The Perfectionist's Problem

Conquering Imposter Syndrome in the Creative Industry.
The Perfectionist's Problem

Impostor Syndrome is a common yet often misunderstood phenomenon affecting creatives across all disciplines. Despite their success, many struggle with persistent self-doubt and the fear of being exposed as frauds. We dive into the experiences of several creatives who have faced this inner critic head-on. Arshad Sayyed, Dhiman Gupta, Pearl D’Souza, and Tosha Jagad share their personal stories of overcoming Impostor Syndrome, revealing the thoughts, feelings, and triggers that hindered their creativity and productivity. They also offer valuable advice and strategies to help others navigate and conquer these debilitating feelings.

Q

Have you ever experienced Impostor Syndrome in your creative journey? If so, could you describe what that experience was like for you?

A

Arshad: Yes, the Pandemic was the turning point in my work principles which also led to self-doubt in my way of working. Adapting to the digital platform and leaving my comfort zone was affecting my confidence and creativity. The flow hampered my progress.

Dhiman: I feel inadequate daily, which means I experience Impostor Syndrome frequently. A feeling of inadequacy coupled with fear of failure (maybe success too) are the main problems. I believe everyone feels it to a varying degree. It is a deeply discouraging feeling which stops us from experimenting and consequently our growth.

Pearl: I often experience impostor syndrome. I began my fulltime freelance journey two years ago. It feels surreal to have people acknowledge the work that I created and then praise me for it. When I receive praise, I tend to belittle my efforts and convince myself that what I have accomplished isn’t all that great. This inner dialogue is something I constantly have to fight against.

Tosha: I have experienced Impostor Syndrome for as long as I can remember. I first became aware of it at the beginning of my freelance career when I had to self-promote my work. To this day, I still struggle with it. It took me a few months to release my first-ever ceramic collection because I felt it wasn’t good enough. However, after releasing it, the collection sold out in a few hours. I was fortunate to have a good therapist who helped me with cognitive behavioural therapy exercises to navigate through it. Impostor Syndrome still exists for me, but now I know how to work my way around it.

Q

What were some of the specific thoughts or feelings you grappled with when experiencing Impostor Syndrome?

A

Arshad: Will I be able to achieve my goals and make a mark? Will I be left behind and get lost in the rat race? Will I be able to adapt to the digital platform? These were the question marks that were affected by freedom of creativity.

Dhiman: As mentioned fear of failure and feeling inadequate are the two main culprits. I would blame our conservative educational system for the fear of failure in all of us. We all have been compared to other people/ relatives who were better than us in something or the other. But we must remember that we are all unique individuals, and comparison is the least effective metric to evaluate.

Pearl: Because I work alone most of the time, I find it easy to overlook how much work and how many hours I have put into a project. I often feel like I’m not working hard enough or that I don’t deserve the recognition I receive. Even when others validate my work, I sometimes feel like they’re just saying it for the sake of saying something, and not because they mean it. My brain constantly twists compliments and feedback into something negative.

Tosha: I have struggled with a lot of self-doubt. For a long time, I felt unsure about calling myself an artist (specifically a ceramicist) because I lacked formal or academic training in this medium. Although the label isn’t the most important thing to me, it took me a while to transition from simply saying “I work with clay” to confidently declaring “I am a ceramicist”.

I have experienced Impostor Syndrome for as long as I can remember. I first became aware of it at the beginning of my freelance career when I had to self-promote my work. To this day, I still struggle with it. It took me a few months to release my firstever ceramic collection because I felt it wasn’t good enough. However, after releasing it, the collection sold out in a few hours.
Q

Did you notice any particular triggers or situations that exacerbated your feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy?

A

Arshad: There were situations where I used to see my friends doing experiments online and adjusting to the change after the lockdown, I felt very out of phase during that phase.

Dhiman: Comparison is of course the ultimate trigger, whether we do it ourselves or someone else does it to us. Unfortunately, everything in our world is controlled by money. I guess creative folks face this inability to convert capability/ talent into money daily. Despite all the hard work, we are bound to feel discouraged when we compare notes with the business guy next door.

Pearl: I often experience impostor syndrome after a project has been published and people start talking about it. When people say nice things, praise my work, or show interest in how I got to where I am, my brain tends to diminish all the effort I have put in to reach this point in my career. That’s when self-doubt creeps in, and I question whether I truly deserve all of this and if I have worked hard enough for it.

Tosha: The situation is more than triggers. The common one is releasing a collection/body of work each time.

Q

How did Impostor Syndrome affect your creativity, productivity, and overall well-being?

A

Arshad: As earlier said, I was very self-conscious, and my confidence took a hit. In turn, I was not able to complete my projects on time.

