At one time or another in our lives, and probably multiple time in our lives, I think this happens to us all. That very scary feeling of being a fake. A poser. A wannabe. As a photographer, this struggle comes frequently when I become a comparer instead of an admirer of other photographers’ art . When I look at my contemporaries’ images and I start the internal comparison. Is my work as good as theirs? Do I really have what it takes to create a successful business? If I am “lucky” enough to create it, can I sustain a successful business? And on and on and on . . . to debilitating doubt.
At one point, I clearly knew the answer was (and still is), yes. I have what it takes. I work at my craft to provide images that I want to be emotional, connected and most important to me, heirlooms. I obviously knew at one point that my work has value. That’s why I have a photography business. That’s why I have a business license, business insurance, membership, education, a website and all the accouterments that go with being a business owner. I believed enough in my ability as a photographer to step out into the world and say, “I am a photographer”. I am glamour photographer. I am a lifestyle photographer. I am a fine art school portrait photographer. So, where, in the face of comparison, did that assured knowledge go?
It got buried under an avalanche of unfair, imbalanced, critical self-assessments. Let’s face it, most often, when the comparison game starts we are instant losers. Rarely is someone more critical of us than we are of our own selves. Who knows us better? Who knows our greatest desires and biggest inadequacies more so than we do. The whole mental comparison conversation which wage in our heads is simply out of balance. Before it debilitates us any more, we need to find our way back to center. For me that starts with a huge helping of Grace (and a lovely note from my adult son encouraging me to continue being fearless in sharing my art. Thank you, Leo. Mommy loves you!)
God made us to be individual. He made us to have talents that are uniquely our own. So, yes, I am a photographer. And definitely there are thousands of photographers in the world. Yet, that does not take away from what is uniquely my gift and ability with photography. If I am feeling lacking, that feeling is first and foremost in me. I am lacking value in the gift that is mine. I am lacking gratitude in the blessing bestowed upon me. That’s why I have to rely on God’s grace. When we allow ourselves to lose focus and gratitude on what is clearly before us; it can be daunting to dig out and find our footing again in truth.
God’s grace lets me remember that I am here with a purpose and a reason. I can bury that under the guise of inadequacy, self-doubt and fear. I can also choose to recognize that I am, in all facets of my life, on a journey. A journey of enriching growth and development. Everyone lives has zeniths and nadirs and if we are lucky, we mostly travel somewhere in the middle. So of course, there are times when we will feel less than authentic in efforts. So what! Another’s high should not push me low. It should not send me scrabbling for the mask of perfection. Another photographer’s evoking image doesn’t mean that my work is hud. Comparison leaves room for only one winner, but admiration paves the way for many.
In the spirit of community over competition, I can celebrate the work of my contemporaries. I can be an admirer of their gifts and talents without being envious and feeling like I fall short in my own craft. I love the work I do. I feel so blessed to be a photographer and soapmaker and a mom and a sister and a daughter of God. Having so much complexity in our lives can make us a feel like we wear a masks. But being varied multi-talented individuals filled with nuances is who we are made to be. Dressing up and being glam one day does not make us an imposter because normally we are jeans and t-shirt girl. Having a cluttered, messy home does not make the neat freak inside of us any less valid or real.
I am learning that I don’t have to feel inferior when I serve my children cereal for dinner. Sometimes, no matter how mom-a-rific I am, the perfectly balanced dinner does not get done. I don’t have to be apologetic about needing to move TWO piles of laundry over so you have a place to sit on the furniture. Hopefully, if you come to my home you realize that it is a home and lots of people live here. And I don’t need to be apologetic about the style of my art. I know it doesn’t resonate with everyone and I don’t need it to. But for those whom it touches, I am here to serve you. There is a reason that I attract clients who like to collaborate, celebrate, play and enjoy. Clients who want to stretch themselves and see different facets of their wholly human, imperfect but still valuable lives.
At times, we all feel like impostors regarding some facet of our lives. We can huddle in the dark hugging that lie to us or we can remove the mask and set our spirits free. We can give ourselves permission to be dynamic and diverse. Remember that like a diamond, being multi-faceted allows us to sparkle and shine in many colors of life. Set down the felling of being an impostor. Give yourself permission to be Real.
In what ways does the feeling of being an impostor intrude on your life? What are your tools to bring yourself back to balance and realize that you are no fake in your art, craft or in simply living your life? Please share for the benefit of yourself and others.