5 Signs you have impostor syndrome & 8 Tips to Overcome impostor syndrome

art business tip mindset

This week's topic is Imposter syndrome.  The below article is a summation of the conversation with action items and considerations.  For the full interview, watch the video above. 


Meet Artist Erika Lancaster

We have Erika Lancaster with us today.    Erika is a fabulous watercolor artist from Northern Mexico.  I came across Erika while repinning articles I enjoyed and reached out to her from there.  

Erika came from a corporate background; she had a graphic designer position in advertising and then, like her mother and grandmother, moved into the schools where she taught children how to create art.  Then Erika took a step no one in her family had taken, she married her passion for teaching art with her entrepreneurial spirit to help the next generation of artists.  

What is Imposter Syndrome?

According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary:

"a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success."

 According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, around 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives regardless of their field and expertise level. 

More people experience impostor syndrome than not.  It is basically a feeling that you are a fraud.  Doesn't matter how long you've been practicing something or how many successes or accomplishments you've achieved, feeling like you don't belong there or like you're not good enough, just feeling self-doubt all the time and you're not enough.   I think it was Amy Porterfield that said you don't have to be an expert.  All you have to do is be 10% better than everybody else and then teach everybody else the 10%.  

Take imperfect action. 

So many people stop themselves from even doing anything in the first place because of fear and that self-doubt.  It is really only through taking action that you gain that competence and then you gain the confidence and thus you want to keep going because you get all of these little proof pieces as you bust through your little milestones.  These are the votes in the direction that you choose for yourself that you're working towards. 

It's really not until you push yourself to do something. Through fear and imperfection, you can become better.  

You cannot expect to start off creating pure perfection and doing everything right, because everyone starts somewhere

When you go outside your comfort zone, you expand your comfort zone.  

Erika's experience with impostor syndrome

[Erika] No one in my family was an artist, and I struggled with very low self-esteem and very low self-worth for the majority of my life, for reasons that I'm not even going to get into. But I grew up with a single mom struggling. I saw her struggling with the financial situation for as long as I can remember. Alongside that, I live in a city in which the arts are very are diminished. There are not very many galleries at all, except for the posh section of town where people have money.

I was fortunate to go to art school because my mom became a professor there, so I didn't really have to pay very much at all. It was hard work, like keeping my scholarship over those four years, but I'm very grateful for that.  I decided to go that route because it seemed like the practical route like it's artsy. I'm going to learn about art fundamentals. I'm going to learn about the artistic process and the creative process.

But I didn't believe I was going to be able to find some sort of job that will allow me to help out at home.  So I never really went the full artist's route because I didn't feel confident to do it. I didn't feel I had it in me. And also I was very burdened by that whole idea of having to help my mom out.

I didn't have any business owners in my family, except for people whose parents started a business, and they kept that business going. And no one was an artist. No one had started a business on their own. And so I decided to do it.

In the beginning, it was super hard to start putting myself out there. And you know, Stephanie very well, how in the online space, especially, you have to do a lot of work to start building up your audience.

So you are putting in a bunch of work on writing helpful blog posts and YouTube videos, sending out emails with your heart and your soul.  It takes literally years for people to even realize you exist and see any sort of momentum.  So you have to be very persistent if you want to see anything grow online.  And so it was hard in the beginning for sure.  But at the same time, I got to the point with my full-time job experiences that I was getting very depressed and I felt like something inside of me was telling me to do something else.  There was something else for me to do.   It just got to the point that it was more painful for me to stay in those full-time jobs than it was to put myself out there and go through that uncomfortableness. 

Because of my practical nature, not without first saving up a bunch of money, making sure that I was not spending.  I made sure I put a plan together during those last couple of years that I was still working to save a bunch of money because I knew that I was going to have monthly business investments to make. 

Even once I started my business, I was still teaching at the school and after-school extracurriculars.  Then when COVID hit and those after-school extracurriculars were canceled I was already earning enough to sustain myself via my art sales.   So I kept pushing and pushing and pushing because it was painful for me to be in a full-time job, I did not want to be there anymore.  

I was already over 30 and most artists already had exhibits everywhere.  They already had a full body of work.  They have an audience, which I didn't even really start growing my audience four years ago online.  I knew that there was something else for me to do, and I had a vision of who I wanted to become.  And I just had to have faith that with the practical things that I did to prepare and with the hard work that I was consistently putting in, I had had to have faith that something was going to come from it.  And I just didn't stop. 

Over time you start seeing how positively you're impacting other people's lives, through your art, through your skills, through your passions and that is what makes you want to keep going.  Those little successes that you have along the way if you don't put yourself through that you're not going to get those little votes of confidence.  And so that's why it is so important to do the thing even through the fear right now.

[Stephanie] I love that you walked into it, you didn't make that leap that so many people think that you have to make in order to become an artist.  All you have to do is declare it and I think that's something a lot of people struggle with.   Monet actually tried to commit suicide at one point because he was financially distraught and he just walked into a river.  He was ready to give up on his dream and all because of that feeling of not being good enough.  Thankfully he wasn't successful in his suicide attempt and he went on to become the father of impressionism.  

So imagine if you or if somebody out there is listening to this right now who has those feelings of saying 'I'm not good enough', 'nobody wants to hear what I have to say', 'nobody thinks I'm good enough', 'they're so much better than me'...if they continue to have that limited mindset, potentially limiting their ability to be the next Monet!

