Art & Imposter

Throughout my youth until college, I can’t recall being deeply unsure of myself or my path. I remember always being declarative and unwavering in the pursuit of my goals. Though, sometime after college, I seemed to have lost my way and felt unsure of my place within the art world. I can’t say whether or not this shift took place when I entered the “real world” and had to embrace the hectic ups and downs of adulthood. Regardless, imposter syndrome is a constant struggle for me now. My goals that felt an arms reach away now feel miles away as if they’re unattainable. Even when opportunities come my way, it sometimes feels like I don’t deserve them. Though I know that those things aren’t true, keeping those thoughts out is easier said than done.

Portrait of a black woman under red light looking at the viewer in front of a black background.

It’s pretty tough allowing myself to have the space to see my way out of it without doubting my abilities. I’ve questioned if I know how to use a camera, and I’ve been using one since I was 11. Behind the camera has always been my safe space. When I was in high school I remember allowing myself to experiment. I created genuinely weird images, but I was free and I knew what I was doing. Even when I actually didn’t, it was fun to bring myself up to the challenge. I even had my brother do handstands for me or dress up as Dorian Gray. This was also when I began taking self-portraits and experimenting with what it means to evoke an idea with my own body rather than using a model.

3 eyes overlayed on top of each other. 3 heads of the same woman making different expressions next to each other. One head is upside down. 2 sets of the same legs doing a handstand in front of a white wall. 3 of the same woman sitting on one couch with a pair of floating eyes. Multiple duplicates of the same woman doing different poses in multiple frames. woman wearing a zebra print dress behind a zebra print chair.

I miss the creative freedom I felt before. This feels like an excruciating cycle. I always tell myself that I’ll find my way out of it, yet I end up back where I started. I wonder if I can push myself the way I did when I was younger or if I can find the courage to face the disappointment that I feel. I despise the gnawing feeling that I’m not moving forward and am motionless in place. When I see peers of mine thriving within the art world and creating incredible & deeply inspired work— I feel left behind. My peers make me proud; I want them to be proud of me.

I know that I’m more than the art I create. Nonetheless, I want to share my voice with others. There is space for me to create art and to be unabashedly human. I simply haven’t found it yet, but I know that I will.

Putting these thoughts into words for others to read is strangely cathartic. I started Saturate Stories to share my journey as a Black woman artist. Sharing this story is essential as I continue to work on myself. As I write, my imposter syndrome becomes smaller and less powerful. One day, I’ll be able to write about how I overcame it.

Have you experienced imposter syndrome or something similar? What helped you process it and work through it? Or if it’s still your reality, how are you feeling? Is there anything guiding you through it? 

I appreciate you for taking the time to read this story, and hope that you feel supported on your journey. Until next time, 

Rachel Cassandra Gibbons