impostor syndrome

Apr 17, 2007 | Entrepreneurship, Life in Progress

in my moodiness and quietness the last few days i’ve had some weird feelings of fear, fear of being “found out.” it’s a strange and vague sense that i’ve fooled everyone into thinking that i’m thoughtful, talented, and worthy of my successes, when on the inside it feels more like inadequacy. my filmmaker friend kat calls it the “impostor syndrome”- when you’re worried that others are realizing that you’re not so talented or smart afterall and that you just fooled them all into thinking so. i had an experience recently where after talking with a customer, i had these thoughts of “oh god, i just totally ruined it for him. i completely fooled him into thinking i was an artist. and now he’s figured out i’m really not.”

i think i’m having a hard time internalizing all of this. this is what happens when i try to rest my brain. i over think, overanalyze, and actually worry that i might be a fraud. irrational, i know. has anyone else had this experience?

like so many others, coming down from the high that is artfest has been weird to negotiate. weird because it actually feels odd to admit that the experience is that powerful. weird because it actually does feel that you are leaving a piece of your authentic self behind in port townsed, washington. and weird, because, well, life goes on.

i know that i’m not a fraud, or deceitful, or incapable. i just find it facinating how these thoughts creep in, even in the very midst of creating the life you’ve always wanted for yourself.

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (22 comments)
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  2. John Graden

    I first heard about The Impostor Syndrome when I saw Paul Newman on TV say that he has always had a nagging feeling that one day, someone was going to push through the crowd, grab him by the arm and say, “It’s over Newman. It was all a big mistake.”

    I saw that 20 years ago and I never forgot. I’ve just published a book on the subject, The Impostor Syndrome. You can learn more about it at

  3. Ruth Rae

    I think we need to make up a after artfest ” I am a phony artist’s support group!!! 🙂

  4. Lori

    I was wondering if you could e mail me sometime, I am an artist and I’ve read your blog and love your work. I have a dream of “making a living” with my art too. Would love to know how you got started, any tips you may have etc.
    I sent you a message the other day and realize I didn’t send an e mail address.

  5. Carla Sonheim

    Kelly, I feel that way often as well. I love the name… Impostor Syndrome.

    Great to sit with you in Anne’s class and get to know you a little bit… what a sweetie you are!

  6. daisies

    i am off to google it ~ i have felt like that so many times in my life over so many things!!

    i just looked over at your beautiful prints and thought to myself, there is no way she is an imposter because your art brings beauty into my life and even my boys were awed by your work 🙂

    its funny how easy those thoughts can creep about our brains …

  7. Tricia Scott

    very interesting post and one that i can relate to. i have these feelings in the art area of my life and sometimes even in the homeschool mom area. they have always been thoughts that just stayed in the back of my mind and i have tried to ignore them but reading your post made me realize how much more i have been thinking this kind of thing lately. we all need to be kind to ourselves when this happens i think and just breathe, just be. and do our art because it makes us happy.

  8. Hélène Deroubaix

    I think as artists we all fall in this trap more than once alas!

    I think it’s more beautiful to question oneself,have doubts and experience the dark places of these feelings to go back creating and be even more real and honest to what we do instead of being so full of oneself,fearless all the time and thinking we’re the greatest artist in the world

    some people fool themselves in this other ways 😉

    but yes as people say you’re talented! I’ve enjoyed watching your progress at drawing!
    I always think artists just got it at once!
    but it’s reassuring to see we evolve, we don’t come here with everything splendid at first!

    I think evolution as an artist is very interesting,imagining all the things we’ll be able to do next 🙂

    I doubt myself and I’ve always doubted.
    But yet I still trust my soul and will follow my passion wherever it takes me because it’s too important.

    you know you have wings you can’t just deny them and never unfold them, that would be such a waste!

    I think it’s wonderful that in spite of our doubts we make it,we go on drawing painting,creating and giving,sharing…we’re warrior of the light,we’ll never give up 🙂

    I love the originaly of your “only dress” artworks it’s very pretty!

