No matter what stage in business you are in, Imposter Syndrome is a real thing that a lot of people struggle with–those starting out and those more advanced and everywhere in between. So I’m going to share with you how I’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome in my life, in my business, as well as how to identify what Imposter Syndrome actually is and how you can fix it, because this Imposter Syndrome is holding you back from reaching your potential.
And I am an expert talking about this because I have dealt with this in every single stage of my business. I have dealt with some level of Imposter Syndrome. So I’m really excited to share with you what I’ve used in the past, as well as what I continue to use to overcome Imposter Syndrome and these mindset shifts that I come back to over and over again. So if you have ever thought or said out loud,
“I am not good enough to call myself a birth photographer.”
“I’m not good enough to charge a lot.”
“I don’t want to tell somebody that I am a photographer.”
“I still see myself as a hobbyist.”
or maybe one person said something negative about you or your work and you can’t stop thinking about it. If those things have ever popped into your head, this training today is for you.
What is the Imposter Syndrome?
So the problem with Imposter Syndrome, if you let it get out of control, is it can take over everything that you’re doing. And it can really truly stop you from living out your full potential, because you constantly are saying to yourself, “Who am I to be doing this? Who am I to be a birth photographer? Who am I to capture such an important day for somebody? I can’t do this.” And you’re shutting down this thing that you were meant to do. So there have been lots of times in my life that I have felt this Imposter Syndrome. In fact, I was thinking about this earlier today, there was a time in 2009, I had just started my photography business and we hired our wedding photographers to do family photos for us.
And we went in to do our Ordering Appointment. We went through the whole thing, ordered pictures, and left. My husband was like, “Why didn’t you tell him that you’re a photographer now?” And I just sort of brushed him off. I was like, “I’m not a big deal. It’s not that big of a deal.” And he was like, “You’re a photographer. You should have told them that.” And I was so terrified to tell them that I was a photographer because I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being called a photographer. Back then, I would tell people I’m a stay-at-home mom when they asked me what I did and I had a photography business, but I wouldn’t say I’m a photographer or I have a photography business. I just said, “Oh, I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
So we’re going to talk about the 3 mindset shifts needed to be successful when Imposter Syndrome creeps in. First of all, before we get into those three steps, I want to say you’re not an imposter. And I think that logically, we’re like, “Oh yeah, I know that. I’m not an imposter.” But the thing about Imposter Syndrome is it’s a feeling. And it’s never a good idea to make decisions about our business based solely on feelings. Feeling like an imposter is a feeling. It’s not a fact, right?
So what actually is an imposter? An imposter is somebody who pretends to be somebody else in order to deceive others specifically for fraudulent gain. So let me ask you this: If you’re like, “Oh, I struggle with imposter syndrome,” are you someone who is pretending to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially actually for fraudulent gain?
I mean, I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not. So you’re not actually an impostor. You’re not a fraud because that’s what that actually means. You’re not trying to deceive people for your own fraudulent gain. So let’s reframe the thought of “I’m an imposter.” You’re not an imposter. When you’re feeling that way, we’re going to talk about maybe what’s actually going on, so that you can reframe that belief of I’m an imposter.
Mindset Shift #1: You might be feeling this Imposter Syndrome because you’re comparing yourself to other photographers.
So if you’re feeling insecure in your work, that’s usually where this comes from, you don’t want to take on this identity of being a photographer because you look at other photographers and you’re like, “Well, my work isn’t as good as theirs and I’m feeling insecure so I’m not good enough.”
And I would say to that, you’re not good enough compared to what and compared to whom? Are you saying that you’re not as good as someone who has been doing this longer than you and has more experience than you? You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in somebody else’s business. So to compare your photos to their photos just isn’t a good comparison or your business to their business is not a fair comparison. Of course, chances are you have less experience than them. Maybe they went to school for photography. Maybe they have a background in photography. Maybe they have been practicing and practicing while you haven’t been–there’s just so many things that you don’t know. So if you’re feeling this Imposter Syndrome, it could literally just be because you’re comparing yourself to other photographers and you don’t actually know what’s going on behind the scenes with them. And they could just be on a totally different plane than you. That’s just not a fair comparison. Why would you do that to yourself, right?
