With coloring suddenly becoming popular and reported in the news almost every week for the last few months, many writers feel like the have to write about it, even if they don’t really know anything about it. It’s how trends start and grow. This brings out a lot of people praising how wonderful it is that grownups are coloring, but also those who think it’s the most stupid idea they every heard. Adults, coloring? Absurd!!

In one of the coloring groups I belong to on Facebook, the owner/artist wrote about this today, and how many people who love coloring can be adversely affected by any negative comments made about their chosen creative outlet. It’s a wonderful post, and well worth reading. In the comments, one of her fans included a link to a post about Imposter Syndrome that is also worth a look. (Here’s another article about it in Forbes magazine.)

You don’t have to attain perfection or mastery to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved.
— Margie Warrell, international speaker, master coach and best-selling author

Imposter Syndrome – an interesting phrase to describe something we all feel from time to time. I’ve been experiencing it a LOT in the past few months, as I’ve been building this blog, and interacting with my Facebook group. I keep waiting to wake up and find out all the success I’ve had with my efforts has been just a dream.

When people thank me for what I do, or I see my membership continue to grow so quickly, I wonder when they’ll realize I’m a “fraud”, that I’m really not the “expert” they seem to believe I am. When I see people posting truly amazing coloring works of art, I often feel that everyone is so much better than me. I think, “I’m not that creative! Who am I to think I can make a living in this world of coloring when there are so many amazing artists already publishing coloring books?”

And yet…

  • I have been successful building a large, positive community on Facebook.
  • I have built a blog where I review books, interview artists, and write about other coloring topics.
  • I am able to answer many of the questions people ask in my group.
  • I can write well, and in a style that people seem to enjoy.
  • People are buying my coloring book.
  • People are showing appreciation and enjoyment of my art
  • I do get messages and comments thanking me for providing information and a place for us all to congregate and share our joy in coloring.

When my Facebook group was approaching 6,000 members, I posted in the group that “if this rate of growth continues, we’ll hit 10,000 members before the end of the year.” One of the members said I made her laugh by using the word “if,” implying that we might not do it. (As of the writing of this post, it’s June and we’re at 7,500 members, so yeah, she was right to laugh at my somewhat doubting comment!)

There it was – Imposter Syndrome, rearing its ugly head. And it’s not just me.

I see it in my group all the time. People who say they haven’t posted their colorings “because they’re not as good as the ones everyone else posts.” As if coloring is some competition, and they have to somehow “measure up” before sharing their efforts. Imposter Syndrome, making them feel that they’re not good enough at something that is a fun hobby anyone and everyone can do and enjoy.

Or posts where people share their lovely work, but feel the need to comment on how “there’s a lot of mistakes.” Imposter Syndrome again, making them think that other people are better than they are at coloring. Or making them think that everyone is going to see what a fraud they are, so they have to deprecate themselves before someone else does. Some of these pieces make my mouth fall open at how beautiful they are, and how creative the person was in choosing their palette. And yet the person posting it clearly felt it somehow wasn’t “good enough.”

Researchers believe that up to 70% of us experience Imposter Syndrome. That’s a pretty big chunk of the population! Margie Warrell, the author of the Forbes article I mentioned above writes, “Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome requires self-acceptance:  you don’t have to attain perfection or mastery to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved and any accolades you earn along the way.”

In many posts by successful entrepreneurs, they state that you don’t have to know everything about a subject in order to build a successful business around it. You just have to know more than the people who want to learn from you. Even after reading those posts, a lot of people leave comments to the effect of “but how can I presume to set myself up as an expert in a niche if I don’t know everything there is to know about that topic?”

I’ve seen this in action. I don’t know everything there is to know about every possible medium or technique when coloring. I’m not a famous artist. I’ve only been drawing and coloring for a few years. And yet, people approach me to ask how to do things, because I’ve been successful building a community and I like to write about topics related to coloring.

I don’t claim to know everything, but I love this topic and I’m certainly willing to learn! It’s that willingness to both learn and to share my knowledge that makes people come to me.

You don’t have to be Einstein to be a valuable asset to … those around you. Nor do you have to attain perfection to share something with the world that enriches people’s lives in some way.
— Margie Warrell

Whenever I start to feel like a fraud, I look back at some of the comments people have made when I’ve shared my knowledge with them. The true gratitude they express helps me to remind myself that I’m not an imposter, and that I can be proud of what I’ve done even if the whole thing falls apart tomorrow. (Yep, there’s that Imposter Syndrome again, making me think that this success may not continue!)

I still remember the first time a boss asked me to review everything I had done in the last year in preparation for my annual employee evaluation. At first, I was just immersed in the process of going through emails and projects and listing everything that I’d done in the last 12 months. But after letting the document sit for a couple days before editing it, I looked at it more objectively and was completely floored by just how much I had gotten done!

Before I wrote that document, I was worried about my evaluation. I was thinking, “My boss is going to want to fire me. I’m not good enough for this job. I don’t know enough. I don’t contribute enough. I’m not an expert in this subject.” That one task not only changed the way I thought about the job, it changed the way my boss reported to his superiors about both of our jobs. He had never written down all our accomplishments the way I had, including some analytics to measure the success of some of our changes. Not only was I successful in my job, but my report helped him prove it to the department.

As colorists, whether you like to shade and blend when you’re coloring, or you just enjoy picking a color and start filling in spaces, don’t let Imposter Syndrome make you feel bad about coloring.

Every person who colors is unique.

Every piece you color is a piece of art that you should be proud of creating.

Every time you hear someone put down coloring as stupid, or something only kids should do, remember that technically, every single artist who paints or draws is also a colorist.

Every. Single. One.

In order to create art, they have to eventually add color to it. Their choices in adding color to their drawings are no more valid than yours. (Yes, I know some artists work only in black and white, but even they make color choices, creating different shades/colors of gray and black.)

No one would tell an artist that coloring is only something kids should do.

No one would tell Michelangelo or Van Gogh that what they did was stupid.

(Actually, while they were alive, some people did think and say that. It contributed to the depression that caused Van Gogh to commit suicide. Think about that the next time you hear something negative about your joy in coloring. Even the greatest artists in the world have had to deal with negativity, both from others and from their own internal critics!)

The imposter tendency is going to make you want to say, “But they make a living creating art!” Maybe. Maybe not. Not all of them do or did. Whether an artist makes a living at it or not doesn’t change the mechanics of what they do.

And what they do is add color to drawings.

Just as you add color to drawings.

Just as I add color to drawings.

Just as the 7500+ people in my Facebook group add color to drawings.

We’re all on this coloring journey together, and we all will have our moments of doubt, moments when we think we’re not “good enough.” Don’t let that stop you! Remember that even the people you look up to probably have the same thoughts.

Most of us are part of that 70% who experience these feelings of inadequacy, who experience Imposter Syndrome. But we’re not the imposters.Those feelings and thoughts are the true imposters. See them for what they are!

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