Impostor Syndrome and painting - a letter to the jungle

Discussion in 'Friends of planetFigure' started by MassiveVoodoo, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. MassiveVoodoo New Member

    Hey Jungle people,

    today we got something very special for you, like we always do in the jungle.

    Let's call it a virtual letter that arrived in the jungle mailboxes by Petra,
    a german miniature painter on her very own journey like we all travel. If you want to see some of Petra's work or follow her journey, check this link.

    It is an awesome read! Intruding, intimate, healing, personal.
    If you do not take your time for it, it is your own fault.
    I am absolutely impressed and I want to thank Petra for opening up like this. She asked
    me what she should do with it. She'd like to publish it somewhere and did not know where she could find the best place to reach as many people as possible. Well, we can help with that :)

    I added some photos to the text to seperate the wall of text and add some moments to breathe.
    I also added a small comment here and there.

    Enjoy and believe me - I am saying it again:



    What the heck am I doing here?
    I worried a lot. I never knew why I would feel the way I did, but even in the best company I
    sometimes felt like I don't belong; not because I was at the wrong place - it was more like a
    submerged feeling of not being good enough and just playing a role to please the others (and
    maybe to lull and please myself). It felt like not creating value for the team I am working in, not
    giving back to the company that threw money at me every month. That all my achievements
    only were met by luck and being at the right place at the right time. I am just lucky, but not an

    I was always afraid that "the others" might find out that I only screen played, pretended and was
    not in the "right" position and that I did not have the right to be right there with them. All in all,
    amazing people tend to cross your roads sometimes and you feel utterly lost and you look up to
    them out of a muddy hole while they seem to get it all right. They shine. You don't.
    It is something that followed me through my adulthood for quite a long time and most probably
    started in university. It is an unnamed feeling that I never really understood and tried to ignore
    most of the time. It made me feel miserable at work, because even if I worked hard and
    succeeded, it faded away when I watched others doing the same stuff with ease. I pressured
    myself to get into it even harder, fearing that one day my lead might approach me, telling me
    that I am not good enough. Subconsciously I knew this would never happen. Well, no. I did not
    know at that time. I can only tell in retrospective that I might have known, but my brain did not
    tell me. My thoughts were haunted: when coming to work, this day might be the day they find
    out I only gambled my way into the company (I did not). This day would be the day they find out
    that I suck at what I am doing (I did not). This day they would tell me I need to resign because I
    was not performing well (obviously I did not).

    It made my life miserable. I did not know with whom to talk. It was discomforting, unpleasant and
    not what I wanted to feel. But as soon as I spoke up, everyone looked at me with big,
    unbelieving eyes. Some told me that "it's only in my head". People answered with laughter
    because they could not believe what's going on. They tried to hide their own unease and not
    being able to cope with this situation themselves, they stormed onward, telling me that I just
    made this up and that it is not true what I was talking about. They did not believe that I could
    feel this way and why the heck should I?
    It got worse with every talk I tried to have with people around me. I hid in my cave. I was a
    happy little person to the outside world, always afraid they could find out. Always chattering,
    doing things, working hard, not trying to fail (and when I failed, I analyzed why, dug the car out
    of the swamp and on I went, trying to not do the same error twice). I didn't even see or believed
    in what I achieved, because it never was feeling good enough for me. It was like running behind
    schedule, not being in charge anymore and I was going to lose it somewhere on the way,
    making a mistake and taadaa: you're out.


    A solution?
    Then one day I stumbled over Neil Gaiman, and even though I have never read any of his
    books (yet), I felt connected. It felt like he was describing me (and lots of other people will have
    thought the same):



    This is, what it is called! Impostor’s syndrome!

    I'm neither crazy nor too dumb for the world.
    Relief - finally! It is something I can start rolling up my sleeves to and attack. Something I can
    hack into little pieces and devour one by one, making my life better again. I lived with the fact
    that I have it (not tackling it at all) for a long time. Just knowing that this feeling had a name
    helped a lot. Even though it did not stop my way down into the snakepit of what I also call my

    Lots of webpages talk about impostor’s syndrome but I found this one to be a good overview of
    all the aspects that also hit heavily in my life:
    Depending on the time and how well I felt, it was only lurking in the back of my head, not fully
    there. Sometimes it unleashed its fury and pinned me down to the floor, unable to move, to
    react and to tell people what was going on. Those were the times I just hid in the dark corners of
    my soul, ready to attack everyone who came near. I cried, because I did not know what to do. I
    asked for help desperately but there was none, because no-one near me could cope with it.
    All of the information I gathered in the internet also meant that I am not alone on this road and
    that there are lots of people that sometimes feel the same. And that other people can lift you up
    again (just not by saying that “it's only in your head”). I know now that I myself cannot get out of
    it alone, but that I might need help, someone to mirror me, maybe to assess me and to reflect
    on my achievements whenever I am not able to see them.


