My palms are sweaty. My knees are weak. There’s no vomit on my sweater, but there might as well be with the way my nerves are screaming for some sort of release. It’s like the battle scene from 8 Mile, except I’m in a meeting room inside a New York agency and the only thing I’m battling is my own insecurity.
I’ve just spent the past 48 hours trying to come up with ideas worthy of presenting in a creative review, and a good 80 percent of those hours were spent playing Bop It with recurring thoughts along the lines of “You’re not good enough.”
The review goes well. A lot better than I expected. But it’s a fluke, a wrinkle in time.
The next brief comes along, and without fail, it triggers paralyzing panic. I don’t know how to do this. Am I the only one worried about having ideas by Wednesday? I’m not as good as the other creatives, and they’re going to find out they hired a phony. What if I’m a bad creative who just finessed her way into this gig? I should just quit before I get fired.
The problem most likely isn’t us but what we’ve learned and internalized from our environments and experiences.
I wish I could share a remedy to imposter syndrome. I wish I had foolproof techniques you could apply to your creative process so you’re able to approach every brief with the unbridled confidence of Kanye on Twitter. But it’s something I’ve learned many of us face in silence, which means the problem most likely isn’t us but what we’ve learned and internalized from our environments and experiences. Even more so as a woman, and even more so as a woman of color.
But I do have some learnings I’ve collected through painstaking trial and error to get me through the sinking moments of inadequacy. And since we don’t talk about imposter syndrome enough, I hope these tips help others feel a little less alone when dealing with the voice in their head that tells them to quit and make way for someone better.
Be patient with the process and be kind to yourself
Creativity is a process. I used to think of creativity as a myth. A stroke of genius, a spark of brilliance that exclusively comes to the blessed few. In reality, creativity is a series of attempted free throws. Some we miss, some we score, some we need an assist. That’s just how the game goes. It’s a turbulent ride of ego-boosting wins and humiliating losses. It’s trying, it’s failing, it’s ideating, it’s incubating, it’s revising, it’s frustrating, it’s exhausting and, in rare moments, it’s exhilarating.
Like anything worth celebrating, craft takes time to build. If we feed the process with patience, the process becomes a little less painful.
And be kind to yourself. If the ideas don’t come to you as quickly as you want them to, tell yourself it’s OK to feel stuck or feel like you’re behind. Our thoughts have power. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend struggling with the same doubts.
Trust your talent. Trust that every experience has led you here. Believe in yourself , your voice, your value and your creativity. Nothing can happen without that belief.
When you find yourself comparing, redirect your focus to something you can control
It’s tempting to do. The other creative team on your brief crushed the last presentation. Every idea they had landed. Why does it come so easy to them while you’re about to have an aneurism trying to come up with one good idea? But we have no idea what it took them to get there or what kind of experiences they’ve been through to gain the knowledge and skills to come up with those good ideas.