Imposter Syndrome


My mom’s travel sewing pouch. Yep mom, this is now vintage.


What is impostor syndrome? It’s feeling like an impostor when you’re not. Like you’re a fraud and the whole world is going to find you out. This makes total sense for undercover agents and people selling snake oil. It doesn’t make so much sense for people who are trying to make the world a little better or to sell something they believe in. – Kyle Eschenroeder

Impostor Syndrome is that part of you that knows you’re not as good as you’re pretending to be, and the other part of you that needs to show the world competence and confidence.

I hear most artists have it, and I certainly do. I have a bachelor of arts degree in drawing and painting and I still have imposter syndrome. When I did oil painting in University I had it because I never really painted seriously until I started University (I mostly drew and used cheap poster paint as a kid), and then when I started doing children’s illustration after I graduated, I had it because I never took a watercolour class or illustration course. I never took design in school because the “design” and “arts” programs weren’t allowed to crossover, so I taught myself Photoshop and InDesign as I needed to over the years, so I have it even now when I’m doing anything “so-called” graphic design.

I think it’s because when I make something, I never really know what I’m doing, I’m just figuring it all out as I go along, even if I have been painting for 17 years now. It still feels new to me with every single painting. I don’t follow rules well, and I can’t follow directions. I get too impatient, so I just do it, and figure it out later. In a way, this is a good thing because it means my work will always be unique (you know, with all those mistakes).

But I read obsessively about how other people make things, and when I buy a product, or piece of art, I pretty much pick it apart and turn it inside out to figure out how someone else did it. It makes for an EXTREMELY satisfying art practice—this way of never knowing what I’m doing, because it means that I am always turning those cog wheels, though sometimes I go to bed at night thinking, “what the eff am I doing??” That part sucks. 

I got imposter syndrome again when I started making patterns for fabric. Once again, I went about it the long way—jumping in and splashing about, and reading a lot of blogs. The internet is the best thing that has ever happened to me. When I finally succeeded, it was like, “Wow, I can do annnnnyything!!” so I decided to use that fabric I made and take up sewing. And then I got imposter syndrome again.

I feel like breaking the sewing circle is really hard. Anyone with me? I mean, I feel like there are sewing police that are going to show up at my door and yank the scissors away from me because I’m just doing everything wrong. The sewing police are a gang of wild grandmas who have been sewing for 50 years, and their mothers before them have been sewing for 100 years, and so on. Let’s be honest friends, I have no idea what I’m doing. What I know about sewing is from being tied to my mother’s apron string for the first 10 years of my life and watching her do it. The first thing I learned was how to knot the end of a thread (and I remember that moment exactly, actually). The other way I know about sewing is YouTube. And the other way I know about sewing, is just jumping in.

And now I’m going to sell what I make?? How dare I, right?! (enter the sewing police). Ok for real, though. Is there some sort of organization that is able to take my stuff off the selling table because my work hasn’t passed some sort of litmus test? No, actually, I’m asking. Seriously. Am I allowed to do this?

Do people who take up painting later in life feel like there are painting police? Are there “best painting practices” and if you don’t follow them, someone’s gonna find you and take away your brush? No, right?

What I have going for me, is despite having difficulty following directions (no, really, it’s like trying to solve a really hard Math problem), I’m a stickler for doing things properly because my eyes are extremely discerning. I also get this from my mother. She irons her underpants. So, I’ll do it again and do it again and do it again until I get it right.

Having said all that, I’ve decided to have a shop update after the Etsy Made in Canada show. The shop update will include things like cushion covers, cloth napkins, and a new Thank You card design. I may even throw in a few original watercolours that I haven’t been able to part with for a long time (children’s illustration). No, my stitching will not resemble all those real sewers out there that I admire, but the stuff will still be good, I promise. Me and my discerning eye, we promise.


from Kyle Eschenroeder’s article “21 proven Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome”. I really recommend reading it!