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How artists can overcome imposter syndrome

Self-doubt can strike anyone in any industry, but creatives in particular are closely associated with images of internal conflict. Is there truth behind the stereotype of the tortured artist finally emerging from their studio clutching a work of brilliance, and if so, where does it come from? Most importantly of all, how can artists deal with self-doubt?

Like most stereotypes, the idea of the troubled artist is neither nuanced nor useful. However, it does tap into a struggle that artists at every stage of their career appear to have to deal with. Even the best art techniques won’t help you outrun confidence issues, and nor will the best pencils or drawing apps.

“Once I reached a point where I was making a living with my artwork and went full time, the doubts began to set in,” says artist and illustrator Kelly McKernan, whose “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude wore off when she started to rub shoulders with artists at the top of their game. “The prevailing feeling went from inspiration to shame. I truly didn’t feel like I belonged.”

To keep her mind active, McKernan listens to educational podcasts and radio plays

Comic artist and illustrator Adam Hughes has worked for the biggest publishers in the business, and even he still wrestles with feelings of doubt. “It’s never changed, but I just do the work,” he reveals. “Not as quickly as if I was burning with confidence, but I get it done. That’s the only real issue: do your doubts actually stop you in your artistic tracks?”

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