The Taster Sessions for Life Book 2024 are now finished, but I thought you'd like to see what my project was. If you tried it, I certainly hope it was a joyful experience for you.
One of my many pleasures as a teacher participating in the Taster Sessions for Tamara Laporte’s Life Book 2024 was to give away a seat for the full program. To enter for the random drawing, one had only to comment on my post in the Taster Facebook group.
My Taster Session piece was “Be Kind,” encouraging artists to be kinder to themselves. My giveaway post had nearly 500 comments and even though my selection of a winner was to be random, I decided to read all the comments, and what an eye-opener that was! Most of them were about imposter syndrome and how the commenter deals with it.
For those of you fortunate enough to not know what imposter syndrome is, it’s simply the difficult-to-shake belief that one isn’t really good enough to be doing what one is, in fact, doing.
I shouldn’t have been shocked at how many people suffer from it, or by how painful it can be. And, truthfully, I guess I wasn’t really shocked as much as sad. I’d say “imposter syndrome is itself an imposter!” After all, who does that little voice in our heads think it is to pass judgment like that?
So, I’d like to tell you a little story about imposter syndrome.
Some ten or so years ago, my sister and I had the opportunity to be in a pastel workshop taught by Leslie Harrison. Leslie is a world-famous, award-winning animal artist, and I can’t say enough about how talented she is and how fabulous her art is. During the workshop, she told us about attending an awards dinner. She looked around the table and, seeing all the famous artists in whose company she found herself, she felt intense embarrassment about being there. She just couldn’t feel she was good enough!
I learned two things from that. First, if Leslie Harrison is going to suffer from imposter syndrome now and then, we all will! And second, if not even Leslie Harrison is good enough, surely nobody is!
So, if nobody’s good enough and everyone feels that way about themselves, what’s the point of imposter syndrome? Is it a protection against disappointment? ‘Don’t try and you won’t get hurt?’ What kind of sense does that make? None!
And now another little story.
I spent many wonderful years as a member of the Placerville Art Association and entered nearly every member show they had. I always looked forward to it, it was always exciting, and it always brought on a bout of imposter syndrome. I really believed in the show, and was show chairman many, many times. And when I wasn't show chairman, I was always there to help in one way or another. I’d drive to the show feeling good about my entries. Then, when I entered the building and saw the others, I inevitably thought mine were definitely not up to snuff. Just look at all the pieces that were so much better than mine! It hurt! Yet, I’d be back for the next show.
The point of this story is that the effects of imposter syndrome were short-lived, and I’d always go back. That's the way it should be. Imposter syndrome doesn't deserve the power we give it. It does nobody any good, and does lots of people harm. Sometimes, people even quit doing art, or writing, or whatever their special creative endeavor is. How does that help anyone?
Hopefully, I've convinced you that imposter syndrome is useless, harmful, and not deserving of the power we give it. Yet, it keeps popping up. How to stop it? Here’s my ‘magic bullet.’
When you hear that obnoxious little voice declaring ‘you’re not good enough,’ ask a simple question. "For what? I know I’m not good enough to have my paintings hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But so what? Is that what I need to be happy? Most probably not.
Here’s what the practice of art can do for you and those around you, and I think they’re plenty to be happy about:
· An art practice can give you a sense of pride in creating something new in the world – as long as you’re not overly hard on yourself; as long as you give yourself grace to learn and explore.
· An art practice can help you express your inner feelings and build a world in which you’d like to live – as long as you make every piece your own, even if only in a small way.
· An art practice can be fun – especially if you focus on the process and not the outcome.
An art practice makes you a happier person, as long as you don't take things too seriously. It makes you a happier person, and that makes those around you happier people too.
· An art practice can give you a life-long path to travel and explore – as long as you keep going, give yourself permission to make ‘mistakes,’ and be open to trying new things.
· And what makes an art practice even better is that it doesn’t have to be expensive (pencil and paper will do), or take a lot of room, or a lot of time. You can develop an art practice that fits your needs and desires.
So when that feeling bubbles up - "you're not good enough" - just remember to finish the thought - “Oh, yeah? For what? I’m an absolute expert at being myself, and there’s nothing better an artist can be!”