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December 9, 2018

Imposter Syndrome

by Chris

Most artists know about a thing called “imposter syndrome.” It’s a little voice in your head that suggests in no uncertain terms that you’re a failure, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else knows it (and is possibly embodied by @A_Graph_Editor on Twitter). The more pressure you’re under, whether it’s to find a job or to perform well in one, the louder that voice gets. Like a spiritual possession, sometimes that voice comes out of our own mouths as feigned humility, thinly concealing deeper self-loathing. I think humility is a positive trait, but it’s very easy to cross the line into a destructive attitude towards yourself and your work.

This starts to get at the mission of this website: To normalize the playing field and show that everyone, no matter how experienced or inexperienced, is in the same struggle together. Art is subjective in nature, and its limits my never be achieved. There is always a new level to reach, and there is always someone who gets there first. It’s your choice if you decide to let that excite and inspire you, or to let it overwhelm you. It’s a matter of perspective which I think can be learned and changed.

“It always came to that point of, well, [I’ll] get fired. They realize that ‘Glen’s always been faking it all along anyway.’ Basically I know that’s true for me. ‘He’s been faking it all along anyway, and here it is and he’s really screwed up. We’ve given him this big responsibility and it’s not going to get done, and [he’s] gonna have to get fired.'” – Glen Keane

I’ve heard it said that it is possible to be “happy,” but not “satisfied” with where you are, and I think that’s a good way to look at it. This requires a type of perspective and self-awareness that doesn’t always come naturally. What it means is that you can enjoy the work that you’re doing, knowing that it is the best you are capable of right now. All of the effort you’ve put in up to this point has gotten you here, and it’s exactly where you should be. At the same time, you can look at the long game and be motivated to improve. This healthy, productive dissatisfaction is what drives human beings to evolve and grow! If you have put maximum effort into your work, it’s okay to be happy with how it turned out, but not satisfied that it’s the best you’ll ever do.

I’m guilty of occasionally slipping a toe over the line between humility and abasement. My family and coworkers do a lot to help pull me back over, and I’m always grateful for it. Our self-worth is so tied to the art we create that it’s very hard to detach them from each other. Bashing yourself with negative talk can strangely feel good in the moment, and I think that’s because it takes away the responsibility to get better. If I say that I’m no good and never will be, then all of a sudden I don’t feel the pressure to be good. I’ve already admitted that it won’t get better, so that’s that. For me, it’s self-indulgence. It’s like a warm bed that entices me to stay in and not face the day. Motivation is like the alarm clock that yells at me to get up and move. Boy, does it feel good to hit that snooze button.

I don’t think my imposter syndrome will ever go away. That voice will always be there, and I just have to deal with it. Knowing the difference between happiness and satisfaction has been the best way I’ve found to keep it at bay, and I hope that it gives you some comfort as well. You’re as good as you are now, and that’s okay. You’re not as good as you’ll be next year, and that’s what you want. When feelings of doubt creep in, step back and take a look from this new perspective. Realize that those feelings are natural and don’t necessarily go away at will; it takes time to pull yourself out. Go ahead and get into that warm bed, but don’t hit the snooze tomorrow.

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