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Don’t let the impostor syndrome kill the impressionist inside you

I’ve been a UX designer for nearly 3 years, I’m passionate about helping others grow and sharing my experiences — yet whenever I try to create or share my thoughts with others I have that voice at the back of my head telling me that I’m not good enough, or that other people know better. Self-doubt always finds a way to creep in and makes me question myself.


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Kinga Adamczewska

2 years ago | 3 min read

I’ve been a UX designer for nearly 3 years, I love my job and I always strive to be better at it. I’m also passionate about helping others grow and sharing my experiences — yet whenever I try to create or share my thoughts with others I have that voice at the back of my head telling me that I’m not good enough, or that other people know better. Self-doubt always finds a way to creep in and makes me question myself.

Impostor syndrome.

I got fed up of feeling this way and decided to focus the last few weeks on finding out the root of the problem, what I can do to fix it and when I feel that way the most. I wanted to record my journey of “self-discovery” and becoming a more confident designer. The plan was to create a checklist that I could look back and share with others so that we can all stop doubting ourselves. I was in the middle of my checklist when I realised — this isn’t the solution to the problem. I won’t look at it again and I won’t change my mindset — I will always feel like an impostor.

That was the time I recognised that I need to pivot and find a new way to figure this problem out. And then it hit me. Impressionism is the answer.

You might think — are you crazy? What does impressionism have to do with anything?

The Salon at the Academy | Widewalls
The Salon at the Academy | Widewalls

In the 19th century France, if you wanted to be a well-known artist you had to follow specific rules — rules set up by the Academy. First, you went to a prestigious École des Beaux-Arts, and if you were good enough you got to present your work in the Academy. All paintings had to follow a specific set of rules to be hung up on the walls — it was politically motivated and if a painting went out of the boundaries of what was expected, it would get criticised and in turn – not displayed. There were some beautiful paintings there, but none of them were real. They were staged and — boring.

And then a group of young artists including Monet, Cezanne, Renoir came along. They wanted more out of art. They didn’t want to focus on making every brushstroke perfect but showing off fake biblical or mythological scenes. They wanted to capture realness in the world, play with light and colour. To do that, their paintings had to be fast so they can capture it all.

Monet, Meules | the New York Times
Monet, Meules | the New York Times

The Academy didn’t like that. The name “Impressionism” came from Monet’s painting “Impression: Sunrise” — one of the outraged critics who said it looks just like a pattern on a wallpaper. The name Impressionism stuck due to that, but Impressionism was not accepted. They laughed at Pissaro who violet trees, and at Renoir who used purple and green mixed into the skin tones, Academy considered them vulgar and rejected them from their community

Camille Pissarro, Apple Trees in Flower | Five Minute History
Camille Pissarro, Apple Trees in Flower | Five Minute History

They broke every rule. They didn’t use the perfect, idealised images of bodies and symmetrical compositions and hard outlines. They wanted something new, and only after years, the public was able to appreciate their art. But they didn’t give up. They found other people alike and started their own movement.

But what would’ve happened if they did? What would’ve happened if Monet started painting what the Academy considered as perfect?
How different our world would be? Would we ever have neo-impressionism? What about expressionism and contemporary art? Would they ever happen?

We were close to finding an answer to that because Monet nearly gave up. He felt like he wasn’t the artist he wanted to become and had financial issues and was planning on throwing himself into the river Seine. Thankfully he didn’t because he made a huge difference. If we look at the timeline of art movements, you’d see that anything before impressionism was pretty much the same, perfect, idealised scenes that were very detailed. Impressionism opened up a new world to us.

We are lucky to live in different times where we are not only open to different styles but also different mindsets but there are still critics. You might even look at Impressionist paintings and not like them — and that’s okay. Critics didn’t stop the Impressionist — but helped them get better.

The moral of this story is that Impostor syndrome lives within all of us. It doesn’t go away, but you have the power to let it affect you, or keep going, learning and doing what you love.

There will always be people who won’t like you or your work, and that’s okay. Don’t let “the Academy” stop you. Surround yourself with designers that will help you grow and develop, but will also hype you up. If there’s anything to take from this article — don’t give up. Do what you love and do it for yourself.

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