    Blessed be

  9. Sulea

    hi Kelly Rae 🙂
    I used to wonder about ‘impostor syndrome’ but then i thought perhaps it’s not about impostoring. Perhaps it’s about humility, about being neither great nor insignificantly small, but rather about being just the way you are – red or blue or orange. No one colour being greater than the other. When we are being true to ourselves, whatever we do comes easily as it was meant to be. I love the way you are and the vibrancy of your art. 🙂
    i have a painting called ‘The Impostor’ but this painting is about a friend’s bulimia and how what she appears to be is not how she feels inside. 🙂

  10. katie

    this post is SO timely for me kelly; exactly what i’ve been feeling these days in relation to my art. after feeling depressed and just plain ‘yukky’ for days (since artfest) today i asked the universe for the answer, specifically, what thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are causing my suffering like this. well, while i was lying in bed napping, not sleeping this afternoon, i got parts of the answer. i’m teaching in three venues in the coming months and my mind goes to “what if they don’t fill up?”. some part of me answers that people aren’t interested in my art or what i have to teach. then i drop into recognition of an identity that feels extrememly unworthy, something very familiar. once i’d recognized it, and named it (love ‘imposter syndrome’ by the way) i felt like getting up out of bed, and doing stuff, the heaviness was gone (at least for the time being) and i no longer felt down. these thoughts are so sneaky and can disguise themselves in so many different costumes, it’s often hard to recognize the seed thought and belief, unless i’m being very present and aware. thank you so much for sharing your experience of this and starting this dialogue, it’s really an important subject.

  11. Colorsonmymind

    Thank you for sharing these intimate feelings here with us. It is fascinating.

    Congrats on teh interview. I am going to go listen to it:)

  12. Tammy

    I call her the inner critic, and boy is she nasty! And she doesn’t play fair. And it’s hard to ignore her, but I know I must. And so must you. You are gifted, talented, and worthy.

  13. Julie H

    I have your art in my kitchen and dining room – you are no imposter! I understand the feelings – but they are just that feelings.

    Hugs to you!

  14. cheeky

    Definitely genuine. Dark thoughts just like to creep in and play tricks on our delicate minds.
    All anyone has to do is look at your work, there lies the talent.

  15. Gwen

    Darn, Kelly, I thought the secret to your success was that you didn’t have imposter syndrome!! I have ALWAYS felt this way about myself, even sometimes with my career (massage), which I KNOW that I am good at.
    Lynne Perella said last year at AF that when her inner critic starts in she sometimes has to stop and shout THANK YOU FOR SHARING! and then get back to what she was doing!

    You are amazingly talented as well as being open and full-hearted and you must simply go on. Remember how much JOY you are finding on this path.

    How can JOY be wrong??


  16. Maya Contreras

    girl! that is what i have been going through too!!! maybe there is something in the pull of the universe right now. I total called ama all panicked because things in my life were going too good!!! you are def no fraud, you are the genuine article lady- always have been. xo- Maya

  17. purple cucumbers folk art

    hi your stuff,come on over for a visit.I will be back,bring a mountain dew or cup of coffee/whatever and sat a spell

  18. kelly

    is that what that’s called?! hell
    i have suffered from that for years. you are talented, creative
    artistic soul. and you shine for the rest of us. oops…sorry, did
    i put too much on your shoulders there? naw…you deserve it and just keep reminding yourself of that.

  19. krista

    I totally get thoughts like that. I just found out that my boss is flying me out me to a big conference in BC, and it is a conference that you have to be invited to attend (she was invited but can’t attend). So, I looked over the registrants, and felt completely cowered by their credentials. I feel like somehow I have managed to pull the wool over everyones eyes into thinking I am qualified enough to go to participate in something like this, that I am worthy.

    And that is freaking ridiculous.

    Still I can’t shake the feeling.

  20. Laini Taylor

    Oh my god I COMPLETELY know that feeling!!! Such a great name for it too — thank you for naming it for me. Isn’t it bizarre? I know there must be people out there who are genuinely fully self-confident, but I think there are so many more of us who feel like we’re kind of fooling everyone and we hope they don’t find out! What’s that about?

  21. deirdre

    Those imposter thoughts are nasty, vile, horrible. It’s far too easy to believe them, but the truth is that you’re talented, smart, and on the road to tremendous success. Be kind to you.


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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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