So, spoiler alert: I still struggle with this. It perplexes me, because I consider myself to be a relatively confident person in certain respects. However, when it comes to marketing myself as an artist, sometimes I feel this mini-panic set in.
What if I say something that reveals the truth that I’m not really an artist? What if I use the wrong materials? Who is my work being compared to? Why aren’t my sales increasing? What if my work isn’t good enough? What if I’m not good enough?
Let’s break this down, together. I’d bet that every single creative - whether artist, photographer, musical artist, or otherwise - has struggled through this at least at one point. For many of us, this is an ongoing struggle. How do we fool each other? Two words: social media.
Social media is a beautiful tool in so many ways. I’ve been able to connect with so many clients and fellow artists through platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. It’s amazing how certain communities build both online and in real life because of these networks. I love that! On the flip side, we usually post our best works - and only our best works. Our social media pages become a perfectly curated feed, decorated with top quality content. I don’t know about you, but I personally spend HOURS every week brainstorming content, staging photos, sifting through 100 shots for the top three or so shots, editing them, and arranging and rearranging the order of my photos just shy of a million time on preview. So yeah, guilty as charged.
One big ingredient is missing from our pages: failure. Failure is real. Failure happens to all of us. And honestly, it sucks. But on the other hand, failure can help us open new doors. Seeing our idols open up about their times of failure can inspire us to keep pushing forward. Posting about failure is a real and raw part of our everyday lives. So why do we hide it?
Shame, maybe? I’m not sure, honestly. I got my law degree, not psychology, so I’ll leave that to the experts. But I do know one thing: I can’t hide from imposter syndrome. I don’t think any of us can. So where does that leave me? Where does that leave all of us?
There are days that I think “wow, I did that, I should be proud of myself!” And there are other days that I scroll and scroll and compare myself and my artwork to others in a way that’s completely unfair and unrealistic. Of course I’m not going to be as proficient as the calligrapher who has been refining her craft for ten years. I’m not going to have as much time as the full-time fine artist who churns out incredible pieces each week. And it’s ok if I don’t have a dedicated art space to creating and have to take over my kitchen table for a while.
After a lot of thought, I’ve deciding that I’m going to take this opportunity to begin embracing imposter syndrome. For me, it means looking at my life as a whole, and what I have to work with. I didn’t get an MFA, and I’m not a full-time artist. I enjoy creating different kinds of artwork, and I’m currently figuring out how to create each piece in a tiny workspace in my studio apartment. I don’t have a perfect artist pitch, and some of my artwork can’t be explained with greater philosophical meaning. I still ask other artists for help and tips ALL THE TIME. And I’m forever grateful for those who go out of their way to help little fish like me figure it all out, from smaller things like art supply recommendations, to providing me with an entire consignment contract template (looking at you amazing ladies, Samantha Testa, Marta Staudinger, Kristin Gaudio Endsley, Christine Olmstead, Rachel Heiss, and so many more - you know who you are!).
So joke’s on you, imposter syndrome. I don’t think we’re meant to compare ourselves to everyone else who we see as being more legitimate in our respective fields. I’m looking forward to working to become the best version of myself as an artist, and hope to share more moments of vulnerability more openly so we can all build a more authentic community and embrace imposter syndrome together.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. Do you also struggle with imposter syndrome? Chances are yes - and I’d love to know how you practice self-love and patience with yourself and your craft. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com, follow along on Instagram, and check out my other social media links on the bottom of this page.
Photos by Yasin F. Muhammad, Lead Photographer for RAW Artists