Why does a stranger’s approval feel so good to Imposter Syndrome?

Over the month of May I’ve been taking a break from “social media.” I was feeling overwhelmed by the flood of highlights mixed in with the harbingers of doom. For me, I always feel like I’m going too slow. Like, for some reason, I’m not far enough into my goals to be seen as successful. But, that’s its own problem. Really, I hated that some of the people I followed were so much more popular than me…which made me feel SO GROSS!

A friend of mine said something the other day that sat with me like a rock in my shoe. They mentioned that approval feels like it means more from strangers than friends and family, like imposter syndrome is satiated by the attention of those strangers who stumble upon their work rather than the people who have their best interest and happiness in mind already. I think I agree with that, but it feels so gross right? But that’s what imposter syndrome does, it makes you FALSELY believe that you’re not good enough no matter what. So when somebody you don’t know says you’re good, it silences that misbelief for a moment. I struggle with this so much too! It’s why I’m not on social media at the moment.

Of course friends and family would say the work is great, they love us and don’t want us to feel bad because of criticism. But, like…it doesn’t mean their likes are any less important than a stranger’s. That’s just what media platforms want to convince you of! “Strangers’ approval means more than those you know.” Does it really?

I think that’s playing into the Critical Self. It’s the Critic twisting into the core of our creativity. We’re not creating for ourselves then, we’re creating for the approval or the dopamine hit of seeing another like or comment. Then the pleasure of creating turns into the pleasure of showing off and being popular. Which, is one hell of a rabbit to chase in my mind.

But if you want to show off what you made (because let’s be honest you worked hard and you deserve it)…having friends and family see your stuff can’t be so bad right? So your mom likes your post just because she loves you and everything you do (hi mom!). That’s one more person who wants you to succeed. Your mom might show your work off to her coworker who might show it off to their kid or friend and so on.

Example: your friend shares your art site, your friend’s mom shares it, your friend’s mom’s sister shares it, and your friend’s mom’s sister’s friend buys a piece of art from the site. Then, her friends see it, love it, ask about it, and buy stuff from that site as well.

Don’t discount your loved ones loving your work. It’s just your Critic telling you that it’s not real attention. WHICH ISN’T TRUE! It is real approval! Be proud of your work and let your loved ones be proud of it too!

Is this shameless reasoning for me to keep writing this blog, shoving it in my friends’ faces, and plugging my projects? Probably. But heck, if I don’t talk about my work nobody will know what I’m doing.

Books help everything

As always, I turn to books to help me through what I’m going through. I love Austin Kleon’s series about creativity. Super short, little coffee-table books packed with great info. It starts with “Steal Like an Artist” all about influences, which is the one I’ve read. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about “Show your Work!” and would recommend that one as others have.

“Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport was helpful for me as well. It has some parts that are a bit intense in my opinion, but definitely helped me see social media more as a tool rather than something that should be ruling my consciousness. It’s one of the reasons I’m able to keep a good temperature reading on when my psyche (ego) needs a little bit of a break.

If you have more book recommendations to help with Imposter Syndrome, showing off creativity, getting over self-promotion fears, or just general envy while dealing with social media, I’d love to hear them.

Do you have a project you want to share? Are you feeling imposter syndrome about anything? Don’t let your Critic convince you friends and family aren’t real approval!

Happy Creating!


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