Impostor syndrome & 70 pet portraits

Today, I uploaded my 70th commissioned pet portrait to my website. Number 7-0. There’s no real significance in that particular number. It doesn’t represent any pre-meditated goal or benchmark. But after I hit upload and refresh, and as I watched that 70th pet portrait pop into the front of the line, something felt…heavy.

70.

The number sat solidly in my belly. As I looked at it, digesting it, the funniest thought bubbled up into my head.

“Well, heck. I’m actually doing this, aren’t I?”

I’m living as a working artist. I’m buying groceries and paying rent with money I earn from my artwork. My hands have worked canvases that are now scattered across the continent. This thing that I love, my small painting business, is real.

It sounds silly to put that in writing. Of course my painting business is real.

And yet, for the longest time I’ve had the uneasy sensation that I’ve been ‘playing house’ in my own art business. Doing the things I’d watched others do, trying out a new role, playing dress up even. I sometimes feel as though any minute someone might simply say, “play time’s over,” and expose the fact that I’m just a little kid wearing clothes that are too big for her, pretending to be all grown up. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts in her e-book “Flying Lessons” refers to this as “Impostor syndrome.” It’s the icky feeling that we’ve succeeded only because we’ve hoodwinked our fans into thinking we’re something we’re not.

This is me as a kid, wearing my dad’s socks and making some art.
I know that I never actually misrepresented myself. It’s just that the first year of my business whooshed by in a blur of twitter feeds, facebook updates, email blasts, and website revamps. At each step, I was desperate to project the image of success, to keep up with the big kids and the ‘real’ professional artists. In other words, to fake it until I could make it.

Am I ready to put that mentality to rest? To be at peace with the amount of work I’ve done? To accept that my business is so much more than a game I created to pass the time?

I think so, yes.

But, I have plenty ways to go. I have big dreams for my small business, and visions of the artwork I will one day make. There are so many people I have yet to connect with. Classes I want to take. Website improvements to put in place. New mediums with which to experiment.

Yet, at the same time, I’m suddenly comfortable with where I am, proud of the progress I’ve made, and ready to be honest about where I stand today.

And as of today, I’ve sold 70 pet portraits.

*P.S. I just treated myself to Kelly Rae Roberts’ e-book Flying Lessons. It’s all kinds of amazing. If you’re an artist who needs an injection of inspiration straight to the heart, I’d highly recommend taking a look.

13 Comments

  1. Congrats Adriana! Hrmmm. I wonder how long it takes for entrepreneurs to cure themselves of impostor syndrome? Think I’ve still got a case of it myself!
    xo

    Reply
    • It’s strange how many brilliant, hard-working women I know walk around with this feeling in their gut!

      Reply
  2. Congrats on your growing business and especially the fact that you’re really enjoying where you’re at. It’s great to hear someone speak so candidly about the fears and hopes of being an artrepreneur. Even when we feel that we are doing this alone we are actually all in the same boat!

    Reply
    • Finding a community of other artists and entrepreneurs has definitely helped me to put everything in perspective. It’s wonderful to know that many of us are going through the same steps!

      Reply
  3. I notice that band-aid on your head in your baby photo…even then, you knew being an artist-entrenprendeur means being prepared for a few hard knocks! Congratulations on 70!!!

    Reply
    • Haha, thank you!

      Reply
  4. Congrats on 70! That’s awesome! I can relate to what you are saying about Impostor Syndrome, but I hope you are able to step back and be proud of yourself!

    Reply
    • Thank you! I think the first step is to just notice that we’re all feeling this same silly fear, and then to politely excuse it from our lives. You have a lot to be proud of too!

      Reply
  5. Congrats on 70 Adriana! That’s amazing and so exciting. I appreciate your candid, honest reflections on where you are and how far you have come as an artist. It’s inspiring to read your comments about impostor syndrome and great for all us – artist or just a creative soul – to read and relate to! Thanks and enjoy the next 70! :)

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Reply
  6. “…I’m suddenly comfortable with where I am, proud of the progress I’ve made, and ready to be honest about where I stand today.”

    Now that’s definitely a satisfying feeling!

    I wish I had better words for how wonderful it is to read a post like this one. For now, I’ll use this one… inspire.

    I think inspiration is such a beautiful gift. It holds so much energy and potential. Thank you for sharing your goals, progress, and your gifts.

    Jess (:
    The Backburner Studio

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jess, for your kind words and for stopping by! Trying to make it as an artist can be super scary, and I love connecting with other people who know what it’s like.

      Reply
  7. Thanks for the post. You have just diagnosed me!
    As an artist beginning to experience modest success myself i have realised that this is exactly how i feel. I’ve done a couple of festivals, displayed in some bars and coffee shops, received hundreds of compliments, yet only focus on the one father who grasped his young daughter’s arm away from my booth exclaiming, “you don’t need any more junk”. All my sales are obviously because of pity or ignorance. I am working on this, will give the book you suggested a read, and try to extract some confidence from somewhere. Thanks for helping me not feel alone.

    Reply

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