Jun 26, 2011

Do I have to fake it to make it?

Sometimes I wonder how certain people make it in this world at all, and how some people don't do as well despite their obvious talent.  I have one friend with tremendous skill as an artist, but never does as well as she wants to.  She has poor self esteem, and can't seem to realize how good her work actually is.  I have another friend who is totally mediocre at everything, and takes some of the most boring photos I've ever seen, yet somehow manages to succeed fantastically.  He thinks very highly of himself, and has unfounded confidence in spades.  Each one of them perceives themselves to be a certain way, (struggling artist, photographer extraordinaire) and then lives up to those perceptions.

I can't help but think that one's perception of one's self has great impact on how well one does in life.  "Thanks Captain Obvious!  We never knew that!" you're thinking.  I know, everyone has heard about how important confidence is.  But I'm talking about more than that (I think).  I had never really thought about it before until recently.  My crippling anxiety and persistent belief that my clients are going to be totally disappointed has brought to light how I really perceive myself, and let me tell you, it doesn't look good.  Yet, I've never had bad feedback from a client, people seem to be really happy with their finished products.   Yes, I have high standards for my work, but why do I feel I'm never meeting them?  Why can't I live up to my own expectations? 

I'm pretty sure the problem lies with a skewed perception of myself.  On paper I look successful.  I've illustrated 3 books, I run a small business which is doing well, I'm working on a line of baby stuff which people seem to like...but somewhere there is a disconnect.  The person I am doesn't seem to be the person I feel like.  I can't tell if I'm faking success, or if I really have it.  It's like a girl playing dress up in her mother's shoes.  At some point you're a woman in your own shoes, but it's hard to tell when you actually cross the line.

So how do I bridge the gap between perception and reality?  I'm sure some people would say "positive thought!  You just have to believe that you're totally awesome and rad, then everyone else will too!"  Somehow that doesn't seem based in reality.  If I'm perceived as awesome, it better be because I'm awesome, and not just a lot of hype (which I think is why my lame photo-friend does so well).  Positive thought is a step perhaps, but I don't think it's the solution.  Then I'm just shifting from one false perception (hack job) to another (Queen Awesome, best at everything ever).

I read an interesting thing once about how children percieve themselves based on how they're labeled, and how that subsequently impacts the way they live their lives.  If you label a child as smart (i.e. look at you Jimjam, you did that all by yourself, you're so smart!), they tend not to work as hard in life, because they feel they should inherently be able to do things without effort.  Label a child as a hard worker (i.e. look at you Dingdang, you did that all by yourself, you must have worked so hard!) and they will always try hard and strive to meet their goals, believing that their strength is in their persistence.

It makes me wonder what kind of label I've been working under all this time, and if perhaps I should self impose a new label to live up to, a new way to percieve myself.  "Hard working artistic genius" seems like a good one I think.  How does everyone else work on this, or am I the only one?