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What Is Imposter Syndrome and How Artists Can Overcome It

As an artist, I’ve often found myself grappling with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, wondering if I truly belong in the creative world. This nagging sense that I’m not as talented or capable as others perceive me to be is something many artists experience and is known as imposter syndrome. 

It’s a complex mix of emotions that can hold us back from fully realizing our artistic potential.

What is Imposter Syndrome? 

Imposter syndrome is an ongoing feeling of self-doubt and inadequacy, often experienced despite success and accomplishments. It’s that nagging voice inside that tells you you’re not truly talented, that your achievements are a fluke, and that it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes you’re a fraud. 

For artists, whose work is deeply personal and often subject to public scrutiny, these negative thoughts can be particularly debilitating and often stifles creativity.

Imposter syndrome isn’t exclusive to the art world. People experience it across various fields—scientists, teachers, and other creative professionals—and also struggle with their inner critic. It stems from the pressure to meet high standards, the fear of failure, and the human tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably to others.

An artist sitting at a desk doing a painting in red watercolors. There is an iPad with a reference photo, a lamp and various candles, pens, and brushes scattered around.

What are the Signs of Imposter Syndrome?

To truly rid ourselves of imposter syndrome, we have to understand why we feel this way. Imposter syndrome among artists can manifest in various ways. Here are some common symptoms:

1. Self-Doubt

Constantly doubting your abilities and questioning whether you are truly talented or a good artist. Allowing negative self-talk and feelings of self-doubt to influence your creative process.

2. Perfectionism

Setting excessively high standards for yourself and feeling like a failure when you don’t meet them. This can lead to excessive revisions or reluctance to share your work.

3. Attributing Success to External Factors

Believing that your successes are due to luck, timing, or other external factors rather than your own skills and efforts.

4. Fear of Failure

Being intensely afraid of making mistakes or failing can prevent you from taking risks or trying new things.

5. Undermining Your Achievements

Minimizing or dismissing your accomplishments and hard work and feeling like you don’t deserve recognition or praise.

6. Overworking

Feeling the need to work excessively hard to prove your worth, which can lead to burnout.

7. Comparing Yourself to Others

Frequently, you compare your own work and progress to that of other artists and feel inadequate as a result.

8. Avoiding Challenges

Avoiding opportunities or challenges because you fear you won’t be able to meet them or that you’ll be exposed as a “fraud.” Preferring to stay in your comfort zone means you never really progress in your creative field.

9. Feeling Like a Fraud

A persistent feeling that you are not as competent or talented as others believe you to be and that you will be “found out” eventually.

10. Discounting Positive Feedback

They struggle to accept compliments or positive feedback, often feeling that others are just being kind, especially if the compliment comes from a family member or close friend.

11. Low Self-Esteem

Having a generally low opinion of your abilities and worth as an artist.

12. Difficulty Internalizing Success

Struggling to believe that your successes are truly yours and feeling like they don’t reflect your actual abilities.

A man sitting at a desk with his head in his hand. There is a computer monitor, a cell phone and books on the desk.

​Social Media and Imposter Syndrome

I gave social media its own heading because it is one of the biggest influences on how we perceive ourselves today. It is a great tool for selling artwork and growing your brand and art business. You can reach thousands of potential clients and network with other artists and creatives, but there are drawbacks. It can significantly contribute to imposter syndrome, particularly among artists and other creative professionals.

Social media often showcases only the highlights of people’s lives and careers, leading to skewed perceptions. Comparing your own behind-the-scenes struggles to others’ curated successes can lead to feelings of inadequacy.

It often emphasizes perfection, making it easy to believe that others never make mistakes or face challenges. This can create unrealistic standards for yourself, leading to disappointment when you inevitably fall short and question your own abilities.

The need to constantly produce content and engage with your audience can lead to burnout. The pressure to maintain a certain image or level of productivity can be overwhelming and contribute to imposter syndrome.

