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Imposter Syndrome strikes again!

By Pathways

Near the end of January, we had a two day-long Animal Illustration masterclass at Nottingham Trent University. Our first day was hosted by the lovely Jenna Alldread, Rob Biddulph and Kate Burns. I’m not very confident with drawing animals so I wasn’t looking forward to this as much as I should have been.

Imposter Syndrome has unexpectedly taken over a lot of my experience of Pathways as I try to convince myself that I am good enough to be here. I frequently worry that I may have taken this opportunity away from another more worthy applicant.

As expected, these feelings of self-doubt crept up on me on the day of the Animal Illustration masterclass.

Illustration by Chanté Timothy

Badgered by self-doubt at the Animal Illustration masterclass

The Animal Illustration masterclass was kicked off with a brief presentation about giving animals human characteristics in stories. To put this idea into practice, we were given a warm-up task that involved thinking about ourselves and the environments we’d fail or prevail in using a list of questions. We were told to take these questions into account and pick an animal. I somehow decided that drawing a honey badger would be a great idea, even though I’d never seen one before.

During the class, I settled into trying to draw my chosen animal but suddenly unable to draw, I fretted over having chosen an animal I didn’t know.  “Why didn’t you just pick a different animal?” I hear you say – I simply panicked.

My Imposter Syndrome hit me with full force. It felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, which of course wasn’t true. Everyone was happily getting on with the simple task while I stared at the blank page. A blank page is daunting on its own, but having to face it while sharing a table with other artists who are cheerfully getting on with the task makes it ten times as bad.

The whole process was extremely stressful. I hated every mark I made and didn’t think twice about the fact that I hadn’t practiced drawing animals nearly as much as I had sketched the human form. Due to this self-inflicted stress, my work was rushed.

But I’ve decided to shake it off and redo some of the briefs given to us in class. I want to approach them with a calmer mind, checking my Imposter Syndrome at the door.

Creativity, vulnerability and self-doubt

I certainly think that being part of the creative industries is very personal and can leave us all feeling more vulnerable, which can easily lead to feelings of inadequacy. Many of us are all too familiar with the feeling you get when you unintentionally compare your abilities to others and wonder when everyone else will notice you’re a fraud.

I have learned to recognise that this is not at all true. I totally deserve to be here. Besides, everyone’s work is different; and there is no way to draw comparisons between different forms of creative expression.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels these difficult emotions. If you have ever been on the same boat, I’d like to tell you (and myself!) to remember that most of your stress comes from the way you respond, not the way life is. Adjusting your perspective or your attitude will allow you to see things in a different light, and things will then change. Try to look for opportunities to grow in every situation and let all the stress and self-doubt melt away.

Chanté Timothy is Black British Carribean and a freelance illustrator. Her work can be described as a great blend of eye-catching colours, simplistic but confident linework with a lot of movement and energy in each piece.