    Introduction: the miniature world
    For all of you with a miniature background: you know what I am talking about. For all of you who
    don't know: there is a community spanning the earth of miniaturists. People who play tabletop
    games (not only Warhammer), people who paint little tin soldiers, plastic and resin miniatures,
    busts, vehicles, aircrafts, trains, small animals, huge animals, sculpt, create, make art. It is a
    small community, that is really active (and we grow). It is a vast field of gamers, enthusiasts,
    collectors, painters, creators and builders. The community starts to get diverse, also women
    take part more often in events. We have forums, facebook groups, instagrams full of tiny and
    wonderfully painted art, flickr, Pinterest. We are everywhere. We have teachers who hold
    workshops and seminars about light, ambience and painting. We have contests and community
    events, big and small. Some of the bigger annual events take place in Bavaria, the Netherlands,
    Italy, some in Australia and America, Poland and Russia - and even more. Those are the spots
    where several hundreds to thousands of people meet one weekend a year and exchange
    everything. It is about meeting old friends, finding new, conversate about painting, art and the
    miniature economy. All in all a great place to find a whole bunch of creative people clung
    together and exchanging creative energy.

    Living in the miniature world with impostor’s syndrome

    I am still on the road to escape the trap of not feeling worthy and good enough. In the miniature
    world, it sometimes is still there; kind of returning "back home" to me. I was attending Scale
    Model Challenge 2017 in Eindhoven and on Saturday evening after a splendid day, I found
    myself holding a beer, surrounded by some of the (by me) most adored (and still alive) artists in
    my life. Every one of them has been longer in the hobby, longer down the creation road than I.
    They influenced the way we talk about miniatures, the way we see them. They created new
    streams inside the hobby, new flows, new ways to work. They practise mindfulness, chaos,
    anarchy and strictly ruled ways. They all had so much more experience, have done so much
    more trial and error on their way. They have so much more to say. And then there was I - a
    returnee into the hobby for roughly one and a half years. We chatted. And suddenly the wave
    rushed over me again. I felt intimidated, at the wrong place, I wanted to flee because I haven't
    wanted to be detected as a fraud again. I write "again" because it felt like being close to the
    edge of a huge cliff with being there. My brain was in uproar: Now, every moment! They will lay
    eyes upon you, judge you and make you go!
    They did not.

    Scale Model Challenge 2017
    - somewhere in the endless hotel labyrinth :)

    I forced myself to stay. To listen (I always was a better listener than talker - and a better writer
    than talker as well). I drowned in the laughter, the joy, the people. I was there. And I had the
    right to be there. Even though I still did not understand why. They did let me stay and even
    introduced me to new people. I was humbled. I was even fangirling a bit. And I was stuck. I
    needed someone to ground me again. I was flying high, looking down at myself, standing there
    in the middle of the night, surrounded by creative people. I adored each and everyone of them.
    The creative energy that they exhaled filled my soul, and it was thirsty for more. But my mind
    still tricked me into thinking I had no right to be here. I did not know what to do - please, please,
    please do not turn on the spotlight on me, do not ask questions, do not interact with me; I am
    happy for just staying here . Just smile and wave. They are all in all humble people and they
    would never say any of those things, that were hammering in my brain at that moment, to
    anyone. Still, my brain was firing everything of the above at full speed, light speed, even Warp
    9.9 was not fast enough. It was a lovely evening that did not turn into a disaster - even if my brain foretold this a hundred times.

    Fast forward to other events:
    Everytime I show something to people, they are going mildly crazyabout what I created (or in the reasonable voice of everyone else: they like it). I receive the praise and the likes - but my mind was telling me " WTF! This is nothing. It is not even worth thetime and effort to comment on it, you people! Why are you even doing this?! Now you go on, brush off those words as if they mean nothing and move on. Go, create, because what you just did was shit ". My brain kills the happiness out of creating something that others liked. This sucks. Big time.

