Imposter syndrome and FOMO; surviving being an emerging artist

During university, I discussed quite regularly time management, overcoming pressure and stress, and juggling multiple projects. Now that I have nearly – officially – graduated, I find myself once again considering these things.

Those of you who know me personally will know that in addition to being a painter, keeping this blog and exhibiting my work, I also work full time, and am on the hunt for a career in the arts industry. In addition to this, I am also trying to maintain a social life, work out (which currently also includes training for my first ever half marathon at the end of this month), sleep, eat, do the grocery shopping, spend time with my family, do the laundry and have regular showers, just like every other adult! Recently, I have found that this has led to some serious feelings of missing out, time pressure and imposter syndrome. Despite working hard and consistently making work, I often feel that I am not showing enough of it on social media, not keeping my thumb on the pulse or not applying to enough open calls; a feeling which I certainly feel applies to many creatives or self-employed individuals in contemporary society. So why do these anxieties creep in, even when I am in the studio every day, making work, organising documentation, or even just cleaning up and restocking my paints?! In this weeks post I wanted to quite simply discuss how – while being a great tool for self-promotion, connectivity and inspiration – social media can make us feel inadequate, like we aren’t working hard enough, or that we are falling behind other people in our field.

So why does this happen? Why do individuals these days feel increasing pressure to show other people – more often than not, strangers – just how well we’re doing, how much work we’ve got through and how successful we are? Maybe it is simply because we see other people doing that. We see, through rose tinted lenses the wonderful life that other artists and people are living, the exhibitions we didn’t have time to attend, the competition deadline we forgot about applying for, the ‘successful’ artist whose work is just like ours, the red dots next to other people’s paintings and the awards we didn’t get to win, because we were busy doing our ironing, waiting for our new painting to dry, making money from our other job, or just taking a day off. All of which, of course, leads us to feel guilty for not working harder, or feel undeserving when we do get to shout about our success!

I am a top offender when it comes to this, and this week has been a particularly triggering one for feeling like an imposter in my own success. While I have been busy hustling – both at my paid fulltime job and in the studio – I have only created one new painting, spent more time making frames than putting brush to canvas, and dedicated some serious time to working on a big open call submission that I have coming up. All of this is of course important and valuable and great work, yet it doesn’t lend itself to creating great content for my Instagram or this blog! Hence why this week’s post is about precisely this!

It can be hard being a creative, when all you want to do is make and make, yet in our digital age we also feel obliged to maintain a social media presence, promote ourselves and are usually striving to be able to turn our passion into our career – just as I, and my fellow emerging artists are doing. And, just as I discussed in my post about a new studio space, sometimes we don’t even want to make! But once again, Instagram and the like remind us how hard other people are working and make us feel like we can’t take a day off from being an artist, even when we are busy being an employee, daughter, girlfriend, friend, carer, cook, cleaner and everything else under the sun.

So, without further ado, this week’s post concludes with a simple reminder to other creatives – and to myself! – that just because you can’t fill your Instagram feed with a new piece of work every day, just because you didn’t get that open call, just because your application got rejected or you didn’t sell a painting this week, does not mean that you are not working hard. Keep your head down, share things when you want to, not because you feel obliged to, and keep hustling. Every day you don’t give up is a success. 

Felicity BeaumontComment