With the new year I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions and change. It’s a time when we all decide it’s time to make that change we were always thinking about but never following through on. It also seems to be a time for nostalgia, because I’ve been thinking a lot about my college days and what little, in comparison, that I had to worry about.
This year I’m looking for work, I’m building a new brand for myself, and I’m trying to write a blog. It’s a lot. I’m also recovering from a severe case of imposter syndrome where my creativity was nearly dead. No pressure, right?!
Thinking back on college with all the projects I was a part of both in class and personally, I have a hard time not comparing myself to my college self and wondering what happened? How was I ever that good at and that excited for this thing called graphic design? Where am I now?
I’ve spent a lot of years in prepress work making other people’s designs look good but haven’t focused as much on my design skills or creativity. I found that I was really good at the technical side of print design, I have a very logical and detail-oriented tendency. And that, I thought, makes me a terrible designer. I thought that because the left brained things came easier, logically, that meant that I wasn’t a good designer.
And so began what I thought would be a life long career of print production and prepress work. I had no idea that I was walking straight into creative disaster and no idea that there was a good chance that I was buying into my imposter syndrome.
Unfortunately, not believing in yourself isn't all that easy to see. I spent a good many years of the last 7 quite happy with where I had landed in life, but once my work took on a progressively one-dimensional focus I became increasingly unhappy. I tried a lot of things to make myself happy again, but it wasn't just one thing that made the difference. It was all the little things, the things that I may not have wanted to do but, hey, I needed to do them. Things like see a therapist, work through trauma (large and small), read non-fiction books, see a doctor (other than my mother) and...quit my job... Yeah that last one really snuck up on me...
They say that hind sight is 20/20 but I've got to say, I didn't see it coming then and looking back I still don't see anything that would have warned me. Granted, it was the best worst thing that has happened to me in the last few years. It was also my moment of clarity. I was given a chance to move on with my career, get back to design, and I took it. I was terrified. Still am!
The great outcome of all of this (the whole process, not just quitting) is I am in a better place physically, mentally, and emotionally. My creativity still feels fragile, but it is there. I can see when I'm buying into my imposter syndrome and angry shame gremlins more often. So, basically, dealing with your mental health and imposter syndrome isn't easy, but it's a process that takes small (sometimes seemingly insignificant or, maybe, bonkers) steps.
Just make sure to give yourself some slack; we can't always be positive, happy and okay all the time. And guess what? That is OK! Honestly that is the biggest lesson I've learned. It is OK to not be OK!