    In social media times it is even worse.
    I want to show the community what I did; also to train mywary brain to accept praise, likes and thanks. And with every like and compliment it feels like people overestimate what I did. Meanwhile I underestimate myself heavily - there are times Iunderstand that (most times I don't). There's no internal “success light” that switches on and enlightens the room when I finish something. Being proud on creations only lasts for a week max - which makes it a wee bit hard to always feel good about creating things. Being brave enough to show others has an even more limited time frame.

    Looking around and trying to measure one's own "success" by comparing to others is just plain
    odd and nothing one should do. There are so many talented and hard working painters and
    artists out there who are on a different journey and skill level. But still we do it from time to time
    (some people more than others). People write "I will go home and snap my brushes, I will never
    achieve this level". Please don't kill brushes; you are just on another level of learning. I know I
    commented about breaking brushes once on a posting as well (mostly, because I haven’t found
    another way to express my deep admiration for the piece), paying into the whole comparison
    competition. I do call it “comparison competition” because we tend to make a competition out of
    mostly everything. This person is evolving faster, that one is painting cleaner than me. We are
    excellent in making “comparing” a competition.

    I don't know, but my own comment about snapping brushes might also have influenced another
    person who read this comment back then to build up their impostor’s syndrome. I only
    understand this now. People like me are rather sensitive when it comes to comments on their
    own and other people’s works (mostly on their own works, though).

    No brush should ever be destroyed.
    They all should die in the name of painting.

    It's hard. It's in my head.
    I need to deal with it - but I cannot do this alone (which makes me
    angry and sad at the same time, as I want to have control over my life). I need you. Each and
    every one of you in my life to at least help from time to time. To recall for me that feeling
    incompetent and being incompetent are two different things. That I sometimes have unrealistic
    notions of what it means to be competent. Also that it is in my head and that I have to deal with
    it; you need to tell me that I am being unrealistic in my own view on myself. I cannot do this on
    my own. Because I do not see it.
    It feels like lots of people out there might suffer from the same. Maybe not as heavy as I did
    somewhen in the last year - but if this helps only one person understanding that they need to
    become aware about their impostor’s syndrome before being completely shattered to the
    ground, then all my words are worth it.

    Now, what can I do to live a win-win life with my impostor’s syndrome?

    I talked a lot about myself and my path, my journey in this article. I don't know if it would help. It
    is not a big deal (hello, impostor’s syndrome speaking again), and maybe no-one will read
    through the end. But this is what I get from being open, and I need to understand that the
    uncertainty that comes with publishing those words, might influence myself with even more
    questions my brain might fire at me.

    Lot's of the following points actually can be distilled into one short and easy sentence:
    "No matter what: You are worth it."
    (I don't say that often enough to myself.)

    Following I will line out some things I tried and that helped me on my way (some more, some
    less). In the end it is up to you. Try, fail, improve; listen to yourself and what helps you. It is not
    working if you just follow the rules and you gain nothing from it. Debug yourself. If things don't
    feel good, leave them and experiment. It is easy as that (wow, that took me long to understand).
    So: not easy as that, but more like running a marathon. In a swamp. Even if done slowly (and it
    will be exhausting), it will lead to your goal. The good thing is, there is no-one to judge you
    except yourself. Be kind to yourself; it is like learning a new language or instrument or a new
    painting technique. It might take some time, but you will master it eventually. In your own time.
    Do not compete. Do not compare. You are good enough. You are worth it.
    This really should be your mantra. :)

    The nice thing about the following points is, that you can also use them for your daily work that
    is not miniature painting.

    Have a schedule of when you want to work on things.
    With everything that you are learning or that you try to improve, there is a good way to
    practice. When I was young, my music teacher told to practise at least half an hour a day
    (max an hour) with my instrument. Try to get into a routine and do not do overtime , not
    even if the brain commands you to - it won't help (at least it did not for me). If afternoon
    shifts do not work, try getting up half an hour earlier. Experiment. Maybe you are happy
    with only painting once a week. Stick to it.

