are you to get a master’s degree? You’re such a slacker! Who are you to think you could ever make a real difference in the world?”
These unkind voices are my fears popping up and trying to save me from a possible failure. My fears want me to stay small and safe, to not take risks, to just take the easy path and avoid the chance that I might try and not succeed. Ultimately, my fears just want to protect me, but in doing so, they are keeping me from living my most fulfilling and joyful life.
Fortunately, I am learning to not listen to these voices. I can thank them for trying to keep me safe while at the same time acknowledging that they are not true. A mantra that is helpful to me when dealing with these fears is: “You don’t have to believe everything you think”. So often, when thoughts pop up randomly in our minds, we get upset because we worry that if it’s something we thought, it must be true! But our minds are full of all sorts of crazy things and we really don’t have to believe all of it. We can pick and choose what we want to give importance to and let the rest just float on by without letting it become our truth.
An amateur among professionals
At a yoga festival I attended last year in New Zealand called Wanderlust, I had a position as a volunteer photographer, which I had never done at a big event before. Upon meeting all the other photographers (most of whom were men), I was immediately intimidated by their skills, confidence, and plethora of big fancy lenses. For the first few days, I struggled with a serious case of imposter syndrome – who was I to take photos alongside these much more experienced professionals?
Fortunately, I had a couple great conversations that reminded me that we all see in different ways and taking good photographs isn’t about having fancy equipment and getting a well-framed shot. It’s about showing the world to others the way that you see it, which means we all have something valid to share because we all see the world in a different way. By trying to emulate other photographers at the event and what I saw them capturing, I was ignoring my own artistic instincts and depriving the world of my own original viewpoint – what a shame!
I also learned a simple but important point that the energy you bring to your craft will be reflected in your photos. If you’re walking around with your camera feeling like you’re getting in the way and don’t belong there, or are busy just trying to get the right shot with the perfect composition, other people will feel that and you won’t capture them at their most genuine.
This lesson in feeling worthy of creating and sharing your art can translate to pretty much anything creative you do and to other areas of life as well. Any time you walk into a meeting, a party, or even a hot air balloon feeling like you don’t belong, other people will sense that energy and reflect it back to you, reinforcing what you are already feeling and making it even worse.
In addition, because of our tendency as humans to seek out evidence that confirms our beliefs, we are great at finding bits of information that reinforce our fears and convince us that we were right to be afraid in the first place. But what if we told ourselves that we are enough, that we are absolutely supposed to be here, that we have just as much right as every other person in the room? My hunch is that we would then find plenty of evidence to support this new hypothesis instead and our confidence would grow and shine through.
Fake it till you make it
To this end, I have found the adage “fake it till you make it” to be quite effective and it was certainly helpful to keep in mind as I worked my photography magic at Wanderlust. Nobody there knew I was a total amateur so it was completely up to me whether I would be perceived as a novice or an expert as I snapped heartwarming moments with my lens. Simply smiling at people and acting like I knew what I was doing as I photographed them dancing like a crazy person seemed to put folks at ease and reassure them that I was supposed to be there, doing what I was doing. It didn’t hurt if I threw in a few sweet dance moves myself in between shots, which also led to me having more fun while getting the job done.
I feel like faking it until I make it is pretty much what I’m doing with this blog – maybe someday I’ll find a way to throw in some dance moves here too! As I mentioned in my first post, I put off writing this blog for a long time because I was afraid that I had nothing worth sharing and that there were already so many awesome blogs out there I wouldn’t have anything new to add. But I decided to jump in anyway and pretend like I knew what I was doing and I figure I’ll just keep doing that until people catch on that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And that’s ok, because I don’t think anybody really does.
I think that’s the true secret to life – it may seem like everybody but you has it all figured out, but the truth is that we’re all struggling in our own ways and there is no right or wrong way to create. Even if someone eventually becomes a so-called “expert” at something, there was once a point in their life where they had no idea what they were doing either. We all have to start somewhere.
Everyone has a different way of seeing the world and each is just as valid as the next, so stop trying to make your art look like that other really talented artist you admire and make it look like your art instead! If it’s genuine and it comes from your own heart, chances are there are people out there who will sense that and connect with it more than if you are just trying to copy someone else’s art that looks cool. This is true for photography just as much as it is for your personality, your music, poetry, tattoos, choreography, hand-crafted canoes, or anything else you feel like making and sharing with the world.
Owning my creativity and sharing it with others is one way that I’m battling the feeling of Imposter Syndrome and proving to myself that I really do belong! What is something that you could create and share with others? How can you own your creativity and encourage others to do the same?