Imagine this (not entirely unfamiliar) scenario: you’re on your couch, scrolling through Instagram at the end of the day. You follow many other incredible industry influencers like designers, studios, hand letterers, and illustrators. Your feed is full of unique creations. While admiring the work of your peers, you find yourself thinking of your own career.
Do you think the creative project you completed last week was that good? It must have been dumb luck that your client seemed to love it. Feeling like your graphic design skills are subpar? It would be impossible for you to produce high-quality work as your colleagues post on Instagram. Are you going to admit you’re not that great of a designer soon?
If this scenario is relatable, you are probably suffering from imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome occurs when you think you don’t deserve the praise you receive. If you are in the creative industry, you might also feel like a fraud, and people may soon discover you’re not good at what you do. It’s ironic how imposter syndrome often affects high achievers, perfectionists, and successful individuals. Those with these traits constantly push themselves to perform at the highest level. Even when they produce outstanding work, they still feel that it’s not good enough.
According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, approximately 82% of people feel they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved and are frauds. Low self-esteem or an overwhelming feeling of failure can result in an inability to maximize skills or do any work. You may feel paralyzed, not wanting to disappoint yourself or others.
It is common for individuals who suffer from imposter syndrome to be unable to advance in their careers because of the feelings of self-doubt they are experiencing.
And while we can’t cure your imposter syndrome for you, we do have some sage advice for creatives who may be in similar situations.
3 tips for coping with imposter syndrome as a creative
Unfortunately, this annoying little voice in your head will negatively affect your work habits if you let it. You can become anxious if you constantly think your work isn’t good enough, which causes you to procrastinate. Furthermore, these negative thoughts undermine your confidence in your abilities as a creative expert. That’s something we hope you don’t feel!
But it is comforting to know there are various ways to cope with these harmful patterns, and you aren’t alone in experiencing them.
🤔 1. Recognize your thinking patterns
You are not your thoughts, and it is essential to understand that. We often misstep our creative paths because there is a controlling, and sometimes relentless, voice in our heads. Learn to meditate, practice mindfulness, and use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify harmful and helpful thoughts. These skills are all applicable to other areas of life, too, not just your career.
A thought like “my designer colleagues are better than me!” is not helpful to your creative path. What’s the point of paying attention and letting it influence your behavior? An affordable option for CBT and guided meditation is the Headspace app!
🤝 2. Share your experience with others
You can take great care of your mental health, as well as the mental health of those around you, by talking about it! It’s surprising how many creative people deal with imposter syndrome every day. You won’t feel alone when you know this is a common struggle.
You can talk to other creatives about how they deal with imposter syndrome through creative communities like Dribbble, Creative Mornings, or these creative support communities.
It may also help get support from your manager, friends, family, or a therapist. To overcome imposter syndrome, you need to acknowledge your worries. Talking about them helps fulfill this step. You will also be able to deal with your concerns easier, even if the solutions are not always instant or easy.
In most cases, a face-to-face or telephone conversation is more effective than an email or text, so people feel the urgency and can help. As well as helping you find and acknowledge your abilities, they can also assure you that you are not a fraud and you can achieve whatever you want to.
😌 3. Take a break and enjoy the creative phase you’re in
Designers who are new to their role or have just started a new job are especially susceptible to imposter syndrome. But it’s essential to stop for a moment and take pride in where you are in your creativity. It’s okay if you don’t know everything right away when starting a new job. Give yourself time to adjust and accept this fact. Take the time to learn from your mistakes if you’re just starting.
If you keep up with learning and developing your skills, you might also feel more comfortable in the industry.
Take part in workshops, courses, and boot camps to upskill. You can learn a lot from online tutorials. Dribbble offers free resources and Adobe, Sketch, InVision, and even more free videos on YouTube. Take time to connect with other designers by having a virtual coffee and picking their brains!
You might also want to avoid forcing it. It is best to leave something you can’t do at a particular time and return to it when you’re feeling better. When you are on break, visualize yourself doing that task well. A visualization is a powerful tool that counteracts negative thinking.
Let’s accept that we’re not perfect.
Embrace that you are a human being with flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings. You can reduce some of the pressure you’re putting on yourself by accepting that you can’t possibly be the best at everything. You can’t be perfect. Your favorite Instagrammers aren’t perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist!
Even though imposter syndrome is not a diagnosable mental health condition, it can lead to mental health conditions, such as low self-esteem and anxiety, so it is important to treat it as seriously as possible.
Imposter syndrome can only be eliminated through discipline and self-awareness. You will gain more confidence due to the tips presented in this article. They can help rewire your mindset and give you more control over your work and your results.
You are a talented, creative individual who can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it. Follow these tips, and you will be just fine. ■
About the Author: Olivia Hoskin is a freelance writer with a background in tech and marketing. A true design fan at heart, you’ll find her writing about the latest industry trends, technologies, and the inspiring endeavors of fellow creators. She’s a champion of remote work, a lover of responsible technology, and a fitness geek and enjoyer of the outdoors in her spare time. Find her at oliviahoskin.com.