I’m an Imposter
By: Talor Stone January 12th, 2019
I have a confession…
I’m not who you think I am.
I’m a fraud… a phony.
I’m no one.
I have frequent anxiety – terrified someone will open their eyes and realize the truth. There’s an imposter in their midst. She has red hair and wears a constant smile to hide the truth – she doesn’t belong. She hasn’t really earned the right to be called a photographer. She must have just slipped through the cracks like some B-lister sneaking into an A-list party armed with nothing but a smile and an easy laugh as camouflage.
Imposter Syndrome: A pattern in which one doubts their accomplishments and holds a persistent internalized belief that they are a fraud who fears becoming exposed.
I doubt I’m alone in feeling this. In fact, I know I’m not alone. Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. Especially in today’s world of quickly consumable social media where nothing is as it appears, it’s easy to feel like a fraud. With technology as an interface, I can make anything appear real and everything my eyes take in may not be as it seems. This has been a serious
struggle for me as I’ve tried to move my love and passion for photography into an actual sustainable business.
There are so many questions! How should I “brand” myself? What should I use to promote my images? What is authentic and how much of my true self do I want to put out there? But these questions are just logistics… there are much bigger ones.
Am I good? Do I deserve to call myself a photographer, or am I just a girl with a camera? How do I know the difference? Will I be validated or recognized or accepted? Will I ever BE anyone? Will I ever “make it” and how do I know when I do?
God… it’s daunting. Some questions I know the answer to. I never want to be a “travel girl.” You know the type. The “I quit my 9 to 5 travel the world” type. The “I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list” type. That works for some people, but I need my life to mean more than that and be more honest than that.
I NEVER want to use my body to promote my work. There are occasional pictures with me in them…enough for people to know that I’m not a terrible looking woman… but my images featuring me are always intended to enhance the image in some meaningful way. Sex sells, but not for me. I won’t compromise on that.
I don’t want my life to be “boutique” or “curated.” I know I could post glamorous images of the high life of travel carefully arranged in soothing colors on a stylized feed, but I’d much rather share the dirty truth. I try to portray my life honestly… I sleep in my car, wash my hair in truck stop sinks and use hand dryers to blow dry it. Yeah… it’s absurd, but this is my real life. I’m a PhD student who struggles to make ends meet, travels every moment I’m able, lives and travels on a ridiculous budget just to afford it, and gosh darn it I just want to pursue my dreams. My travel isn’t glamorous and it definitely isn’t always fun. I’m the biggest screw-up I know. I just want to be real, but that sure is scary.
The same with my images. Hell, I don’t know if they’re objectively any good. Who even decides this stuff? I feel like every time I promote my business or a sale or an art show that I’m just faking it. Do I even have the right to ask someone to spend money on my work? Just who the heck do I think I am?! Every time someone asks me what I do and I answer, “I’m a photographer,” I feel like an entire boulder just magically appeared in my stomach. I’m afraid they will look at my images, give me a placating “mhmmm,” and walk away. I’m afraid someone in the crowd will shout out, “She’s full of shit! She’s no one! She’s lying!”
The truth is… I don’t know if I’m any good and I don’t know if I ever will be. I know better than to wait for external validation to get internal satisfaction, but knowing that and practicing it are two different things. It’s still hard and I spend a lot of time questioning myself. This questioning has resulted in my rather dismal blog writing schedule. Trust me… I have lots written, but I am always afraid to share it. Afraid to expose myself to a world of onlookers who may just realize that I’m faking it through life pretending to know what I’m doing. How dare I even pretend to give advice? Am I even qualified to do that?
The truth is… I don’t know what I’m doing. Let me shout that a little louder: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!!!! I have no clue how to market my work. I don’t know how to play the social media game. I don’t know how to become successful or if I have even earned the right to dream such dreams. How can I ask others to buy into my dream when I, myself, feel as though I’m an imposter?
All of this is not intended to be a pity party. I’m not digging for compliments or validation. I only want to be honest in everything I do. My images are always honest, minimally edited, and never photoshopped. My social media posts, stories and captions are always the awkward, weird, and often inconvenient truth about my life and my travel. And my words… I’m sorry to say my readers get the unfiltered brunt of it.
I haven’t been blogging lately and it’s because of this gnawing struggle I’ve had with feeling as though I’m an imposter in my own world. It has created a contradiction in which I want to write and share, but I always second guess myself. Maybe if I just share my fear then I will find it easier to share my words and my art. I want to pull away the curtains and shine a light on this shadowy monster that’s been holding me back. I have hopes and dreams, and I don’t want to live in constant doubt of whether I am worthy of attaining them. It’s time to let that go.
My name is Talor. I AM a photographer.