I want to give kudos to you for listening to yourself and really making a calculated approach to move to the next stage.  

Steps Erika took towards full-time artist

  1. Financial Freedom.  Save money to cover the expenses of a new business and to make yourself and your family comfortable while building your business. 

  2. Have Faith.  Have faith in yourself and everything that you are supposed to do.  Have the vision of where you are supposed to go.  

  3. Acknowledge Successes.  Celebrate the success and look at how far you come.  

  4. Forget perfectionism.  Perfectionism is hindering your progress.  

5 Signs you are experiencing impostor syndrome

If you haven't heard of impostor syndrome before and maybe you don't know if you are going through it in some way here are five signs that it shows up for artists: 

  1. Inability to accept compliments on your work thereby diminishing your work.  For example, someone pops up and says that your work is beautiful and you're like 'nah, it's super easy' or you rebuff with someone is better  - that's impostor syndrome.    You have to believe that you had it in you to create that work and you have to believe that you have it in you to move other people with your work.  

  2.  The overwhelming feeling of anxiety, self-doubt, or perfectionism when starting a new piece or working on a piece.  Or high worry of other people's opinions and critiques to the point that you just decide not to put yourself out there at all. 

  3. Feeling like you won't be able to create at the level of past work.  [Erika]. This is something I see a lot in beginners.  They are so attached to their pieces that they don't even want to sell them or give them away because they feel they're never going to be able to create something like that again.  Sell it!  
  4. Feeling out of place in an art supply store, an art event, or a gallery.  

  5. Constantly comparing yourself to others. 

8 tips to overcome impostor syndrome

 If you are feeling of the above 5 symptoms of impostor syndrome, here are 8 tips to overcome impostor syndrome:

  1. Share your feelings with a community of artists:  Try to share your feelings and thoughts with like-minded, like-hearted people.  It is so much better if they are artists or creatives of some kind because they are going to understand you more and what you are going through and you are going to feel less alone.  

  2. Research how the brain works:  [Erika] be aware of why this happens in the first place.  During that time I started reading a lot of books on anxiety, which is something that I've struggled with my entire life, general anxiety disorder.  And I learned that sometimes your brain is trying to keep you safe with a negativity bias.  Like you could have 20 positive comments on your work and one negative comment and that one negative comment sticks out, that stays with you, that ruins your day.  Why?  Because your brain has a negative bias. It only sees the bad and not the good.  Understanding how the brain works will help you overcome dwelling on the negative and start focusing on the positive. 

  3. Have a 'Why' that goes beyond you.  [Erika] it is so important that your 'why' as an artist is about other people and not only about yourself.  I don't create art just for me, I create art because I want to bring something positive to others.  And I teach because I want to help others reach their own goals.  And that in itself makes you want to keep going so much more.  And even if you are doing art as a hobby, or for fun and your audience is your family and friends, just by creating your art and developing yourself in all of the ways, you're able to shine your light brighter and be a better person for them.  So if you develop yourself, you build yourself up in areas you are passionate about, you're able to shine a light for others you love.  
    Whatever you decide to do with your art, whether you're selling paintings, or teaching or both, or a hobby or career, think about why you are doing it.  

  4. Practice daily positive affirmations and journal your accomplishments and things you are grateful for.  So instead of watching the news, instead of scrolling on social media and all that stuff, set your phone aside, turn off the TV or whatever it is and take out your journal and just write about what you want to do, what you've accomplished, all these things to rewire your brain with positive affirmations. 
    Your mindset is 50% of the work.  Start thinking more positively about who you are and what you can do.  By thinking more positively about yourself, you will take more action.  Here is a link to Erika's list of 10 Artist Positive Affirmations. 

  5. Celebrate the accomplishments.  It is super important that you acknowledge your progress along the way.  Don't be a perfectionist and don't expect things to be perfect and demand highly of yourself when you're in your first year creating art consistently - it takes years!  It is a beautiful journey and everything that's worthwhile takes time. 

  6. Always think about your future self and see these accomplishments as steps along that journey.   Through action, you gain confidence and you become that person. 

  7. Give yourself permission to not be an expert.  Not knowing does not make you a fraud and everyone starts somewhere.  I don't know where I heard this quote but "the person who shows up deserves to be there" .  You have to be firm in your decision and your passion and you just make a choice.  You have to take consistent action. 

  8. Separate your feelings from facts.  Feelings and thoughts are not always true.  So in order to continue taking action consistently, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and not be clouded by all of these emotions.  You have to ignore the feelings of nervousness and all of that so that you can do the things that are required so that you can grow artistically or grow your business.   

    With the knowledge of how our brains are negatively biased, we know that our feelings and thoughts are not reflective of what is actually happening.  So, track your progress with statistics and numbers and sketch pads.  Track your celebrations. 


If you want to stay consistent and reach success as an artist, it is very important to keep developing yourself, your belief in yourself, and learn. 

There are so many amazing YouTube channels that can help you understand what's going on.  And then if you need help that goes beyond what you can do for yourself, reach out to a professional therapist - they are there to help you do the inner work to enable you to create a mindset that's going to help sustain you.  Your mindset is the foundation of everything else.  


For more with Erika Lancaster, you can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and  Patreon.  

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