No matter the position we’re in, no matter how much we’ve accomplished, we’re unfortunately all subject to this feeling that we’re somehow “faking it”. What is this phenomenon called? Imposter’s syndrome and it is exactly what it sounds like. It’s that icky feeling you get when you feel like you’re a fraud at something you’ve accomplished. We had the chance to talk with Mariangela Abeo about her experience with this feeling and what you can do to combat it. Click read more to check out the full interview.
In the past, we talked about your photography project, Faces Of Fortitude, which people can read here. This time, I wanted to bring up something you wrote in an Instagram caption on your personal account about Imposter’s syndrome. But before we get into that, in case anyone doesn’t know who you are, give us a little summary introduction about yourself.
My name is Mariangela Abeo and I am the photographer and creator of Faces of Fortitude; a portrait project that is attempting to shed a light those who have been affected by suicide.
To start, how would you define/describe imposter’s syndrome?
Imposter syndrom is basically the feeling of inadequacy. The best way for me to describe it is in an example; I call myself a photographer, and that process has been hard. I don’t have tons of experience. I am not thoroughly trained. Most of my experience is on the emotional side not the technical side. For that reason, for years, I would never let myself use that title. Many people in the creative world do that to themselves. Its basically the act of doubting your accomplishments and seeing yourself as a “fraud” in your field or feeling as though others will see you as such. Regardless of progress or proof of competence – its the feeling of inadequacy despite it all.
Can you tell us what it was like to experience a wave of imposter’s syndrome right before a major event? And how did you cope with it before/during/after the show?
I had those feelings for weeks before, and they got worse as the gallery show got closer! Like I felt like I wanted to puke (and got super close a few times). When I started editing photos to prep for printing, I had a moment where I said out loud “WHAT am I DOING? I have never done this. I must be crazy”. And then literally a day before the show, my RSVP numbers started a last min rise and I got scared. I was sent questions for a photography website and when I look at them I saw a question about my gear. I don’t care about gear and I just use whatever I can. I immediately thought that because of this, I must not be a real photographer. On the way home that night I crossed paths with friend and CEO of CreativeLive, Chase Jarvis, who gave me the pep talk I needed on the eve of the show. In short, he gave me new perspective on what I do and what makes me a photographer. And also reminded me that having an honest answer for my gear question was so important. He gave me the fuel I needed for the next day. Then at the gallery show – wow that was just daunting and surreal. Seeing my images, large and tangible was so emotional. And then imposter syndrome came back when people I had never met were coming up to me saying “I am a huge fan of your work”. I looked behind me like “WHO, you aren’t talking to me, you cannot be. My work has only existed for 6 months and I don’t even fully understand what my F-stop is!” It was just shocking to me. People couldn’t be fans of MY work. WHAT?? It has been hard to digest, but I am learning to absorb it..slowly lol.
The quote you posted alongside the image was really interesting. It says, “Self doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, Love of something we dream of doing. And desire, desire to do it. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self confident. The real one is scared to death.” Why did you choose to include that quote? What resonated with you specifically?
Isn’t that an amazing quote? Yes I posted that on my personal instagram. I was feeling all sorts of ways! Its from a book that a friend recommended to me when I told him I was having some self doubt issues, its called the War of Art. It not only validated how I was feeling but it gave a positive spin and context as to WHY I was feeling that way! It gave purpose to my insecurities and anxiety. YES it was because this project was SO personal to me. Because I cared SO much for every person behind each image. It was a reflection of my vulnerability
around what I was sharing and my love for the project. It was all real.
As someone who also struggles a lot with this sort of thing, I never knew there was a name for it until somewhat recently. How long was it until you also found a name for it and what was that journey like?
I actually first heard about it when I listened to a class taught by Mel Robbins at my work, CreativeLive – called How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence. In it Mel talks about how its a good thing at times because it keeps us wanting to grow and be better. She also talks about its negative sides because we can use it to dwell and impede us. She gives amazing tools on how to tell what is Truth and what is a Myth and how we can work ourselves out of that. Its when I heard her talk that I realized it was a real thing, if you do a search for it you will see lots of people talk about it and have great ways to help you out of that place if needed. I have also realized that when I feel that its a GOOD THING because it means that I am growing. I am doing new things and taking risks – which means I am growing. It means I am pushing myself and thats important.
Last but not least, how did the show go? And do you have any advice for other people who might also struggle with imposter’s syndrome?
Whew the show was amazing. WAY better and bigger than I imagined it would be. I was worried only the Faces would come. I thought I would have like 75 people max. I had 200 and my mind was blown. It was revealing, emotional and electric. My advice for people that are feeling like a fraud or imposter is: PUSH THROUGH IT. Breathe and know that this means growth. The risks are important for you to experience. You will be stronger and better on the other side. Keep on keeping on. You can do this. I know you can.