Let’s talk about impostor syndrome as an artist! The #1 way that I see Impostor Syndrome come up for artists is a belief that they’re not a “Real Artist” if they didn’t go to art school. Guess what, even if you have ZERO formal training, you are still an ARTIST. If you enjoy making any kind of artwork for fun or as a business, you are an ARTIST. We’re talking all about Impostor Syndrome today, breaking it down, and banishing it for good! On this podcast you’ll get a motivational pep talk with a lot of different ways to blast impostor syndrome thoughts out of your brain. Bookmark this one for any day you need a creative pep talk to get you painting again!
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Hello and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. Welcome to today’s episode, in which we are talking about imposter syndrome as an artist. Art in the art world has a lot of gates, both artificial and sometimes real, that are designed to keep people out, designed to make art seem out of reach difficult, not accessible to you. As a result, it’s very easy to get impostor syndrome as a Self Taught Artist. We are talking about it today, breaking it down, and banishing it for good.
So let’s jump in after our Review of the Week. This one comes to us from Jetta 246. And Jetta said, “I’m so glad I found this podcast, Lauren, Kristine hits on all of the things that I’ve struggled with as a Self Taught Artist. She’s so clearly and simply breaks down tough topics like burnishing your art, selling your art and more. I’ve had a hard time finding other artists that can make such topics feel approachable for beginners. I’m binging this podcast.” Thank you so much Jetta 246. I really appreciate all of your kind words. And I’m excited that you’re here and that you found it. This is exactly why I created the podcast is because I didn’t have anywhere to turn to learn these things. So I felt like I was stumbling in the dark. As a result, it makes me really happy to get reviews like that. So as a reminder to all of you listening, if you would just take one minute to Rate, Review, and Subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts, it would make such a huge difference to me. So please do it. And let’s spread the word. Share the podcast with all of your artists friends. Excellent.
Let’s dive right in and talk about imposter syndrome as an artist. So it’s important to first define what is impostor syndrome in the first place. If you don’t know what it is and you haven’t had impostor syndrome, then I am jealous. You are a very lucky person. I’m gonna bet that many of us listening have experienced impostor syndrome at one point or another in some area of our lives. Imposter syndrome is essentially the feeling of being unworthy, or the feeling that you’re somehow a fraud. Impostor syndrome is tricky. Because it tricks us into minimizing our value, and minimizing our contributions by making us feel that we’re somehow inferior to others. In my opinion, the worst part about impostor syndrome is that if we listen to these voices that were unworthy, or we’re not good enough, then it can actually rob us of our future joy, and it can convince us that we don’t belong in a certain circle, or that we should not pursue opportunities to advance our passions, interests, or even our careers. Imposter syndrome can happen at any time and to anyone, but females typically get it the worst.
The number one way that imposter syndrome comes up for artists is the feeling that you’re somehow inferior because you did not go to art school, or you have no formal training. Guess what, you’re still an artist. Everyone can be an artist. And it has nothing to do with an art school diploma. Just as many art school grads are out there making no art and not pursuing any form of art with their degree, as are actually pursuing art in a meaningful way. So just because you have art school training doesn’t mean that you are a successful artist. That is just one piece of the puzzle.
Going to art school will teach you a very narrow set of art foundations. They don’t teach you a style. They don’t teach you how to have a thriving art business. They don’t teach you how to love painting. They give you some foundations and some tools you can put that in your toolbox, but there’s no substitute for practicing and trial and error. You can accomplish the very same foundations that art school teaches with YouTube and a lot of practice, believe me. I’ve heard it directly from people who spent over $100,000 on a four year art degree.
It’s very easy to get caught up in these things and convince ourselves that they matter a lot more than they do. No one is looking at the art degree, or asking you if you have an art degree if your art looks really, really good. So focus on that. And forget about art school and whether you went or not.
So let’s say from time to time, you look at a blank canvas, and you feel impostor syndrome, or you want to apply to show your work in a gallery, or you want to be part of a local art show, but you’re holding yourself back because of imposter syndrome. You think there’s no way that someone like you could do that? Well, how can we get rid of that imposter syndrome? That’s what we are here to talk about today. So we’re going to break down a few things you can do to turn this impostor syndrome around and banish it from your brain for good.
One, realize that you are in control. Your feelings about this are not rooted in facts. And because this, this is not something happening to you, it’s not something happening outside of you, but rather, your feelings in your brain. Because it’s inside your brain, you can take steps to do something about it. And that gives you power. So number one, reclaim your power and recognize that these feelings of impostor syndrome come from within you. Not the external world. Okay, so you are in control of those thoughts in your brain, and we’re going to change them.
Number two, acknowledge your emotions, don’t ignore them. Your feelings are valid. And when impostor syndrome rears its ugly head, that can make me feel insecure, stressed, or like I’m doomed to failure. So why should I even try? Why should I even start painting if my whole painting is going to be a failure? That is something that goes on in my internal talk track in my brain, way more often than I’d like to admit to you. This is perfectly normal! It’s okay for me to have these emotions and more. So when I have them while painting, one thing that I will do to acknowledge these emotions, is to actually put them on my canvas. If it happens in the early stage of a painting, I will literally take paint, and I will paint these words on the canvas or I’ll put them there with with my fingers, I’ll dip my finger in paint and finger paint it on the canvas. Okay, put those feelings down into the painting. And then I scratch them out, I mark them out, I paint over them, I put a big X on it. And I remind myself that I am an artist, I’ve made great beautiful art before and I’m going to do it again. But sometimes it’s just doing that physical act of writing it down and crossing it out. And just, it just cements it in my brain that that’s a feeling. That’s, that’s a thought I’m having it’s in my brain. But let’s cross it out. Let’s get rid of it. And sometimes that helps me move on. Just mark that as incorrect.
