Do you feel uncomfortable when fans ask you for your autograph or when they express their love for your comics? Do you avoid taking on artistic challenges because of crippling self-doubt? Do you attribute your successes to a lucky break or being in the right place at the right time? Are you a perfectionist who loathes making mistakes? Do you have an inner voice that constantly says you are not good enough? Do you feel hypersensitive to constructive critique? Do you believe that your peers are more talented and proficient than you are? Do you get anxious that others will discover that you are not as clever or skilled as they think you are? Do you stress out that you will be exposed as a fake?
If you answered yes to some or all of these questions then you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome (AKA Fraud Syndrome). Logically you know you are a person of accomplishment but emotionally you cannot integrate this understanding at a deeper level because you label yourself as a fake. Ultimately, there is a disconnect between people’s perception of you and your perception of yourself.
Imposter Syndrome is rarely talked about but is nevertheless very real. It usually affects intelligent and successful people, especially high achieving women and arts practitioners, including the already rich and famous. Indeed Michelle Pfeifer and Kate Winslet have owned up to feeling like they have faked their way through their acting careers despite numerous Academy Award and Emmy nominations and a win, which speak to the exact opposite. Other famous people who have admitted to feeling like impostors are actor Meryl Streep, comedienne Tina Fey, and novelist Maya Angelou. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there are some people who believe they have essentially faked their way to success through good luck. More often than not, they deny the hard work they have put in along the way.
If you believe that Imposter Syndrome has struck at the heart of your very core, then here are some simple tips on how you can remedy the situation in order to value your talent and skills and embrace your accomplishments rather than to distill or minimise them.
(1) Accept compliments with grace
If somebody gives you a compliment, then walk towards it rather than deflecting or avoiding it with an answer such as “It’s no big deal” or similar. All you need is to simply say, “Thank you” or “I appreciate you telling me that” and then allow the compliment to wash over you and permeate into your inner self. These good feelings will begin creating a new foundation of calm self-confidence.
(2) Practise self-appreciation and acknowledgement
Value your hard work by surroundings yourself with symbols of your past successes. This could include framing your published comic book covers or artwork, keeping your sports or public speaking trophies on display, or mounting your academic accomplishments such as your university degree on your office wall. You will, therefore, have daily visual reminders of how far you have come.
(3) Update your CV
It’s easy to forget how hard you have worked, and how accomplished and versatile you have become in the process. Your CV is a reflection of that. It is one of your little secret weapons to remind you of how much you have evolved in your work life and how much life experience you have gained on the way. Every now and then if you feel that fraud feeling coming over you, stop what you’re doing and sit down and look at where you started and where you are now. Be sure to list your comics writing and arts publishing credits on a separate page.
(4) Keep a success diary
Buy yourself a beautiful notebook and pen, and then list five successes you have achieved per day. They can be large or small. They can include things like cleaning out your desk drawer, getting a book contract, graduating from a course, finishing penciling / drawing / inking a comic book page and much more. The cumulative effect of achieving these successes day in and day out will orient yourself to being proud of your successes and owning them outright.
(5) Upgrade your emotional software
Many people focus on cleaning up external messes such as de-cluttering their studios or fixing a continuity error in their sequential art or throwing out dried out paint. But sometimes, the focus needs to lie on cleaning up internal messes that are reflection of corrupted inner learning, confusion, anxiety disorders, fears, procrastination and resistance, and more. That is why seeing a therapist or a motivation or creativity coach can help you tune out the negative, update your internal software to the “You” you are today, and help you orient towards your calling. Clarity is the key to helping you manifest success and happiness.
(6) De-energise your inner critic
Strip your inner negative voice of its energy and power over you. This voice is not necessarily you—it is the amalgam of your parents, teachers or other authority figures or peers that criticicised you from a young age. In order to do this, you first need to acknowledge your inner critic but you do not need to yield to it. You can do this by simply saying quietly within yourself, “Thank you for sharing,” and then make a decision that will ultimately enhance your world and orient you towards the positive. The other way is to use affirmations to counter the negative suggestion that rises up from within. To do this, you need to find the opposite value of the criticism point. For example, if your inner voice says, “That drawing is crap,” then you may want to say, “I’m delighted that my artwork is getting better and better each time I draw.” You may or may not be able to silence your inner negative voice completely but you can replace it with your inner positive voice so that it loses its hold over you.
If you do something that you’re proud of then crow about it. This does not mean brag or boast, it just means letting the world know that you hit a home run. You can do this through a simple Facebook post or a tweet. Or you can ring your parents or do a blog post about it or share it with your peers in a specific group you belong to. On a larger scale, you can write a Media Release about it and send it out to the press. Again, this can be done on a small or large scale but the important thing is to get it out there because nobody else will do it for you,
Finally, remember that you are special and unique and there is a part of you – no matter how large or small – that sees, hears, and feels that. Tap into that part.
© Julie Ditrich, 2014