Imposter syndrome happens when an individual doubts their abilities, accomplishments, and talents, even when others can see and acknowledge their successes. Despite external evidence of their competence, a person convinces themselves that they or their work is not good enough. Sometimes people experiencing imposter syndrome will attribute their success to luck, or to other people or they just won’t acknowledge it.
When you read this description of imposter syndrome do you find yourself relating or feeling like it might describe you? While we are all susceptible to self-doubt, do you have a tendency to undervalue your quilting talents or to dismiss praise or appreciation?
In her article ‘Earning Your Stripes,’ Samantha Boot shares her struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’ and the ways she combats self-doubt.
One of the ways imposter syndrome may manifest is through feeling like we don’t have the necessary qualifications to justify our talent. We may feel that our lack of experience or formal training eliminates us from creating meaningful work.
Boot encourages us to persevere, to press on and keep stitching. She overcame these feelings by attending more classes and making more quilts. She also made a conscious effort to recognize when self-doubt started to creep into her psyche and employed tools to combat it. She started to question why she was feeling self-doubt and believing her work wasn’t good enough. She gave herself permission to make mistakes.
Boot says, “I’m not a machine, I’m a human person with a family who stitches and gets distracted; perhaps mismatched points are markers of a life lived.”
Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘comparison is the thief of joy.’ He’s not wrong. Have you ever walked through the aisles of quilts at QuiltCon and thought, “I’ll never be able to create something worthy of hanging in this show”? Or maybe you have become discouraged because of a quilt show rejection. When we allow these feelings to overtake us they rob us of the joy of creation and success.
Boot's perspective about the pitfalls of comparison is enlightening. She points out how comparison stymies us from celebrating our diversity. She says, “Our individuality and our training does not make us less than or more than the next quilter, it makes us unique in our approaches. None is better or worse and noticing those differences for what they are gives a freedom to experiment, learn, and grow.”
Boot recommends five tips for earning your quilting stripes:
- Know Thy Enemy - Notice when the voices of self-doubt show up for you. What are they saying? Can you reframe the negative words into something else?
- Reach Out - Sometimes a positive comment or word of encouragement from a trusted friend can be enough to get you through a difficult moment.
- Play - Make time to remember why you started quilting in the first place and enjoy the process.
- Mark Your Successes - Keep a notebook or log of all the quilts you start. Add pictures and notes about the process and hours worked.
- Be Brave - Celebrate your quilts. Show them off and enjoy them.
You can read Smantha Boot’s article, ‘Earning Your Stripes,’’ inCurated Quilts, Issue No:16 ‘Stripes’.
Samantha Boot is a hand quilter and textile artist based in the UK. She loves connecting with other quilters from around the world and discovering new techniques to explore in her own work. She can be found on Instagram as @threads_of_my_life.
by Brittany Bowen Burton