Does Your Dream Suffer From Impostor Syndrome?

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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In the movie “Who Does She Think She Is“, author Cortney Martin talks about the fact that we all need to seek out the place where our calling, our gift, whatever we are good at, matches with the world’s deepest needs.

For her it’s writing; she writes about issues for women.

Martin refers to herself as an artist, along with the other women featured in the film who paint, sculpt, sing and play drums.

who does she think she isI can’t tell you how many times I have heard Courtney Martin refer to writing as art. I heard her again last week, and suddenly it sounded to me like she was saying “artist” for the first time.

my bedroom wall

I should back this up and tell you I come from kind of an odd background.

While my brother and I were encouraged in all kinds of artistic pursuits as kids, we were not encouraged to pursue them as careers – unless they landed us a government job with a pension.

They were more like pursuits to keep us busy, and out of trouble.

Even if we were amazingly good at some of them.

So I never thought of myself as an “artist”.

Artists are those other people who paint and sculpt tea cups out of rocks.

That’s not me. I’m . . . well what am I?

I grew up dancing ballet on point, singing in choirs, painting the sidewalk and remodeling my doll house so many times, the wall paper and paint became so think they resembled a small book when I removed them for another remodel.

If I wasn’t creating something every day then it wasn’t a good day.

But I’m not an artist.

Every wall in my home has some piece of art, or drawing, or it’s painted a bright color – all for a particular reason and all bringing me comfort.

But I’m not an artist.

I’m only a blogger.

I only create websites and web content all day.

If I spend any more time writing at a computer, my body will just curl up in a fetal position on its own with my hands neatly shaped for a keyboard.

But I’m not an artist.

I read about impostor syndrome, which is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates the opposite is true.

It is basically feeling that you are not really what you say you are, that you are only posing as such.

But I’m not an artist, so this can’t apply to me . . .

Impostor syndrome can be divided into 3 categories –

1. Feeling like a fake
This is where you don’t fell like you deserve what you do, and you feel others are being deceived into thinking you are what you pretend to be. Sometimes you fear being, “found out”.

2. Attributing what you do to luck
This is where you attribute what you do to luck (or something else) but not to your own abilities. You fear your abilities will disappear.

3. Discounting accomplishments
This is where you downplay achievements and discount success. You find yourself saying things like, “Oh it was nothing.” or “There was no one else they could give it to” etc.

I’ve never been one to think about what I “was” as a dreamer, I just knew what my dreams are – or so I thought.

Then Courtney Martin kept referring to writers as artists in this amazing little Who Does She Think She Is documentary.

Then it hit me.

I heard the little girl inside me say, “You, are an artist Catherine. You have always been one. You have to quit ignoring this fact!”

Say what?

I don’t paint like Wendy Brayton. I don’t sculpt like Betty Woodman. I can’t play an instrument – just ask me about the year I played the flute, and cried, for the whole year.

I didn’t die my hair black at age 16 or paint my nails green.

I didn’t hand in charcoal masterpieces to teachers, and I didn’t yearn to spend a year in Paris.

If you asked me if Rayne and Lisa, and the other writers on this blog are artists, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you, “Yes!”

But why did I leave myself out of the mix?

Part of this is because the sleepy bedroom town I grew up in wasn’t exactly the hub of inspirational art (our downtown was a shopping mall) and my parents wanted me to grow up and get a good paying job, or become a doctor because doctors made good money.

Who cares if you can’t stand the site of blood.

Small details.

I always knew I didn’t want a normal career, yet I went in that direction anyway. I was always trying to find my place in a corporate world where regular paychecks were the only reason to get out of bed on a Monday morning.  But it never seemed to work for me, and eventually I’d always become bored out of my mind and look for a new man to change it all up.

Funny how that didn’t work either.

I think what happened to me, happens to many dreamers.

Well-meaning adults steer us away from our callings – especially if the callings are artistic or risky – and into what they feel is safe. Since it often comes from a place of love, some of us follow this lead.

And somewhere along the way we get really lost.

I mean, how many banks have to close and lay me off before I say, “Oh okay, maybe banking isn’t for me.”

Once I didn’t feel like dating anymore and began searching for something else to cure the boredom in my career life, I found myself painting the same wall inside my home over and over with watercolor paints.

Oh the flowers I painted. I must have painted and washed that wall 200 times.

Then, I became obsessed with gardening – searching for something to feed the hunger in my soul – searching until I stumbled on to blogging – where my hunger found its fill.

I’ve seen too many people in my career life cry on their way to cars, with their years of hard work reduced to a square moving box, their eyes wide, faces pale, fearing the unknown. They will never get back the 25 years away from their families. Their reward? A pink slip.

I can’t go back. I can’t do that anymore.

It was never the safe haven it was suppose to be.

Like my friend Kathy always likes to say, “If that isn’t the fu**ing universe moving you along on the chessboard game of life, then I don’t know what it is!’


After many years of denying who I really am, even though the shadow me has always been here creating art, it is beginning to sink in that I have always been an artist, and I should give myself the permission to follow its lead.

There is still part of me who feels like an impostor when I hear myself whisper, “I am an artist.”

I can’t seem to say it out loud yet.

It’s like Van Gogh is going to leap around the corner with a paint brush and yell, “HA! No you’re not! Get a job with the county! What about your pension? What about your son? Be responsible! Have you seen my ear lobe?”

Maybe I should paint my nails green. But I’m not dying my hair black.  I’m drawing a line here.

Because that’s what an artist would do.



  • Mariska Smith

    I feel like n poser all the time. I’m glad it’s not just me!!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      I think we all suffer from this to some degree – it’s what we do with it that makes all the difference.

  • Veronica

    Well Cath you summed up that tape in our heads. We can change that tape, excellent post .

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      thank you sweetie!

  • Terry

    I have always thought you were an artist trying to conform to certain careers to be what you feel is the most important thing you can give: responsibility. Because that’s who your dad was, and you admire him and what he stood for. His responsibility meant love and he made you feel safe until cancer took it away. It’s nice to see you allow yourself to be called an artist. I always thought you’d be famous. Everyone adores you.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Yes, and Hashimotos kicked my butt for such a long time there. Recovery takes such a long time! I’d love to see some new changes take place. My mom always tells me that it only takes one day to change your whole life.

  • Remy G

    1. Feeling like a fake, yep. I can identify with this one.

    a few years ago, every time someone would ask me how to do what I’m doing, or would compliment my photography talent, I’d get small. Small in my mind and small physically. That chipped away and started to make my heart small, too.

    It also happens in consulting. It was easier to take feedback and compliments when I was an employee, cause it wasn’t about me, it was about me and the team behind me making a difference for our clients…but on my own, its radically different. There is no where to shrink to. Its me. And me.

    Enough about me, what do you think of me? lol

    I am so thrilled that its changing. Its hardly the scary insecure experience I thought it would be. Me….and others…..promoting….me? I like it.

    Thanks for risking your own life to lead the way!


    • Catherine, Site Admin

      lol, hey I’ve done that “enough about me, what do you think of me” thing too. In fact, was that my post? lol

      And your right, it’s rather freeing – like taking off an old winter coat because its hot outside.

      Thanks for being my support coach!


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