While positive feedback can be validating, negative comments or lack of engagement can be damaging to self-esteem. Criticism, especially when public, can amplify feelings of doubt. 

The desire for likes, shares, and positive comments can become a source of validation.

When these metrics are low or negative, it can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

An artist holding a palette with blue and turquoise paint and a brush and palette knife. The text overlay reads tips to overcome imposter syndrome as an artist. trembelingart.com
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Reducing the Impact of Social Media

You might want to consider using some of the following strategies to lessen social media’s impact on imposter syndrome.

  • Follow accounts that inspire and uplift you rather than those that lead to negative comparisons.
  • Make a conscious decision to regularly disconnect from social media to give yourself a mental break.
  • Share your own struggles and successes honestly. Authentic engagement can foster a supportive community, and most social media algorithms favor authentic engagement these days.
  • Remember that social media is just one aspect of your life and career. Focus on real-world interactions and achievements.

By being mindful of how you use social media and its effects on your mindset, you can reduce its negative impact on your self-perception and confidence.

An artist sitting at a white table painting on a notebook with watercolors. There is a wooden paint box, a jar of brushes and a jar of water on the table.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is a common challenge among artists and other professionals. Here are some tips that might help you manage and overcome it. By implementing some of these strategies, you can gradually build confidence in your abilities and diminish the effects of imposter syndrome.

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

Recognize that imposter syndrome is a common experience. Many successful artists have felt the same way at some point.

2. Celebrate Your Achievements

Keep a record of your accomplishments, whether big or small. This could be a journal, a portfolio, or even a folder of positive feedback. Reflecting on your achievements can remind you of your capabilities and progress.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Break your projects into manageable tasks and set achievable goals. This will help you see progress and reduce your feelings of overwhelm.

4. Seek Support

Talk to other artists or join a community where you can share your experiences and receive encouragement. Sometimes, simply knowing others face similar challenges can be reassuring. Trembling Art has a thriving Facebook group, Trembling Art Creative Corner, that is a great place to share your art and get feedback and encouragement from other artists of all skill levels and genres.

5. Accept Compliments

When someone praises your work, accept it graciously instead of dismissing it. Internalize positive feedback to help build your self-esteem. It is easy to think, “They are just being polite,” but people rarely bother to comment unless they truly mean it.

6. Focus on Growth

View mistakes and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow rather than evidence of your inadequacy. Every artist encounters challenges—what matters is how you use them to improve.

7. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. Recognize that perfection is unattainable and it’s okay to make mistakes. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a friend.

8. Limit Comparisons

Avoid comparing yourself to others. Every artist’s journey is unique, and comparisons can often lead to unnecessary self-doubt. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

9. Mindfulness and Reflection

Engage in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or journaling, to stay grounded and reflect on your feelings. This can help you better understand and manage your emotions.

10. Professional Help

If imposter syndrome significantly impacts your well-being, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor. Professional guidance can provide strategies tailored to your needs.

If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments below. You can also join our free Facebook group, Trembeling Art Creative Corner, where you can ask questions, post your work and get to know some fantastic artists from all genres and skill levels. 😊

3 thoughts on “What Is Imposter Syndrome and How Artists Can Overcome It”

  1. I enjoyed your article on imposter syndrome and found it to be helpful. I participated in various art workshop classes online and it was required that we post our work. Since my work involves abstract acrylics, after reviewing the comments to my posts, I learned that people don’t understand what I paint and don’t always respond in a positive note. I usually look forward to feedback so I can learn how they view my work. On Facebook I usually get a like. So I tend to shy away from posting. I discovered that it’s difficult to understand other artists abstract acrylic work. I don’t see a “story.” Any comments?

    1. Hi Sandy. I think abstract art is one of those things that you either understand it or you don’t. It is not a reflection on your talent or vision but rather a case of the viewer not being “your people”. Keep painting the thing that brings you joy and expresses what you want to convey. Your fans will find you! 😊

  2. Thank you Marilyn for the thoughtful and intuitive article.
    Truly appreciated it. R. Gaitan

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