On Impostor Syndrome
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media and getting increasingly queasy after looking at a million pictures of people with perfect hair, luminous moon skin, and a seemingly bottomless wardrobe of 1,000 silk dresses and, probably, a portal to Narnia? Or have you ever finished reading a novel and been simultaneously enchanted… and desirous of putting it through a shredder because you feel like you’ll never write anything as good? Or have you given up sketching or cooking or decorating your house because you think “why bother, everyone else is already doing it better than I ever could, so what’s even the point?!”
Yeah, so have we. Impostor syndrome is a huge jerk.
In case you haven’t heard this particular phrase before, impostor syndrome means feeling inferior, feeling not good enough, feeling, well, like an impostor. It means constantly comparing yourself to others instead of focusing on your own creations. Impostor syndrome is basically built into the fabric of academia (it’s a dragon we’ve been fighting for a Long Time), but it’s also rampant in creative circles, friend groups, and all kinds of industries. Lately, we’ve been seeing how much it impacts the magical communities online too… and how much it stifles so many beautiful souls from sharing themselves in those spaces.
We’ve had this post in the works for months, but it feels especially apt this week, when so many of us are self-isolating. Let’s be real: anxiety is up, and it’s easier than ever to feel annoyed and defeated when scrolling through social media, especially when articles like “5 People Who Were Amazingly Productive In Quarantine” and tweets like this are everywhere:
Plus, let’s face it, we’re all just ONLINE a lot more nowadays… and it’s easier than ever to get sucked up into feeling bad about what other people are doing/making/wearing/sharing/etc. More than ever, it’s so important to be kind to yourself, to do what you need to do to care for yourself and nurture your own enchantment. You don’t have to invent calculus. You don’t have to write an entire novel or learn a new language or become an overnight Instagram sensation. And you don’t need to let imposter syndrome eat you alive, either. Just do what feels right for YOU, what nurtures your own magical spark. It might involve some of those things we just listed, sure. But it doesn’t have to. Quarantine – and living an enchanted life – is not about competition. It’s about kindness, creativity, and being true to yourself. You are all magical, amazing people.
But don’t just take our word for it! We reached out to some of our friends – wildly creative, magical powerhouses. They are so talented and so enchanting and, because they are human beings (in addition to being fae princesses), they also experience impostor syndrome. That’s part of what’s so insidious about it – even the people you might think are the MOST magical feel it! We asked them how they experience impostor syndrome, and what they do to fight back against its siren call:
Lindsey Márton O’Brien, creatrix of Lumina Noctis:
“If I find myself feeling out-of-sorts in this way, I deliberately stop scrolling on social media or doing whatever is causing me to feel negative, and reshift my focus to something that grounds me back in my truth. I take some time and space to remind myself of who I am, and follow my own internal compass. I have many private Pinterest boards dedicated to reminding myself of what direction I am pursuing with my goals, and love to spend time nurturing my creativity on these boards for a while. I find it very meditative to be able to work on these Pinterest boards or draw in my sketchbook. I love spending time in my studio/office because that space feels the most “me,” and I enjoy spending time playing with the decor or rearranging the mood board collage of aesthetic inspiration on my bulletin board. I think the most important thing is to continue to cultivate a positive mindset, nurture your inner growth, and continually remind yourself of your truth.”
From Meenoo Mishra, jewelry designer behind Minou Bazaar:
“Impostor syndrome is so real! There’s always someone more magical than you with a more fabulous wardrobe, better skin and hair, and much, much better photography skills with an incredible Instagram account. Impostor syndrome makes me not want to create anything because I feel like I am not creating anything new, original, or even worthwhile. I tend to feel this the most around people who have been more formally trained, or have been working on their art since childhood, or people who create full-time as a living.
When I feel this way, I find what helps me the most is to put the phone/laptop down, stop the social media scrolling, and actually create something–anything. Most people create because it makes them happy and that gets lost when you feel like an impostor, like you don’t deserve to create. You do deserve it! Making jewelry, watching a YouTube drawing tutorial and actually following the steps, decorating a corner, writing a snippet or poem or story–this all helps me re-center myself and remind myself that we’re all different and have our own magical artistic journey!
I will probably struggle with impostor syndrome all my life, but that’s ok. It’s not a tragedy. The tragedy is stopping creativity and the fulfillment that comes with creating.”
“I’m currently working with a talented friend to totally revamp and spruce up my personal website (coming soon!) After many years away, I plan to start blogging again in one central location, and to create a central hub for all of my magical projects. It’s an exciting venture, but also comes with a giant dose of impostor syndrome. Why am I investing so much time and money into my own creations? Who will care? Why do I think I have in any way earned a seat at the table? I would like to be able to tell you that I have a way of snapping out of this mode of thought, but honestly I still struggle with it constantly. My solution? Friends. I confessed my feelings to a friend, who insisted I create a list of my accomplishments. And was dumbfounded at my own habit to dismiss my own contributions when I did so.”
From Erin Kathleen Bahl, professor and comic artist:
“My style is a little quirky! I wear a lot of bright colors, soft/flowy fabrics, nerdy t-shirts and hoodies, long earrings (often with botanical or feather patterns), maybe a steampunk-ish detail or two, and—always—a scarf, no matter the season. I love building in subtle references to beloved fandoms, or wrapping up in comforting fabrics and textures, or dressing in homage to a favorite story, or just wearing energetic, expressive hues and patterns. It makes me feel like myself, and I find it’s a fun way to connect with kindred spirits at first glance.
I’ve definitely felt impostor syndrome when it comes to dressing up alongside my fairy-tale sisters and friends. I don’t do a lot with hair or makeup, so I feel like I end up leaning more toward “nerdy” rather than “magical” and “quirky” rather than “elegant” or “mysterious.” Whenever I feel out of place, though, I turn to my friends as sources of inspiration rather than intimidation. They are bold, stylish, and beautiful. They wear what they love, and they’re not afraid to let their individual personalities shine- which gives me the encouragement and support I need to do likewise, in my own unique way.”
“Even for those of us (not so) secretly magical beings playing in human form, it’s not always easy to remember how brightly you sparkle. I should know! So on those days when I feel dull or like everyone else knows a secret I don’t, I turn to things that that reflect the enchantment inside me. Intriguing fantasy novels, image-rich whimsical movies, and strolls in nature all refill my inner well. I also dress for the part in clothes and accessories that bring light to me and those who see me, whether it’s glitter eyeliner or intricate jewelry. Then I sit in that beautiful energy and remember that I can’t be anyone else, but nobody can be me, either, and that’s its own kind of magic.”
So there you have it. Five of the most magical, fascinating, lovely, and inspiring women we know… and they all know the sick feeling of impostor syndrome too. We know we’re always saying fairy tales don’t have to have morals, but there is one here – don’t let impostor syndrome keep you from sharing your unique dazzle with the world. Don’t let it hold you back, don’t let it keep you from creating, and don’t let it stop you from reaching out to people you admire… they might just become your new best friends. You are astoundingly magical. And you belong.
What do you do when you feel impostor syndrome? How do you recenter and come back to your awesome self? Tell us in the comments!
P.S. We’re SO happy that so many of you loved our “Rapunzel’s Toolkit” post last week! We’ve been updating it daily, so check it out again if you’re looking for more fun things to do from the comfort of your own tower! One thing we added? The first ever online Profs and Pints lecture, featuring US talking about one of our favorite subjects: fairylore!