Thanks to the internet and social media, we’re now exposed to art more than ever before. With Instagram and a bunch of photo-sharing apps and websites, we can see hundreds of pictures and videos every single day. All of this has a good side, of course, since it lets us have loads of inspiration only a click away. But today, we’ll discuss one of the bad sides.
In this video, Nigel Danson talks about the impostor (or imposter) syndrome he feels as a photographer. If you’re exposed to lots of amazing images you see on Instagram every day, you may feel the same. Nigel shares his experience in the video, and I’ll share some tips on how to face and overcome this crippling feeling of self-doubt and give yourself the credit you deserve.
What is impostor syndrome?
As defined by Very Well Mind, “impostor syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area.” This source further notes that “you might have impostor syndrome if you find yourself consistently experiencing self-doubt, even in areas where you typically excel.” You may feel restless, nervous, and constantly self-criticize. Impostor syndrome is also often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety and depression.
You see your photos differently than the viewers
Even though Nigel is an experienced (and, may I add, amazing) photographer, he recently felt the impact of the impostor syndrome. Comparing his photos with those taken by other photographers, he felt as if he couldn’t take photos that were that good. Sounds familiar?
I’ve had this feeling more times than I can count, and since I’m a woman of many hobbies, I’ve had it in more areas than just photography. As Nigel says, this probably happens because you’re used to your photos, so to say. You were there, you took them, and you edited them later; you observe them as a photographer. And those you see online are new to you, and you see them as a viewer.
What I’d add is that you see the “mistakes” in each of your images: stuff that you wouldn’t want to be there, things you could have done differently, etc. You know each of those details, but when others see your images, they see something beautiful and captivating, just like you see the photos by the photographers you admire.
The impostor syndrome and the feeling of self-doubt could lead you to stop sharing your work, but Nigel discusses why you should keep sharing it.
Keep sharing your work with others
I know what it feels like to doubt yourself and not want to share what you shoot because “it’s not good enough.” But it’s important that you persist. You’ll get constructive criticism on your work and learn what to improve next time. I have to add: don’t listen to trolls; that’s not constructive criticism, that’s just being mean. You’ll also get some positive feedback from your followers, which will encourage you further. There’s something to keep in mind, though: don’t measure your work’s value with the number of “likes.”
Remember why you love photography
When the “it’s not good enough” feeling overwhelms you, remember why you fell in love with photography in the first place. I doubt many of us started it just to be better than anyone else (and we can discuss what “better than others” even mean in art). Most of us enjoy the journey, the process behind taking and editing each photo and learning something new every time we shoot.
Recognizing and dealing with impostor syndrome
It’s worth noting that not every moment of self-doubt is automatically impostor syndrome. However, you should keep an eye on some symptoms and behaviors:
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
If this is something you constantly do, you might have impostor syndrome. You should become aware of these behaviors above all. And then, it’s time to start working on overcoming them, one step at a time. You can read more about impostor syndrome here, and remember – it’s perfectly okay to seek professional help if this condition affects your everyday life and work. You’ve got this! :)
[I’m a Photographer and I have Imposter Syndrome | Nigel Danson]