There are lots of small failures on the road to becoming a skillful, skillful artist. But it’s normal, and it’s part of it. And every time a painting has turned out, not exactly as I would hope, I’ve learned something from it and my painting the next time got way better. That is what learning looks like. We as adults are so hard on ourselves and we expect things to be easy. It’s been a long time since we’ve tried new things in a lot of cases. So little failures along the way are just part of the bigger picture.
Now, if you are feeling any impostor syndrome as an artist, I also encourage you to review your past record of achievement and accomplishment in all areas of life. Okay, zoom out. Look at the big picture. Look at your experiences, the projects you’ve worked on, the skills you’ve gained, the problems you’ve solved. You have a stack of receipts that you are awesome. In lots of different facets of life, in big and small ways, you are awesome. And you have done hard, difficult things before. All of those things you’ve done in the past are real, and they actually happened. And you’re going to conquer whatever challenge lies in front of you in the same manner, whether it’s on the canvas, or it’s at work. Sometimes looking back at things you’ve done before can give us hard proof that you are capable and accomplished, and you’re going to use those same skills to keep moving forward. Our brain loves to play tricks on us sometimes to keep us feeling safe, to keep us in our comfort zone. Trying new things pushes us outside of the realm of safety for our brains, which is hard because we’re opening ourselves up to failure.
So if you use proof of past accomplishments to prove to yourself it’s possible and you’re going to do it again. And it can be art related or not. Sometimes when I get down in the studio, I will look up on the wall, pick out one of my old favorite paintings of mine, and remind myself, I can do it again. I can make that magic happen again, and it will happen and trust that it will. I look at the receipts, I look at the proof all around me that I am capable in art and in life. And I am going to get through whatever artistic funk I’m feeling at that time.
So no matter what, keep putting one foot in front of the other. And you’re going to accomplish the next challenge in your path in the same way that you’ve done so in the past: through hard work, getting creative, and persevering.
Alright, so the next thing to do in this banishment of impostor syndrome, is to look around you, look at a bigger a bigger lens, zoom out even more, and look at other people, other artists who have achieved what you dream of. Did every single one of them have the so called perfect background that imposter syndrome has erroneously convinced you that you don’t have? No, I guarantee you, people of success come from all different backgrounds. And there are some paths that are more traditional than others. But that doesn’t mean that everyone took the same path. So say this to yourself, “if they did it, I can do it too.” And go ahead and look back and see how long it took them to reach that level of success that you’re seeing them at now. I’m gonna guess it took a lot longer than we think about.
It’s really easy to look at someone on Instagram or online or hanging in an art gallery and think that things were always easy for them. We are not as hard on other people as we are on ourselves. And a lot of times these “overnight successes” actually happen after years and years of hard work of laying the foundation.
Alright, the last thing to do is to maintain forward momentum. Ask yourself, what is one small thing I can do right now to demonstrate that I am not an impostor, I am an artist and help me move forward on my art journey. For example, you can start a painting, you can take a look at your old art and pick out your favorites and make a plan for what your next painting is going to be. You can return to your favorite subject matter that you love painting and do it again. You can work smaller, pick a smaller canvas or substrate, if that’s easier for you. You can watch a painting tutorial on YouTube and have someone else guide you through the creation process. That’s my favorite one. If I’m ever feeling stuck, I go find a painting tutorial from one of the teachers that I like. And I follow it to a tee. I copy exactly what they’re doing. And if I’m feeling like it later, maybe I’ll make small improvements or add my own artistic style flair to it. But sometimes I just go step by step along with a tutorial and that makes me feel better. And it makes me feel capable because I look at the art that I created at the end. And I always go “Wow.” Such actions and doing things may help distract you from the negative emotions and getting sucked in deeper to those feelings of impostor syndrome and provide yet more evidence that you deserve to call yourself an artist. Because you are one, you are an artist!
So while sometimes imposter syndrome does come up, that doesn’t mean you have to give into it. Go through all these steps and do your best to shake it out of your head and just keep painting. That’s the most important thing you can do is just take one small step forward, put some paint on the canvas, get some watercolors out, put something on paper, just do something to keep painting to keep that artistic spark alive. Each small step that you take is getting you closer to your artistic dreams. So don’t let anybody or any so-called credential make you feel like you’re not worthy of being an artist and being in the company of artists. You’re an artist no matter what!
Alright, that’s it for today. I hope this has been helpful. If you have ideas for other topics you’d like to hear me discuss on the podcast, send me a message at LaurenKristine firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll leave my email in the show notes. And as always, please take a minute to Rate Review and Subscribe to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps out. I will be back next week with another episode of season two of the Self Taught Artist. Until then, Happy Creating my friends!
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