My heart is racing. My mouth is dry. I am in a room full of people I don’t know. I am terrified that someone will ask me what I do… why I am here… absolutely anything about me. It makes no sense, but EVERYTHING in my body is telling me to run and hide. The social anxiety is overwhelming.
For those that have come along to one of our Style Pose Click events, it’s absolutely NO secret that I avoid the stage like someone up there has Ebola and I am in grave danger of actually dying if I come into contact with it. If there is a curtain to camouflage into I will do it. If there is a secret green room, I will disappear into it. If there is a crisis on the day I will launch myself into fixing it, keeping myself as busy as possible in the shadows. In fact, for the most part, I have often actually hidden the fact that I am even one half of everything Style Pose Click. A fact that makes absolutely no sense when I am intensely internally proud of how hard Kate and I work every single day to make a difference in the photography industry.
It wasn’t always this way. In my former, pre-children life, I could walk into a room full of professionals and run the show. I could make myself known and make myself heard. I did not have any fear. NONE.
But a few days ago, faced yet again with a room full of strangers at a marketing event, that familiar panic started rising. As I struggled to push through, I turned my focus to the presentation I was there to hear. And in the first few minutes, there was a phrase discussed that sounded eerily familiar.
By definition, Imposter Syndrome isa psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” (Wikipedia).In short, people with this syndrome often have chronic self-doubt and a belief that any success that they have had is completely to do with serendipity, rather than actual skill. There is a consistent feeling of inadequacy in their career, despite evidence that all points in the other direction. Outwardly, these people are often accomplished, but internally they feel like they really are not good enough.
It’s true, I really dislike being asked what I do for work. I struggle to articulate it succinctly, I feel awkward like I am making it up and I down play it as if it is a hobby. Am I trying to prevent myself from being exposed as a fraud? Maybe… And is this actually affecting my life? Umm… probably.
And that’s when I realised… I think there are elements of this syndrome that come into play so often in the world of photography. I talk to photographers every day. And it is extremely rare for me to hear even one say- I am a photographer and I am great at what I do, here are my accomplishments. Even those booked out for months in advance, even those who have hundreds of others in the industry looking up to them, even those with such insane talent that I would give my left kidney for just a drop of it.
There is a constant down play of skill and ability. A notion that they got lucky with some Facebook likes and their business has grown by accident and not by hard work and skill. Is it the plight of the creative to feel like they are faking it in the professional world?
I also wonder, is it this irrational fear of being exposed that is preventing so many photography businesses from reaching their potential? Not everyone of course, but some? There are so many people who can easily sell the wares of another’s business but could never walk up to somebody and be upfront about their own professional achievements. Or is this just part of who we are in Australian culture? Do we actually need to be TAUGHT how to overcome this?
SO… do I have Imposter Syndrome? The jury is still out. But it will be my mission over the coming months to find out how to overcome it, whatever it is that is holding me back. And when I find some answers I will be sure to share them with you all…