“It won’t be long now until someone finds me out!” It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a notion that I am familiar with.
As new opportunities and challenges have come up in my work, there’s often a slight undercurrent of self-imposed inadequacy. I can list off the reasons why these feelings come up in no particular order: I was not formally trained in floral design, did not go to a fancy art school, and did not get my MBA. The litany of other wonderful things I chose to do instead, doesn’t get to play a role in this narrative. Self-taught creatives are a special bunch and I, for one, tend to question whether or not I need my floral work to be validated by others in order for it to be good. The adage “everyone’s a critic” has morphed into “everyone’s a critic with powerful platforms to air their opinions”. This dynamic can leave the Creative feeling especially vulnerable to Imposter Syndrome. Which leads me to a few questions: How can we practice feeling competent? Who determines “good from bad,” especially as it pertains to art? How do we define success?
I have grown into floral design and owning a business through a steep learning curve, from the very basics of how to put a well-balanced arrangement together, to the complex understanding of how to run a successful enterprise. Yet I always feel like someone is just about to lift the veil and point out how little I knew when I started, and how much I have yet to learn.
And while both those things are true (I entered blind and still have so much to learn), there’s a permission that I’ve given myself to move forward anyway, despite myself. Curiosity, drive, ambition and hard work can take you so much farther than knowing it all. As Glennon Doyle says, “we spend a million years collecting permission to do the thing, then we finally do the thing, and then after we spend the next million years justifying the thing that we did.” Why do we do this? Because we are afraid of making a mistake and looking like we don't know.
We will make mistakes and we may look outrageous trying to figure it out. But! We must be brave and confident and trusting of ourselves.
To not know, but to have the courage to do it anyway, is a thrilling way to live. Here’s to all the humble realists, defining success on their own terms.