How to completely overcome the "Impostor Syndrome"
You’ve been in business for several years.
You have customers who know and love you.
You even have people working for you, for God’s sake!
Your work has consistently improved over the years and overall, life is good.
… Or is it?
Somewhere deep inside, there’s a part of you still worried that you’re a complete fake. That you don’t deserve the title you’re wearing. That you’re a nobody.
And when your lovely friend introduces you as “my good friend Irina, who by the way is an AMAAAAAZING photographer,” you can’t help but cringe on the inside. Instead of smiling, your face exhibits a grimace that combines doubt and fear as you awkwardly respond, “Well… yeah.. I take photos. But I’m not as good as she’s describing.”
Before you know it, your friend is engaging you in combat to gather all kinds of evidence that you’re being way too modest, and you’re left wondering “why did I even come here today?? I should have stayed home. Invisible, untouchable, undiscovered.”
That was me, just a couple of years ago.
And after one such painful introduction, I looked back at several years of cringing and hiding and decided it was time to turn things around.
You see, it’s one thing to achieve a perfect mindset around who you are becoming - in my case, a professional photographer, who is good at both connecting with the subject and applying photographic technique to create stunning and relatable portraits. That’s who I wanted to become and that’s whom I “faked it til I made it”. However, I have completely missed one HUGE piece of the puzzle (hat tip to my friend and life coach Melanie Curtis): gathering a complete set of evidence to support that mindset.
So what was preventing me from accepting the talent that others saw in me? I gave it some thought and decided on a course of action. This project was purposely designed to be ongoing. And to kickstart it - all I had to do was a little research.
I went to two places: A library and an Amazon.com book store. I was searching for literature. Anything and everything that I haven’t yet read on the art of photography, history of art, revisiting the color theory, composition and graphic design, and many, MANY books on photographing people.
I sorted through these resources by their Amazon reviews, library availability, and publishing year (I wanted to cover the whole range of available years, but not spend time reviewing ALL the books, just finding the best ones I thought were worth spending time ordering and reviewing).
I was looking to either grow, or to receive an external validation that what I’ve learned all by myself through the years of my favorite “method of scientific poking around” has been good all along.
And I found what I was looking for! It took me about three months to go through that initial stack of books that arrived through Amazon and my local library network. Some of them were a waste of time and I returned them immediately.
I glanced through tables of contents as fast as I could and spot checked the books inside, by reading a few paragraphs here and there to be able to quickly identify the ones I wanted to read, while bookmarking some that had chapters of no interest to me (literally talking about how to use the camera… in a portrait photography book…. Wouldn’t one agree that this is advanced material and you no longer need to include the basics? Maybe they needed more content… go figure in that publishing industry...)
Overall - I’ve picked up a few semi-essential techniques that I haven’t yet invented on my own (which have improved my workflow! A WIN for sure!), and also concluded, that if I need to do the World a favor - I will need to write a book or two myself. Just to make sure that there are more GOOD books out there. Because out of 25+ books that I went through - perhaps 3.5 were worth anything. I think this ratio indicates significant room for improvement.
And what else has happened? My impostor syndrome was gone. I fully realize that there will always be opportunities to grow for me, but with what I’ve done and where I am in life and business - I now smile proudly while shaking hands of new friends during introductions.
So what will it take for YOU to lose your impostor syndrome? How can you qualify your knowledge and expertise against what’s out there? What's a good standard to measure yourself up against? Find it, put it in front of yourself, and do the work.
For me this project was a win on all accounts. Not only did I gain full confidence and validation, I also learned things that other people have discovered. AND I’ve made it into a habit, to consistently learn and read new photography related content - on top of all the self-improvement and business literature I’m already freakishly obsessed with.
Good luck out there and let me know what impostor syndrome you’re battling with! Maybe together we can find a way for you to overcome it.