The Comparison Game: Am I Good Enough?
Running a small business is hard enough, but what if you are your own worst critic? Nat talks about the self inflicted insecurities and criticism she has while running her company, Nat’s Paper Studio.
Am I good enough? A question I seem to ask myself on a regular basis. Am I good enough to do this, to make it work, to make a decent income? Am I good enough in comparison to this company or that company or these wonderful creatives I have spent months stalking on Instagram. Will people like me, like my style, get my art direction, understand my work? The list goes on and the daily struggle continues.
The nagging thoughts that swim around my head have become part of my daily routine. These moments of self doubt come and go as I tackle workload, organise our wedding, frantically Instagram new creative and handle general life admin. The highs come with lows and the constant reassurance that I need to give myself to ‘keep calm and carry on’ seems to increase with every order that I receive. But what I constantly remind my inner voice is that I LOVE what I do. I am fortunate to work with so many talented people, have wonderful clients, be part of an industry that makes me warm and fuzzy inside and be involved in a community of like minded stationers where we help each other to grow our businesses. These things are not common practice, they don’t happen in every industry and definitely don’t occur with every job, which is why I tell myself to concentrate on my passion and carry on.
I recently dipped in and out of an Instagram the March Meet the Maker challenge (#marchmeetthemaker) and realised that I’m not alone in my thoughts and worries. The very talented creator of the challenge, Joanne Hawker, detailed her anxiety about the same issues in Day 30’s ‘Top tip / advice’ post.
“ I want to talk to you about something that happens to a lot of us but isn’t widely talked about, and that is ‘imposter syndrome’. I think it’s one of those things that every creative will feel at some point in their career, and some more than others. It’s the feeling that we don’t belong, the circle of self doubt we can find ourselves in or the feeling of not being good enough or like we’re about to be found out for being a ‘fraud’. It’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison trap, especially around social media where it appears that everyone has the perfect life. Obviously, we know to take that at face value as no one really posts about the less glamorous stuff, but that doesn’t stop us comparing our lives to someone's highlight reel.
I’m guilty of posting polished images, but like many others I feel like an imposter from time to time. I get the days where I feel like a massive failure. I get the days where I feel like I don’t have to right to talk about XYZ because I’m not ‘qualified’ enough. And I get the days where I feel like I’m just not good enough and will never match up to everyone else.
The lovely @HollyTucker took the time to write to me recently and sent me the the gorgeous rosette I’m wearing in the photo made by @emma_giacalone_textiles and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to tell you that you are not alone in feeling this way. Holly’s mission is to call out imposter syndrome, and encourage others to talk openly about it so that it loses its hold on us and so it stops holding us back and instead, we can use it as a force to push us forward.
As hard as it is sometimes, we need to remember that actually, we do belong, we are good at what we do, we are good enough and we deserve to be successful. We are not frauds and we are not imposters. We are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Together, let’s put down this demon, remind people they are not alone and remind ourselves daily that we ARE good enough. Whose with me?”
Reading this I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I couldn’t have said it better myself! A true ‘hurrah’ moment where I realised I’m not alone in these thoughts of doubt and self criticism, that it’s important not to dwell on the negatives, and overcome the feeling that we aren’t good enough. In Joanne’s post she also makes reference to Holly Tucker, another super creative, highly successful lady – you may not have heard of her, but you will have heard of and most likely used her company, Not On the High Street – who calls the feeling “The Imposter Syndrome”.
“In life and business, being a woman can sometimes be incredibly difficult. We often have to work harder and speak louder, to get our voices truly heard. I’m sure you will share in my shock when, quite recently, I learned that a staggering 70% of women suffer with imposter syndrome; the ceaseless cycle of self-doubt we sometimes find ourselves trapped in.
It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the negative voice in the back of your mind. It tells you you’re not good enough, that you’re going to fail; it makes you feel like a fraud in the safety of your own world. I’ve had my own crippling experiences with this demon throughout my life. Whenever I was doing well, it would pipe up and whisper that I was going to get ‘found out’. It made me feel disconnected from myself, and made me feel unsure of my abilities - as a mother, partner, entrepreneur, sister, daughter, friend. And you know what? I’ve had enough of it.
I learned to turn my imposter syndrome into a strength; it’s become the superpower I love to hate. It makes me check things 50 billion times, it forces me to give things 110%. This nagging self-doubt makes me push myself to the limit, and because I call it out, it gives me permission to be wrong. In fact, my imposter syndrome makes me the best version of myself that I can possibly be.
This year, I’m on a mission to call out this imposter in our lives; to help people name it and talk about it openly, to turn it into their own superpower. My hope is that, by calling it out and being honest about our own experiences with it, imposter syndrome loses its hold on us, and stops being a force that holds so many women back; rather, it begins to launch us forward.”
The role of social media
So I now realise that I’m not alone, but has social media made me and many others like this?
I have a love / hate relationship with social media from a business perspective. I LOVE that it’s a free tool that allows your work to reach a worldwide audience that quite frankly, no money could buy. I love that I am able to create something beautiful, connect with customers, find a never ending source of inspiration and be part of a community of like minded individuals. But I hate that it’s so time consuming, it’s hard to create a unique look and feel, difficult to stand out in a crowd of marvellous creatives with thousands of followers and it’s impossible not to compare yourself to others while scrolling through their perfect accounts. In saying this social media does, once in a while, serve you up a little snippet of something real – a personal insight that once again brings a sense of reassurance. The other day, while scrolling through my account, I realised one of my favourite, super inspirational wedding planners had fallen victim to Imposter Syndrome. Having recently realigned her business to art direction and styling she wrote a very real account on her emotions and fears.
“Fear – I’m playing that game again. The one where I freak myself out and wonder if I’m doing good enough. This always happens every so often to everyone, be you a creative or not. We play the comparison + fear game. But what are we actually afraid of? Failure? Disappointed of others? Our portfolio isn’t strong? Our nails are too short? The job your working on now is too overwhelming? Your peers seem to be happier than you? The big job you did wasn’t good enough? There are so many other more qualified people than you? That friend makes a better cup of tea?
Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s like an in-built thing inside that crashes your mood and makes you feel like hiding under the duvet.
Well. Not today friend. Grab that fear by the hair and throw it out the window, hear it scream until it disappears and hits the ground in a puff of smoke. Think looney toons.
Today is a new day, the season is changing yes and you are here to stay. The only thing fear and comparison will do to you is hold you back from making your mark on this world. So, journal your fears, hug your cat, dance in your slippers cos you are the best and ONLY you can do what you do, no one else.”
Realising you are good enough
Although I could quite easily play the blame game with social media, I know it’s my own mindset that I need to change. I need to realise that I am worthwhile, I am good enough and I do put in the hard work so necessary to be successful. Although I might not be the best, I will be my best self. Bearing this in mind I will strive to create work that brings joy to someone’s special day without worrying about my own insecurities. I’ll help others, as they have helped me, and be part of a community, not be the competition. And I will continue to further myself in any way possible, to push forward to reach my goals. At the end of the day you can be your own worst enemy, but the importance of realising it and nipping it in the bud is invaluable. To quote the end of Joanne’s post – “Together, let’s put down this demon, remind people they are not alone and remind ourselves daily that we ARE good enough. Whose with me?”