I heart me.

There’s been a lot of talk in my circles (both students and faculty) recently about impostor syndrome. It’s felt very present and real. The ubiquitousness of curated social media in our lives and the in-your-faceness of what seems to be the perfection of others makes us feel inadequate. I am constantly reminding myself: the reality is messy. I’ve been an artist for so long, and I’ve been in the trenches, so I know this to be true. But every now and then (or even every day for some of us), we can be tricked into thinking “it’s only me”. I’m the only one for whom this (isolation, my chosen career, COVID, my relationships, whatever…) is hard. We forget that everyone we meet is fighting the same battle, whether it’s on the surface and visible, or not.

Recently I was exploring exactly this with a student doing a special project. They were having trouble with motivation. There was no momentum. They felt they had fallen so far behind that there was no saving it. We talked about adjusting expectations, but then they simply wanted to remove all accountability and the potential for exposing personal failure from the final product. I pushed back. We talked about how process is messy, ugly, full of cracks and missteps. To pretend otherwise is what’s fraudulent–not us. We are not the impostor. The impostor is the pretence that all good outcomes are perfect and polished. The reality is that if we really go into the arena, we are going to get bloody. We’re going to fall in the dirt. We are going to hurt and we are going to learn.

So what if, instead of shying away from this exposure of the unpleasantness, we shone a light on it? What if the gift we were to give to one another was simply ourselves, our full journey, warts and all? What if we just said: I Am. And showed what this artistic path really looks like–rife with self-doubt, mistakes, wrong paths, blemishes and outright fails? Maybe this would give each and every one of us to be imperfect, and just to be on the path to growth. I think I might be on to something…