So early on in my business, I definitely fell into this trap of, and I’ll say even like up until recently, not even early on. I would fall into this trap of scrolling social media or specifically seeking out my competitors and going and looking at what they were doing either on social media or on their website or whatever. And I would actually talk to my friends in the industry–I know that’s kind of embarrassing for me to admit, but I like just said that out loud– but I would talk to my other friends in the industry about what so-and-so was doing and this photo they posted and that thing that they said. And you guys when I think about that, I’m like, “I spent so much time looking at what other people were doing and feeling bad about myself.” And it did not serve me. That was time and energy that was just wasted because I was just comparing myself to them and how I wouldn’t have done that and how I would have done things differently. And it was such a rabbit hole and such a waste of time. And it made me feel like crap. Honestly, it just made me feel like an imposter, like I’m not as good as them.
So if you’re feeling like an imposter when you look at other photographers work, then limit the amount of time that you’re spending looking at their work. It’s as simple as that! Unfollow them, quit visiting their website, be aware of the fact that you’re even doing this. So just be aware that if you find yourself feeling like I’m not good enough to be doing this and saying those things we said at the beginning, check in and just be like, “Is this because I’ve been scrolling people’s Instagrams? Is this because I saw so-and-so booked out this many months?”
Is that where this imposter syndrome is coming from? And if so, how can you correct that?
Mindset Shift #2: You might feel like an imposter because you are inexperienced.
What you could actually be feeling when you think I’m an imposter is you’re not an imposter. You might just be inexperienced. And that in and of itself does not make you an imposter. The truth is you could just be brand new and remember that everyone feels that way at every level, but especially in the beginning. And chances are, you know, if you’re new, you might actually have room for improvement and it’s really good to acknowledge that. But I bet you’re also good at a lot of things.
So let’s look a little bit deeper at that. If you’re somebody who’s new and you feel this Imposter Syndrome because you’re like, “Well, I’m new to birth photography and I’m not good enough. And people won’t pay me…,” you start going down that rabbit hole in your head, right? Let’s flip it. Maybe there are things you need to learn, and that’s totally fine. But let’s also acknowledge what you’re good at.
There are things that you’re good at and what I would encourage you to do, and this is like an action step from this training that we’re doing here today, is to keep a list of things that you’ve done well or positive things that people have said about working with you and/or your work. You guys, I don’t know if this is smart or a little bit pathetic or maybe kind of both, but I will take a screenshot, and I’ve done this for years, of positive things that people have said about me, about my work, about my team, about my kids. I will take a screenshot and keep it saved in a Trello board so I can go back and look at that when I’m feeling down, not that I need other people’s like approval or permission or whatever, but specifically whenever it comes to clients that have worked with me, it’s just so nice to go and see like, “Okay, I am delivering something that is worth money, that is worth it, because these people have said this or that about working with me.” So just take screenshots of what people send you. Keep it somewhere where you can reference it frequently.
Does anybody already do this? I hope that you do. We talked about this in my courses, a lot of just keeping that top of mind, especially when you’re new and just starting out. And what are some things that you do well, what are some things that people have said about working with you?
And then the next idea or step, if you’re feeling like this Imposter Syndrome is coming from inexperience is to assess yourself without the feelings and without the attachment of feelings to determine what you’re actually good at and where you need improvement. Get feedback on your work from someone that you trust.
And remember that photography is a learned skill. You can figure this out with practice and guidance. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about The Beauty in Birth Course is that in that course, every single month, we do photo critiques where you can submit your photos and I will nicely pick them apart so that you can learn from that and become a better photographer. So investing in a mentor or investing in somebody that is in your peer group, who maybe has been doing photography a little bit longer than you, and really looking at like, how can they assess my work so that I can improve.
And I resisted this for a really long time, you guys, because I had my feelings hurt. And I’ve shared this with you guys before I had my feelings hurt from photographers who picked my work apart. And I didn’t want that. I didn’t want that feeling again. So I didn’t ask for critique. And it really slowed down my growth. I know that if I had just gotten in the right head space and asked for critique from people that I knew and trusted, I could have grown so much faster.
