Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: A Journey in Photography

Dreaming Big: From Vision to Reality

The inspiration to submit a speaking proposal for a major photography event struck unexpectedly, originating from a vivid dream. In this dream, I envisioned myself on stage at a renowned conference, addressing a vast audience of both established and aspiring photographers. The narrative recounted my history with the event: from winning a contest for a complimentary pass aimed at photographers looking to grow their businesses in a previous year, to progressively leading multiple sessions in subsequent years. Each time, my ambition drove me to seek more opportunities. After persistently seeking a keynote address slot, I was humorously offered the opportunity just to satisfy my insistence.

Battling Self-Doubt: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Despite my pragmatic, agnostic views that dismiss dreams as mere brain activities consolidating daily experiences, this particular dream resonated deeply. It reflected my latent ambition and audacity, stirred by a call for speakers email that coincidentally appeared shortly thereafter.

Driven by a sense of proximity to a potentially significant achievement, I decided to take action. Consequently, I submitted three session proposals for the upcoming event in 2019.

When the acceptance email arrived, I was momentarily overwhelmed by self-doubt and panic.

The experience encapsulated a common phenomenon known as imposter syndrome, where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as frauds, regardless of tangible achievements. Research in the International Journal of Behavioral Science suggests that this feeling affects a substantial majority of people, from budding entrepreneurs to well-established figures.

Navigating Success and Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is an intrinsic part of the human psyche, often accompanying achievements and milestones. For many high achievers, such doubts persist despite external success, fueled by factors such as perfectionism or the pressures inherent in entrepreneurial endeavors.

In my case, managing my photography business amid significant stress and battling bouts of major depressive disorder compounded my doubts. Questions like “Will I deliver? Will it be well-received?” haunted my mind regularly.

Despite my success in securing a speaking slot on my first attempt, I found it challenging to celebrate like others did. Instead, I sought reassurance from therapy sessions, feeling apprehensive about publicizing my achievement out of fear that it might be rescinded or deemed a mistake.

Conversations with my therapist highlighted a pervasive fear of inadequacy compared to more established figures in the industry. Despite testimonials and a growing clientele, I struggled with feelings of insignificance and a persistent fear of being overshadowed.

Reflections on the Journey

Reflecting on my journey, I recalled starting out in photography at a young age, landing a job at a portrait studio while pursuing a college degree part-time. Despite early successes and client accolades, a critical encounter early in my career left me questioning my abilities and legitimacy in the field.

My journey led me through various professional milestones, from shooting for local businesses to being hired by magazines and eventually becoming a notable photographer in my community. However, relocating to a new market in Colorado prompted a resurgence of self-doubt, exacerbated by the competitive landscape.

The decision to apply for ShutterFest was driven partly by a need for validation and an opportunity to network with peers facing similar challenges. Subsequently, the year following the event marked a substantial increase in both income and clientele, validating my efforts in a new market.

Yet, despite these achievements, imposter syndrome persisted, manifesting as debilitating anxiety and self-criticism. Coping strategies recommended by therapists, such as identifying cognitive distortions and documenting successes, provided temporary relief and perspective.

Managing imposter syndrome remains an ongoing challenge, requiring sustained effort and self-awareness. It’s a reminder that success, however defined, does not immunize one against self-doubt or fear of failure. Yet, each milestone achieved serves as a testament to resilience and determination in navigating these internal challenges.