Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome. It’s a thing. No, really, it is. Here’s the definition:

Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It was identified by researchers at Georgia State University in 1978 when they noted that successful women had a tendency towards high levels of self-doubt. Since then, more recent studies in Belgium have shown that it is common across different career types from “white collar” jobs to scientists. Men feel it too (although possibly to a lesser extent) and sometimes it’s joined by it’s unwelcome friends – anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and guilt. As you can probably tell, it’s not really a charming guest.

For me, it’s an overwhelming feeling that I really don’t know what I’m doing. Like everything I’ve achieved has been through luck and is a fluke. Like I’m just pretending I know what I’m talking about and if pushed, I’ll flake out and be discovered for not really having a clue.

It’s a fairly regular anvil of self-doubt that hangs over my head and threatens to come crashing down with little notice. If you look for it, you can see it through the facade. The unwillingness to make a big deal of things that others would be singing and dancing about. The hesitation to sell myself and recognise the work that I’ve done and things I’ve achieved. The avoidance of talking about my work and myself for fear that I’ll let something slip that “shows me up”. The second guessing myself and wanting to “double check” everything when I do talk about my work. The never feeling quite ready to do things and being able to find a million reasons not to try.

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The trouble is, I tend to compare myself to everyone else’s highlight reel. Thanks to a mix of social media where we only really see the extremes of life (cause let’s face it, posting “hey I got out of bed today, had a shower and then sat for 10 hours working at my computer” isn’t really InstaWorthy) and knowing some super confident people who seem to do nothing but talk about all they’ve achieved. I have nothing against the latter, it’s just foreign to me and adds to the feeling that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

It wasn’t until I was talking in a recent interview about my meandering career path that I realised I have a lot of experience and different skills. Even writing that now makes me very uncomfortable.

I’ve been running my own business for almost three years now and sometimes I forget that in terms of a small business, it’s still early days. I hold myself to extremely high standards and get frustrated when I’m not exactly where I feel like I should be. It’s very easy for me to pattern spot and give much higher value to the things I’m not happy about and to dismiss the success I’ve had a long the way.

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Recently, I’ve been doing well. OK I’m not bringing in the money I’d like (but who is?) and I’ve got a list of ideas for improvement longer than a Mo Farah run, but when I consider the direction my work is taking, a lot of great things are happening. From being asked to deliver a photography class for Skillshare to having my #RealGirlsRealBeauty images up as part of the Visible Women Festival. From starting new collaborations for my wildlife work to finding more time to connect with my wildlife and nature photohttp://www.meiphotography.co.uk/overcoming-imposter-syndrome/ ‎graphy. It’s really all very positive.

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So why do I wake up some days and think I’m just playing “make believe” at all of it? Without reading all the research (and thus being able to thoroughly back-up my opinion without horrendous self doubt…), I guess I won’t really know. I just have to keep pushing through it and finding ways to work around it.

It seems that speaking up about it is part of that journey. Putting my hand up and saying that I often don’t feel like I’ve got a clue what I’m doing. Confessing that most days feel like “fake it til you make it” days.  Coming clean about this and finding other tortured souls helps. It’s why I’m writing this blog.

Other ways of tackling it are keeping track of the successes. Reminding myself of the victories I’ve had, how far I’ve come and accepting praise when something great happens instead of getting cagey and awkward about it.

Sometimes, through the midst of all this, there are perfectly timed moments that give me a much needed confidence boost. Like today, when I felt the sensation of that anvil getting ever closer to landing squarely on my head, this blog popped up in my feed. A review of a photoshoot I did last year.

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It made my day.

And that cheeky toddler face from one of my favourite photo sessions of 2016 reminded me that sometimes we just need to stick our tongues out at Impostor Syndrome and keep on doing the best we can. x

 

Farewell 2014! Hello 2015! x

There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts – before this, and after this. – Fallen

This past year has been a big one for me.  I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to start up my own business doing what I love, taking photographs.  It’s been a dream of mine to own a small business and I’m so excited to be chasing after my dream.  So far it’s been challenging, exciting and demanding as I learn the ropes and just begin to understand all that’s involved.

The support has been amazing.  I’m blessed with a extraordinarily talented and generous group of family and friends who help make everything just that bit easier.  So it seems fitting that I end 2014 with a Thank You to everyone for their love and support.  I’ll try to remember everything but if I forget something let me know!

Thank you to…

  • My parents!  For always encouraging me and supporting my decision to leave my job and go out on this adventure and for helping me find the funds to add to my ever-growing photography kit.  Plus, they also have a growing collection of my work in their home.  I’m sure they’ll show it to you if you fancy a visit!
  • My talented friend Stephen who spent many, many hours working with me to design my logo.  I love it and get compliments on it all the time.  Thank you for your patience.
  • Jenny & Robert at Glasgow Science Centre who made it possible for me to have my first ever exhibition and kept it on display for a whole year.
  • Johanna, who has been a fan and supporter of my work for a couple of years now and even traveled to see my exhibition (it was lovely to finally meet you a couple of weeks ago!).
  • Louisa, who bought my first official print and made me believe that this might actually be something I can do.
  • Kim, who not only encouraged me to go for it after finding success and happiness in her own small business (Kimmycakesuk – check her out!) but also got me my first official portrait session booking with the lovely Peer Family.

Collage of images from family photo shoot

  • Katy, who has been working on her own business venture and cheering me on with mine, every step of the way.
  • Ian, Sharon, Katy, Morna & Yaz who booked me to return to GSC and capture photos of the events there.  I had a great time and was happy to be involved.  Exciting and engaging people with science will always be an important part of my life.
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  • Everyone who has worked with me and given me honest feedback to help me figure out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Laura, who put in hours of work to build this website and also spent weeks teaching me how to edit it and structure it myself.  Your never-ending patience has been amazing while I struggle through all the jargon!
  • Craig, Sophie, Jo, Joanna, Johanna, Claire, Lynn, John and my parents for looking over my website and checking it made sense.
  • Fiona, Jennifer, Ian and Steven who have agreed to be part of a mini advisory board and offer their expertise and guidance in the future.
  • Claire and Mairi who bought various prints of my Squirrel photos – some of my favourite shots from the year and made me even more determined to move in to wildlife photography.

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  • Siobhan, for taking the time to look over my contracts and terms & conditions and made all the legal talk something I could actually follow!
  • Everyone who has liked my page, retweeted my images, commented on Facebook, 365project or 500px – it may seem a very small thing on your side but trust me, it means a lot to me.  Every little like and comment lifts my spirit and keeps me ploughing through the less glamorous side of being a small business owner (special nod to Jo B, Johanna and Sophie as they’ve been especially supportive in the world of social media!).
  • And last, but far from least, Ewan. My other half. My better half. He has been everything from a problem solver to a food provider; a shoulder massager to a copy editor; a tech adviser to my much needed comedy relief; my number one fan and the all important shoulder to cry on when I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the process.  I would not be here without you.

Thanks so much to you all.  You’ve all played a part in making a dream come true.  I cannot wait for the excitement and adventure in 2015 and I’m looking forward to my first run of bookings with my niece’s birthday party, the Mpiana family and a trip to see the Red Kites again.

Best wishes for you and yours in 2015! xx