“What would you say if you weren’t afraid?” It’s a question that echoes in my head every time I’m momentarily paralyzed by imposter syndrome. Heard of it? It’s the belief that, despite all the evidence and experience that you’re the right person for the opportunity, a tiny part of you still whispers, “You’re an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.” I’m here to help you conquer the doubts and fears that can hold you back from truly embracing your artistic journey. I’ve got some great tips for overcoming imposter syndrome as an artist that will help you recognize just how much you are worth.
I’m STILL Overcoming Imposter Syndrome!
I have to get this important note out of the way right from the start: I’ve been on this creative journey for well over a decade now and, yes, I am still overcoming imposter syndrome! If I had never ever tried anything new, never said yes to new opportunities, and avoided meeting new people… Well, then, maaaaybe I might have escaped feeling like a toddler wearing momma’s high heels. When I think about how much I could have missed out on if I never tried anything scary, well, that’s what gets my heart really racing!!! If growth is our goal, then it’s a simple fact of life that we are all going to feel like imposters once we step outside our comfort zones!
The key to overcoming imposter syndrome is recognizing that feeling little like an imposter is actually a sign that you’re probably on the right path! Rather than believing the fear, we can use it as a reminder to check in with our creative selves as we continue to grow.
How I’m Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, Day by Day
My stomach was in knots, but I still said yes… When the wonderful folks behind IDAL (the International Decorative Artisans League) invited me to be a keynote speaker and teach a class at their convention, I sort of worried that I might be sick. I’m not a muralist, faux finisher, or toile painter — and a younger me might have questioned whether or not they even had the right Dionne Woods… — but I wasn’t about to let fear stop me from saying yes! So I swallowed the lump in my throat and I said YES! That’s the path toward overcoming imposter syndrome: defy it, one tiny decision at a time.
My goal for speaking and teaching at the convention was to encourage a new group of people to expand their creativity and try some painting that is outside of their comfort zone. Many of those wonderful creatives recognize that they are truly artists but are ready to step down off their scaffolding and into a world of visual artistry. Most of the folks in attendance were incredibly hard workers who had years and years of experience in creating incredibly precise custom finishes… So I thought to myself, “Dionne, what’s something that is just about as far from precision painting as you can get?”
I knew immediately that I would be teaching those talented artists how to finger paint on canvas… but I still spent the weeks leading up to the conference deep in the pity party of imposter syndrome, wondering why in the world the brilliant minds behind IDAL thought that I was the right person to deliver their keynote speech and teach a class. I came up with about a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it: I was going to fail, I wasn’t the best choice for the job, I didn’t have anything of use to teach these experienced professionals, blah, blah, blah.
But the practice of overcoming imposter syndrome isn’t something that you do one time before you get to move on forever. It’s a series of intentional choices that you make every single day.
6 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome As an Artist
Celebrate Your Unique Voice
You have a unique voice, perspective, and skill that no one else can replicate. Only you have lived your life, so only you can tell your story. Embrace your individuality and let it shine through your art. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on expressing your authentic self in whatever way feels most natural.
Recognize Your Accomplishments
Imposter syndrome often creeps in when we downplay our achievements. It’s okay to feel proud of how far you’ve come on your artistic journey! Celebrate your wins, big and small. Whether you’re picking up a paintbrush for the first time in a long time, finishing an ambitious piece, or receiving positive feedback, you owe it to yourself to acknowledge your accomplishments and give yourself a pat on the back!
Art is a journey! As long as you continue to create art, it’s very likely that you’ll continue to explore and try new things. Instead of feeling inadequate when faced with new challenges, reframe your mindset. (Read this post for ideas.) Embrace the learning process and see it as an opportunity for growth… And a chance to play!
Find Your Community
It’s no secret that I believe in the power of community. Finding a supportive community of like-minded artists can be incredibly empowering, which is why I founded my Creative Connection! It’s a place where we can connect with fellow creatives who understand the highs and lows of the artistic journey. I’m always surprised by how many of us struggle with overcoming imposter syndrome! Checking in with my community always makes me feel more empowered. (I even made a video about it!)
Be kind to yourself! Self-compassion is the big secret to overcoming imposter syndrome. Every once in a while, we all have a day (or two) that trips us up. We don’t feel like ourselves or aren’t meeting all of our daily demands the way we’d hoped. It’s okay! Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a dear friend. Acknowledge that making mistakes is normal. Forgive yourself. Move on.
Be Afraid… But Do It Anyway
The simple truth is that, sometimes, we ARE the outsider in the room! If you’re getting outside of your comfort zone then you might find yourself somewhere a little uncomfortable. That’s okay! I was sort of freaking out about the IDAL convention before I arrived but, by the time I walked in, I was actually feeling pretty dang good about myself! I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, thanks in part to some familiar faces in attendance, and the few moments of self doubt that I experienced were quickly overshadowed by the excitement of being somewhere new. Sometimes, we just have to be afraid but try new things anyway.
During my keynote speech, I shared a message with the audience that really served as a reminder to myself: I am a collector of creative stories. Unlike the precise painting of a faux finisher, my goal is not to teach a creative how to create something specific in a step-by-step manner. Rather, my efforts are always directed towards helping artists paint from the heart! Focusing on collecting those stories — by getting to know the artisans who attended my class — took away so much of the fear I had about teaching.
Reminding myself that I was there to connect with others made the class a breeze! We played music, danced, laughed, and formed real connections with each other! So many folks told me that my class was unlike any other at the convention. If I hadn’t practiced celebrating my unique voice, then I might not have recognized that feedback for the compliment that it was!!! I might have seen this “outsiderness” as a negative, as something about myself I had to change… rather than recognizing that I was actually standing out from the crowd in a memorable way.
One of the best things I heard all week was from a woman who could not stop telling me how happy she was and how much she loved what I was doing. She said, “I love that there are no rules here! I need more of that in my life.”
The next time imposter syndrome creeps in, I want you to remember this one simple rule: There are no rules in art! True art comes from your heart… And who could know more about your heart than YOU?!
Also remember that you are talented, worthy, and capable of greatness. Embrace your uniqueness, celebrate your achievements, and surround yourself with a supportive community. Practice self-compassion and try new things, even if you’re shaking in your boots!
Overcoming imposter syndrome is something that happens day by day so keep creating, keep believing in yourself, and let your art shine!