Having a flawed mindset about yourself or your photography is often the biggest hindrance to your creative work. From each of our unique life experiences, we have all developed ways of thinking that can either allow us to move forward or could greatly hold us back. Here are four mindsets that, over time, I have seen negatively effect creative people, including myself. I encourage you to read through each one and see if any of these have hindered you as well.
The Starving Artist
Much has been said about this mindset in recent years, and it is as obvious as it sounds. Somewhere along the way, it was assumed that if you chose anything artistic as a career, you were bound to barely get by financially. Part of this can be attributed to a lack of understanding from those around us. When I set out as a full-time photographer, I was told how there wasn’t money to be made in photography and that it was more of a hobby. I would guess you have probably heard something similar. It is easy to get locked into a mindset of being a starving artist when everyone around you expects exactly that. However, it would be beneficial to take some time and examine where this comes from.
To clarify, it is common for a person to feel like it is wrong to both really enjoy doing something and at the same time make money from it. It sounds odd but it’s true. You will also frequently find photographers who so fear the lack of quality they see in their work, that they never value themselves or their time properly. The point here is that it is nearly impossible to succeed in photography with this mindset. It won’t take long before a lack of value in time leads to burnout. Most successful photographers, at least in terms of business, have found the ability to rise above criticism and self-doubt to see themselves as artists who can do more than barely get by.
Little Person in a Big World
Does anyone else feel overshadowed in a world full of more capable people? Or maybe, you think about your goals, but your first instinct is to not even try because there are so many other people who are already much better than you. Personally, if I have a new or unique idea for something, I immediately get excited about it, which is then followed by the thought that surely someone else has already thought of it and can do it better.
This mindset kills ideas, dreams, and creativity. What is ironic about this mindset, is that honestly, it’s true. There is no doubt that there is someone else out there who is more capable than you. However, the fact that it is true doesn’t mean that it has to hinder you. If you see someone better than you, find areas where you can be better than them. Hard work is often the key differentiator between those who have reached their goals and those who haven’t. In most cases, hard work overcomes talent. Creative people forget this. Keep in mind that no one started out being great at what they do. Those you look up to were at one time in the same place you are now.
Creative people can be prone to something referred to as imposter syndrome. This mindset is based on the belief that we aren’t as good at our craft as others think we are. We are scared that eventually, everyone will find this out. Let’s think through why photographers specifically are likely to struggle with these thoughts. It’s important to consider where we come from. Rarely does a photographer start their career with formal training or a business education under their belt. Most of us are just learning things as we go from several random places. That doesn’t leave a strong feeling of confidence in our work. Yet many photographers have been able to apply what they have learned and have earned a decent amount of early success.
Looking at our accomplishments in comparison to what we feel like we actually deserve can leave us with a feeling that we are frauds. We say we are photographers, but in reality, we have a long way to go. We are earning money from people, but we know we aren’t as talented as they think we are. If we think this way about ourselves, we will develop a paralyzing fear that we will eventually make an obvious error and be discovered. This will hold us back from taking risks and putting ourselves out there, and therefore never truly create anything. Author Seth Godin has said, “What we are afraid of is having to admit to ourselves that we did something that didn’t work. We think that is when the universe will call us out as the fraud that we know we are.” In dealing with this mindset, it’s important to note that almost all creatives have thoughts similar to this one, especially those who have some measure of early success. In fact, if this describes you, you should search for imposter syndrome on the internet and look at the abundance of quotes from successful people who feel exactly the same way.
One surprising thing about having these types of mindsets is that you rarely know that it is something you are living with every day. I wrote this article to get some common struggles out in the open to see if it is something that has affected you. As we are all about to head into a new year, this is a great chance to spend some time reflecting on what has held you back and make an effort to correct some of these ways of thinking. Humbly realizing our weaknesses in our mindsets and being willing to change the way we think are essential for growing and improving as photographers and as people. Do these particular mindsets impact you? What are some other beliefs that have held you back?