Impostor Syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
A fake. A fraud. A phony.
At least that's what my brain tells me. There's something in a creative's brain that creates doubt. Maybe it comes from comparing ourselves to others. It could be lack of formal training or a college degree in our artform of choice. Whatever the source - the feeling is real, but that doesn't mean that it's accurate.
Imposter Syndrome comes with a variety of side effects.
1. It causes me to question, why in the world a hard working person would deliberately hand over a substantial amount of money to me in exchange for taking their photograph. I mean seriously. I'm based in New Braunfels, Texas - centrally located between Austin and San Antonio, and there are TONS of talented photographers our area. Yet still, someone manages to find and select me over anyone else! How can this be?
2. It keeps me from sticking my neck out there. Being creative means taking risks. Dealing with self-doubt causes a creative to play it safe...to take the easy way out for fear of being exposed as an imposter.
3. It keeps me from raising my prices. Good for the clients, bad for me - LOL. Years ago, I turned over images to a bride. As we closed out the deal, she told me outright, "You should really raise your prices." That came as a bit of a shock to me, but she was right, I just needed an unbiased person to tell me so.
4. Along the line of comparison, it keeps me from going after that one client...the one looking for high-end vendors. The client being actively pursued by the "real professionals". Who am I to throw my name in the hat to compete amongst them for a ticket to The Big Show?
But there's hope...
The silver lining to all this Doom and Gloom way of thinking is - it's all bullshit. It's made up. It's in my own mind and in the mind of so many other photographers and artists. This is not a new phenomenon. I'm sure at some point Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel thinking to himself, "No, no, NO! It's not good enough!"
So we push on. We push past the voices of the naysayers, inside or outside of us. We silence those voices by thinking You Win Some / You Lose Some and keep on going. We do "practice sessions" between sessions to hone our skills and stay sharp. We study, binge watch YouTube videos, read articles and books, attend workshops, go to seminars and conferences, and anything else we can do to get 1% better. We adjust our rates according to the cost of doing business and needs of our families rather than opinions of others. We must recognize that admiring other photographers is not the same thing as comparing ourselves to them and to follow our own journey at our own pace.
To my fellow artists: Whether you're a portraiture, wedding, landscape, or boudoir photographer, whether you're a sculptor, painter, sketcher, calligrapher, cake decorator, carpenter...whatever your medium is - recognize that you belong. You have earned and deserve your role. While it's good to have others that have forged paths, don't be afraid to make your own path. Never quit learning. Never stop growing.
I am a photographer.