So still talking about imposter syndrome, coming from inexperience and feeling that imposter syndrome, because maybe you’re newer to photography. Something interesting to note here is something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Google it if you’ve never heard of it, but it actually says that having Imposter Syndrome might be a good sign, because if you’re sufficiently aware to worry that you might be a fraud, you may well not be. Or at least you’re not subject to the cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. So basically it’s like when people with low ability mistakenly think that their ability is much higher than it is, they fail to recognize their own incompetence. So have you ever met someone who’s like shockingly confident in themselves, but they’re actually not that great? Well, this is the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. They don’t know any better. But when you know enough to be aware that you need to improve, this is a good sign that you’re actually better than you think you are. Isn’t that powerful? If you’re aware enough to know there’s room for improvement, that’s a good sign that you’re actually better than you think you are. I think that that’s really good news. If you’re aware enough, you’re probably right where you need to be. So talking about maybe legitimately being inexperienced, deep down, do you feel confident enough in your work to really get yourself out there?
Mindset Shift #3: You’re not an imposter, you might just be a perfectionist.
So Perfectionism might be an indicator–feeling this imposter syndrome might just be Perfectionism. And I am totally raising my hand here because I most definitely suffer with Perfectionism still now to this day, I have to constantly keep myself in check. Actually I don’t really compare myself to people and I have lots of experience, but I still feel this Imposter Syndrome. It might be coming from Perfectionism. So like I said, I’m raising all of my hands here. The cause of Imposter Syndrome can literally be setting expectations that are super, super high and unrealistic expectations of what it means to be competent. As you get better and better at what you’re doing, perhaps in your brain, you’re raising this level of competency, like what it means to be competent.
Maybe when you were first starting out, it was here. And then the more and more you learned the competency level move to here, then the more and more you learned it moved here. You’re like, how are you ever going to get there? That’s just Perfectionism in action. That’s just Perfectionism. You’re never going to get there. You’re never going to perfection ever. No one is going to. In fact, just to prove that I literally still struggle with this and I have to constantly keep myself in check, earlier today I was working at the coffee shop and I was working on something and I couldn’t just get myself motivated to do it. I couldn’t get my head around it. I kept doing other things and jumping to other tasks. This was today y’all. And my husband texted me just checking in, “How’s your day going?”
And I was like, “I am stuck on this. I cannot seem to get myself motivated to do it. I think I’m just trying to make it perfect.” I’m being a perfectionist, I’m trying to make it perfect, and it’s keeping me stuck and not moving forward. So if you find yourself feeling like an imposter and/or procrastinating, it definitely could be Perfectionism.
Just understanding, for me–I mean, if you’re a student of mine, you know, my mantra is done is better than perfect. And I say that to myself all the time. I would much rather put something out there and it not be perfect, than never put it out there because I’m trying to be perfect. I hope that this was helpful.
Just really quick summary, number one, you’re not an imposter. That’s a feeling. It’s not a fact because unless you’re intentionally ripping people off, you’re not a fraud. You’re not an imposter. There’s a feeling that’s coming up there and it could be one of three things. It could be, you’re trying to be a perfectionist. It could be that you are inexperienced, or it could be that you’re spending a lot of time comparing yourself. And that’s bringing on that feeling of being an imposter.
So when those thoughts and those feelings pop up, just remind yourself what the definition of an imposter actually is so that you can reframe that thought immediately. And the more competent you become in yourself, the more likely you are to put yourself out there and to get hired. People can feel that confidence. Knowledge is confidence.
So I just want to reiterate something that we talked about in this episode, which is if you have Imposter Syndrome, it’s holding you back from your potential. So conquering, this really is step one when it comes to growing your business. And I think that it’s always going to be something that could be present a little bit. It’s always going to be there, especially as you move into a new level in your business. They always say new level, new devil, right? There’s new challenges as you grow. But learning to identify, is this because I’m comparing myself to the competition? Is this because I am being a little bit of a perfectionist or is this because I’m inexperienced in this area? None of those are right or wrong. It’s just identifying this is why I feel Imposter Syndrome and what can I do about it.
So I hope that you’ll take some solid action steps away for yourself from this episode so that you can finally step into your potential without the Imposter Syndrome hanging over you. Remember friends, if you have a passion, it is there for a reason. So whatever your passion is, I hope that you will get out there and make it happen. Have a great week.