    Come up with a plan on what you want to work on.
    Write down the techniques you want to learn, the miniatures you want to paint. Plan.
    Planning does not necessarily mean that you need to stick to it 100% (plans are not set
    in stone). But it helps you focus on what topics are still there to tackle. And written down
    topics can be ordered, scheduled and moved around. You can set your goals, and the
    steps that you need to take to achieve your goals. Write it down. Make a plan. Even if
    you don't stick to it, you know where you want to head.

    Make realistic goals.
    Rome was not build in a day. If you want to learn a new technique, try it, make errors,
    ask people, watch videos, read blog posts, and the most important thing: go to
    workshops, meet people, connect. You are on your own road and journey, you will never
    be a fraud there.

    Take before and after pictures of your miniatures
    (or everything else you create).
    It helps getting focus. You can see what changed in the time you painted, even if it is
    only minimal. And having all pictures lined up near each other also might help to see the
    progress and improvements you have made.

    Create a miniature diary and add
    what you liked to work on that day.

    Put in colour recipes that worked, brush strokes, random thoughts, ideas, base designs,
    scribbles and drawing, pictures of the progress, everything that you find adds value to
    your miniature experience. It will be little at first but it helps you getting your creative
    energy flowing as soon as you revisit the pages.

    Keep a personal diary and write down
    at least one achievement per day.

    This can also just be a Post It hanging somewhere - the key idea is to visualize it so that
    you can see it. This challenge might be hard in the first time, as you won't see
    achievements a lot popping up. But try. Maybe it is something as tiny as getting a perfect
    lining, a blending that you saw. Reading (or writing) a blog post that you always wanted
    to do. There can be so many things.

    Whenever viewing other artists pictures,
    don't get discouraged.

    They all have different lives, different styles, different backgrounds. As written earlier: try
    not to fall into the trap of comparison competition.

    Another thing to keep in mind and repeat as a mantra:
    It is not talent (even though talent gives you a head start). It is hard work (also: hard work can be fun work!). It is hours and hours of practice and study. Don't expect to perfectly handle a new topic in one day.

    ● Don’t compare your life to someone’s Highlight Reel.
    And yes, this most heavily applies to social media. The pictures that are shown only relate to
    the achievements, normally not to all the failures on the way. No-one wants to look bad
    on social media. Everyone is smiling. Stop thinking that other people only have luck in
    their lives.

    ● If you suddenly feel like a fraud in a situation, voice it.
    It is difficult and you need some trust and maybe a safe space to do so. But it helps to voice your concerns and that you feel you wouldn't fit. Take care and time to approach people. Voice what you need right then. Tell people you cannot engage into small talk right now. Tell them you only want to
    listen for a while because you need to have some space or you don't know how to
    handle social interaction right now. This might be awkward at the beginning, but making
    people aware of your condition helps relieving the stress that your brain puts upon you.

    If you see someone cope with impostor’s syndrome,
    don't approach them and tell them "Hey, you have impostor’s syndrome!". Guide them passively. Tell them about your own way, your journey about not feeling good enough, and eventually they will open up. Help them see their achievements and the way they already went, if you are already closer to them. Offer an open ear and a helping hand.

    Take a picture of your first and most recent miniature.
    You will see the difference; you are not an impostor, you get better over time and this is your outcome. No-one else will paint like you do.

    Just so you have something to hold in your hands and re-read it to understand that you are valuable and good in what you do: ask people to write you Kudo cards (it’s a tool that is usually used to increase recognition of valued work). Tell them they should write down
    what they value in your work, your hobby, what they admire about you, where you are
    succeeding expectations for them. Let them visualise a picture of you, so that you can
    catch your mind as soon as it is out of the window again, telling you that you are not
    good enough.

    Try to hold on to praise once in a while, don't shy away and go into duck-and-cover position. Gain trust in the fact that people tend to mean what they say. Even when they
    say that they like something built by you. :)

    There could be a million more ways to get out of the dark hole into which the impostor’s
    syndrome is pushing us. Most of the ways apply to any other situation as well, it is not only
    hobby related, I know. But this might be the first step into the right direction.

    I am still on my journey.
    How about you?

    Petra :)

    Continue reading...
    Landrotten Highlander likes this.
  2. Landrotten Highlander Active Member

    Many thanks for this, it has given me lots of food for tought....
  3. Landrotten Highlander Active Member

    Many thanks for this, it has given me lots of food for thought....

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