As someone who has a degree in art, has had multiple art shows, and enjoys creating, I’m inclined to call myself an artist. But I have a hard time doing so without giggling or shrugging my shoulders—anything to minimize the self-proclaimed title I’m not sure I truly deserve.
There’s a name for this feeling. Social psychologists call it “impostor syndrome,” the unfounded fear of being exposed as a fraud. When I get commissioned to do a piece or someone buys something that I’ve made, I start to have thoughts like “They’re probably just being nice” or “Why are they asking me to do this when there are so many artists better than me?” This mindset keeps me from taking risks, as self-doubt is the ultimate barrier to true and flowing creativity.
When I became pregnant shortly after I got married, I thought that my artistic endeavors would be over for a while; my new focus would be my baby, and I wouldn’t be able to find time to create. I was also scared to be a mother, to take care of another human being when I could barely find the energy to keep juggling my own basic responsibilities. When my baby was born, I felt those nagging thoughts of impostor syndrome return. “You don’t really know what you’re doing.” “The other mothers have things figured out; everyone will know that you are winging it.”
Despite these thoughts and feelings, some of which were of course true—I did not know what I was doing in the slightest!—something very beautiful and exciting happened about two months after I gave birth: My son awoke in me a new creativity.
I felt alive. New ideas flowed more freely than they had in a while. Maybe it was sleep deprivation or hormones, but I felt free to take risks and explore artistic endeavors during his thirty-minute naps. His sweet smiles and giggles stirred within me a newfound joy and excitement about ordinary things. Everything was novel and stimulating and curious to him, and I started to adopt his perspective in my own outlook on the world around me, which spurred a new form of creativity that I had not experienced in some time. Conversely, the creative process aided me in my role as a mother: I was able to think from different perspectives, which helped me to take care of him when I couldn’t always figure out what he was trying to communicate.
A week or two later, I was at a wedding with some friends. We sat on a porch around a table, sharing bread and stories. A good friend who has a wonderful way with words said something quite beautiful, something that has stayed with me since then: “Birth is the ultimate creative act!”
She is right. When my baby looks up at me with his big eyes and smiles, I know in those moments that I am his mother and he is the most beautiful work of art that my husband and I have been allowed to create. And there is no fraud in that.
Editor’s note: This is an adapted version of an earlier blog post written by the author.