Have you ever had one of those moments when you go from feeling like the absolute baddest photographer babe out there to suddenly feeling all of your power and motivation fall away from you because you worked so hard on something you’re so proud of, then you log into instagram and see someone else who did it in yours eyes WAY WAY better. Your mind starts to race, “I’ll never be able to get to that level. Am I even any good? Can I even call myself a photographer? What am I even doing. ” Moments like this happen way more often than we realize (or even want to admit), and the worst part about them is how damaging they can be to our confidence and sense of accomplishment when we let them go by unchecked. The good news is that this feeling has a name—imposter syndrome—and there are a few super easy things we can do that, with a little practice, will help us side-step and shimmy away from its negativity and continue on our path toward creative success. Because guess what? YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER—no matter what you shoot, how you shoot it, or what anyone freakin’ says about it. You’re amazing.
When I first started pursuing my career in photography, I was majorly combating my own sense of imposter syndrome. I’d spent so many years building up this vision of who I wanted to become and how I might get there, but when I’d take a step forward, a little seed of doubt would plant itself inside me and wouldn’t shut up. “Why do you deserve this? You didn’t do anything different. There’s nothing that makes you special.” It would lead me to start doubting my progress and accomplishments, making me question whether I really was smart, talented or worthy enough to be where I was at. Worst of all, it made me worry that I was a total fraud. Always thinking that in order to be worthy I’d need to arrive at some made up destination in my mind that would finally mean I was a “success.”
But news flash, that destination never exists when we’re stuck living in imposter syndrome, because we always feel like we’re never enough. Now imposter syndrome usually comes in the form of the voice in our head but it doesn’t help when the voice outside our heads only add to the noise.
Here’s a perfect example. Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but the world of photography is super male dominated (who am I kidding, of course you’ve noticed). This only becomes more obvious as soon as you step inside a camera store—and if I had to choose one situation that really triggers me, this would be it. Let me paint a picture for you:
You walk into your favorite camera store with a detailed list of all the gear that you’re looking to rent. You’re a planner, so you called to reserve everything ahead of time so that nothing would throw off your shoot. You’re absolutely on cloud nine dreaming about all the beautiful shots you’re going to take as soon as you pick everything up. You walk up to the counter and are greeted by the clerk. You give him your name, the list of gear you’re picking up, your credit card. You think you’re ready to hit the road. But then, like nails screeching across a chalkboard snapping you out of your daydream, he says, in the most condescending voice ever “Are you sure THAT’S what you want to get? What about THIS? I like this one wayyyyyy more, it’s definitely better, here want me to check if it’s available instead? What’re you even shooting anyway?”
And just like that, the daydream disappears, you’re suddenly irritated beyond words (like, what?!), and you start second guessing yourself and the project you’ve been preparing for weeks. This is how I used to let those comments make me feel. But ya know what, interactions like this still happen. to. this. day. And while we can’t control the way people talk to us, or the ways that men sometimes have a tendency to talk down to us like we don’t know what we’re talking about, we can control the way we talk to ourselves and the way we allow these interactions to impact our self-image. And, like most things related to creativity, the solution is in finding our self-confidence because when we’ve finally harnessed that self confidence, there is nothing that can change the way we feel about ourselves—even those outside voices that try to tell us otherwise. There is no time to let self-doubt take over and make you question the value of all of your accomplishments, we’ve got way too much work to do to waste our time worrying about all that.
You DESERVE to call yourself a bad ass photographer because you ARE a bad ass photographer. It’s really as simple as that (but, I know, it never ever feels that simple). You deserve to feel proud of the work you’ve done, the hours you’ve put in, and the talent you’ve found while also being proud of the growth you still have left to do. The pursuit of photography never ends because there’s always something to learn, but just because there’s more to learn doesn’t mean you have nothing to show.
The best way to fight back against the feelings related to imposter syndrome is to build up that confidence girl. This means you need to get out there and learn more, experience more, make mistakes more. Do things that support your growth. Invest in yourself and your craft. This is where you will find the confidence and self-assurance you need to combat any doubts that come up—whether they’re from a sassy clerk at the camera store or the super rude voice in your head.
The next time your mind starts reeling with thoughts like, “My camera gear sucks, I can’t be a real photographer yet,” or “I don’t even have a website and I’ve never gotten paid, I must not be good enough,” stop everything you’re doing and take a closer look at them. Don’t push them away—give them the space they need and then remind yourself why they’re wrong. Just like the clerk at the camera store, these thoughts have no idea what you’re capable of. Thank the thoughts for visiting you, and then let them go on their merry way.
The most important piece to all of this, though, is the need to create your own story, your own narrative of what success looks like (spoiler alert: this will change a million times over the course of your career!). The more you’re able to see your accomplishments, the more gratitude you’ll feel for the process. And the less likely you are to be swooped up by the negativity that can lead to feeling like an imposter in the career you’ve worked HARD to build for yourself. And you’ve worked DAMN HARD. Now get out there, be proud of the work you’re doing and the lessons you’re learning, and freakin’ slay!
Feel like connecting with other female photographers like you? Join our Private Facebook Community group where you’ll be welcomed with open arms. It’s a place where you can share your work, find inspiration, and ask for advice from all of our amazing members. Click Here to join!
PS. In the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing something EXCITING, so keep your eyes peeled! 😏