When I was a young dancer thinking of new projects, finding new music, researching themes, and creating new choreography I remember a sense of fulfillment and joy in discovering new ideas and my own capabilities. It was at a time when I had moved away from the sheltered student life under my guru’s wing and was working as an independent artist for the first time ever without any guidance. There was a certain thrill of being on my own and discovering how I could use what I had learned to create new work. Being so naive and young, there was a kind of fearlessness there.
Fast forward to the present with over three decades of creative work. You would think that I would be completely secure in my ability to produce creative work because my skills have developed over time. Yes….but no!! Definitely, certain skills and abilities have definitely been honed over the years. But, at times, self-doubt seizes the moment while trying to make creative choices rather than that feeling of confidence. Where did that fearless go? Occasionally, I am paralyzed with fear and feel incapable of making any artistic decisions. It’s a feeling like being an imposter, like I am not a capable dancer or choreographer or teacher. I just couldn’t understand what was going on!
I talked to other artists and friends in other fields as well. I was surprised to discover that many others feel the same way. Apparently this is more common that I thought! So much so that it actually is a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome. This often strikes people who have been in a field for some time and achieved a level of experience where they set high expectations on themselves. By this time, however, they also know how much they don’t know! Gone is that youth and naivety. Here lies the crux of the problem.
As we become more aware of the vast ocean of knowledge, artistry, skills, and creativity out there, we realize how little we know and are capable of! This is why it often strikes people mid-career. If we don’t keep some perspective, it can become a paralyzing thought process that stops you in your tracks. How can one overcome this paralysis or cope with it in a healthy way and still keep creating?
When this feeling strikes, one thing that I like to do is sit down and focus on the current task at hand and break it down into smaller parts. Then act on it! For me, the act of diving deep into a topic or task and then giving myself very specific things to accomplish calms my mind and engages me into action. And once I am involved in that “one” task, it is almost certain that creative flow begins to happen!
As creatives, I know that a feeling of self-doubt is just one reason that we face blocks. There may be a hundred other reasons why we seem to get stuck. Doing something, is important! It may not be possible to bring back that youth and naivety, but the fearlessness? Yes! Each of us needs to find what that something is, that will work best for us; that action that will reignite the spark. Become a fearless imposter! Have you found what works for you?