Dhiman: I have one big plus point. I always play my muse and get over disappointments after a good night’s sleep. My reading habit helps a lot. It helps me escape reality and get absorbed into someone else’s life. Talking to family members/ real friends can also be very effective.

Pearl: It’s really taking a toll on my mental health. Constantly having to battle this negative inner voice is tough. The ongoing struggle has also led to creative fatigue, making it difficult for me to draw or come up with new ideas. This overwhelming feeling naturally affects my productivity and ability to meet deadlines.

Tosha: There have been times when it has led to days of in-action and procrastination, it feels extremely overwhelming and permanent.

Unfortunately, everything in our world is controlled by money. I guess creative folks face this inability to convert capability/ talent into money daily. Despite all the hard work, we are bound to feel discouraged when we compare notes with the business guy next door.
Q

What strategies or techniques have you found helpful in managing or overcoming this?

A

Arshad: The best solution was that I took a break. I discovered the pros and cons of this situation and took baby steps to revive Wallcano again.

Dhiman: As mentioned, I resort to books. The wider the choices, the better. To date, I have not faced a problem that two hours of reading can not solve. Getting close to nature can also help. A quick trip to the sea/ hills is always a good idea.

Pearl: Practicing positive self-talk is hard but has been very effective. I am now self-aware enough to know what feelings of impostor syndrome are coming on. In those moments, I will sit with myself and talk to myself like I would talk to a friend. I don’t use specific affirmations, rather I just have a casual conversation with myself to fight the negative voice. I also lean on friends/family to remind me that I deserve all the work that I am getting. It is always helpful to hear from someone else that you are on the right path and are working hard to achieve your goals.

Tosha: Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has been extremely beneficial in helping me overcome self-doubt and low self-esteem. What I appreciate about CBT is that you engage in various exercises to address the same issue, finding different solutions. It involves repetitive exercises to challenge and change negative thought patterns, gradually reducing the need to revisit them. In addition, activities like exercise can release endorphins, which helps maintain a balanced mindset and cope with challenging situations more effectively.

Q

Have you sought support or guidance from mentors to address these feelings?

A

Arshad: Yes, I read many self-help books, and my family supported me during my low self-esteem phase.

Dhiman: I speak to my family members frequently about all these. Sometimes, just being heard is enough. Fortunately, I have a very supportive family. Additionally, reading can help. Books can teleport us to any place we want to be. So making friends with books is a super interesting idea. We can always bank on their tried and tested loyalty.

Pearl: I usually discuss these feelings in therapy because it’s easier for me to be completely open and free in that environment. However, I also have a friend in the industry whom I consider a mentor. I often consult her for support when I’m having a hard time.

Tosha: Yes, my therapist, sibling, and close friends who also work in a similar field go through bouts of self-doubt.

It’s normal to experience these feelings; they don’t make you a better or worse creative. Many people in our field have gone through them at some point in their creative journey.
Q

What advice would you offer to fellow creatives who may be struggling with Impostor Syndrome?

A

Arshad: You have to get help. Speak up with your close friends and teachers and try to take small steps towards change.

Dhiman: We must remember that comparison is the least effective method to measure/ evaluate ourselves. We are all unique, and we must stay that way. Switching off social media might be good first step. Reading for a couple of hours daily (anything as long as it is in print version) can be helpful. Going through others’ work that we admire is the best way to stay inspired.

Pearl: It’s normal to experience these feelings; they don’t make you a better or worse creative. Many people in our field have gone through them at some point in their creative journey. Your focus should be on your reality, your work, your practice, your clients, and your goals. The more you concentrate on these things, the easier it becomes to ignore the negative self-talk.

Tosha: Share your feelings/thoughts with others. Imposter syndrome is not a rare psychological occurrence. For all you know, the people you look up to also have been through it or are going through it.

It’s normal to experience these feelings; they don’t make you a better or worse creative. Many people in our field have gone through them at some point in their creative journey.
Q

Are there any resources, books, or tools you recommend for those looking to better understand and cope with this Syndrome?

A

Arshad: “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck.

Dhiman: Reading every day helps. The wider the variety, the better. As mentioned earlier, a couple of hours of reading can solve almost any problem you might be facing. Staying close to your loved ones also helps a lot. Most importantly, having enough sleep is necessary to stay curious. And curiosity will always help us stay ahead of the curve.

Tosha: There is no one way to deal with it. Find what helps you best and keep in mind all the possible clichés like “don’t give up” and “keep going” because doing those things is what helps. Push yourself, force yourself to think differently. I sometimes refer to “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David Burns. Also, people seek therapy when everything goes wrong; it’s okay to seek help for problems that might seem small and don’t feel serious.

What’s your opinion?

Do write in to us at nitin@CreativeGaga.com with ‘Wise Advice’ as a subject.

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