Have You Been Crippled by Self-Doubt as a Photographer?

Have You Been Crippled by Self-Doubt as a Photographer?

Have you ever held back on sharing your photos, pitching an idea, or showcasing your art? How many times have you let Impostor Syndrome hold you back?

Impostor Syndrome is the feeling or experience of thinking that you or your work might not be good enough. It is that hesitation that you experience a lot of times when you showcase your work or even present yourself. This often comes from a lack of self-confidence or simply fear of making a mistake. The experience was dubbed “Impostor Syndrome” because the feeling stems from fear of being outed as an impostor: someone who is just pretending to be good at something but is unworthy of the respect, of the rewards, or simply unworthy of being called an artist.

1. Impostor Syndrome Happens to Everyone

The first thing you need to know is that this happens to everyone. Impostor Syndrome is very common among creatives and artists of different fields. Painters, actors, musicians, dancers, and yes, even photographers experience Impostor Syndrome. As a matter of fact, it is not at all exclusive to artists. Technically, anyone can experience it from lack of confidence and self-doubt. The difference is that everyone experiences Impostor Syndrome in varying ways and for varying lengths, and in the same way, we all deal with it differently.

Impostor Syndrome can hit anywhere and everywhere. It commonly happens during the creative process and right when we are about to display, showcase, or publish our work. However, it can also happen in totally unexpected places during unexpected times. Since it’s a given that you are passionate about the things you create and think about them anywhere, it follows that your fears, worries, and doubts can also come up anytime.

2. Impostor Syndrome Is Absolutely Normal

Self-doubt and second-guessing our work stem from things that are part of human nature as well as aspects of our nature as artists. Curiosity commonly fuels our creativity by giving us ideas on what to create next and naturally, the desire to be better at what we do follows. Many people experience Impostor Syndrome when they look at other people’s work and compare their own. While it is always more productive to take inspiration from the artists we look up to, it is totally natural to compare and even feel a bit of envy. When we compare ourselves to others and their work, we fail to consider the unseen struggles behind their masterpieces. In the same way that portfolios, exhibitions, and even Instagram feeds are curated, most of the time, we also don’t see the struggle behind the successful artist that would have been more relatable for us in the first place.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone (and You Shouldn’t Try To)

It is important to understand and accept that different people have different taste in art. In the same way that some people don’t like certain cuisine, you can’t expect literally every single person to be in awe of what you make. Different people live different lives and ultimately form different opinions. What matters is that you are able to identify the people who connect with the work that you do and the art that you make.

You will definitely be subjected to criticism. This is another fact that every artist should always accept. People who view our photographs always form an opinion, and many people like to speak their minds. There are people who give constructive criticism because they mean well and would like for you to become an even better artist, while there are also people who just want to put people down to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. It is important to set them apart so that you can take the lessons that you need to learn and identify the things you need to work on while you set aside and filter the noise.

Remember that it is better to focus on the quality of the connection that your art makes with the people who view them, instead of the quantity of people who simply take a glance and double-tap.

On the other side of the table, it is also important to consider this fact when speaking your mind about other artists or their work. Remember to verify the validity of your opinion on whether it applies. Sometimes, we tend to impose our personal taste or style on other people so much so that we express our dislike. Remember that what you do and say to a fellow creative can have a strong impact on them, and you wouldn’t want to be someone else’s reason for giving up. Constructive criticism can go a long way.

4. Impostor Syndrome Can Be Healthy and Helps You Grow

The experience of Impostor Syndrome can be a painful one. In fact, pain and Impostor Syndrome can be very similar in the impact that they make. While most of us are afraid of feeling pain, it would be much worse if we never felt pain at all. Pain is a warning sign that can often prevent us from doing harmful things or, at the very least, help us identify that there is something wrong.

Impostor Syndrome works the same way. The self-doubt that you experience can often remind you to be more thorough about intricate details of your art. Second-guessing yourself can often give you a heads-up that there might be something to improve on. For as long as you don’t let the experience of Impostor Syndrome paralyze you and keep you from moving forward, it can be quite healthy for you as an artist and can even help you grow.

5. Perfection Can Be a Prison

The one instance wherein Impostor Syndrome can be harmful is when we let it imprison us. Commonly, it strikes when we strive so much for perfection in our work that we end up throwing things away when we can’t achieve it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with aiming for perfection in our work as artists, but it is important to accept, especially when you have only recently started learning or trying, that imperfection is part of the journey. Most of the best things in the world take a while to be built, and that also includes the artists we admire. Being an artist is a continuous cycle of trying, failing, learning, and succeeding, and passion and perseverance get us t.

In as much as it is important to identify our flaws and seek to improve, it is also important to celebrate our wins amidst the losses. Every failure has a consolation prize in the form of lessons that will help you increase your chances for success in the future. What is important is that you don’t let one loss or one imperfection permanently keep you down.

Every single day, millions of people experience Impostor Syndrome from our natural tendency to compare and aspire. Self-doubt comes from the prudence of anticipating challenges in order to better overcome them. While experiencing Impostor Syndrome will never be a pleasant thing, it is almost certain that when you look back at the challenges you’ve faced as an artist, all the growth you’ve experienced as a creative, and all the personal wins you have achieved as a photographer, those brief moments of doubt and hesitation have pushed and will continue to push you forward one way or another.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Nicco Valenzuela is a photographer from Quezon City, Philippines. Nicco shoots skyscrapers and cityscapes professionally as an architectural photographer and Landscape and travel photographs as a hobby.

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Great post. I certainly suffer from this. I think the key is to just force yourself to create stuff and if it's not good, you don't have to share it, but you can't allow yourself to stop creating.


Or, if what I am creating is not good, and I want to get better, then share the not-so-good images so that people can help me get better. Criticism is my friend!

All criticism can be constructive, even if it wasn't meant to be. The way it is received in the ear of the beholder is more important than the spirit of the person dishing it out.


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