Behind The Scenes, Interiors

Have I Made It Yet? (Dealing With Self-Doubt)

Lately I’ve been reading about the so-called Imposter Syndrome which apparently strikes a lot of high achievers. Have you heard of it? Read this article from Forbes if you’re unsure. I’m pretty sure I’ve got this crazy self-doubter’s disease. (Not that I necessarily consider myself a high achiever. But hey maybe that’s the imposter syndrome/self-doubt speaking!) Despite working as a stylist for enough years to know what I’m doing, and having some quite high profile brands as clients, I still get that feeling of not really deserving it all, like somehow I’ve just duped everyone and I’m actually not that good after all. I often get nervous before shoots and worry that this time I’ll screw it up. This time I’ll be busted for being a fake and everyone will find out that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I sometimes feel like I keep getting jobs by fluke or dumb luck (which is ridiculous because in reality I work very hard to attract and keep new clients). I usually walk away from a shoot thinking I could’ve done better, even though I work incredibly hard to get it all right. Even when a client is really happy (which they usually are), there’s a part of me that thinks they’re just saying that because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. Isn’t that strange? Self-doubt is a nasty beast.

Bohemian Modern by Emily Henson/Life Unstyled

Years ago I used to look at interiors books by my now publisher (books like Selina Lake’s Bazaar Style, for example) and think to myself, How amazing to have your own book. If I had my own book, then I’d definitely feel like I’d made it. And I remember waiting in agony to hear from my publisher after pitching my first book idea and thinking to myself, if I get this book I will never complain again. Yet, here I am working on book number three and I still feel like I have so much to prove, it still doesn’t feel like enough. A friend asked me the other night what it is that would make me feel like I’d made it, and I don’t really know. If my books made it onto the New York Times bestsellers list, would that be better? If I had clients bigger than IKEA? Anthropologie? Primark? Um, they’re pretty big! If I was so busy I had to turn down work? That would be nice. If I could buy that warehouse building I’m dreaming about? Sure, maybe then I’d feel like I’d made it. More likely than not, I still wouldn’t. (Although I’m certain the building would bring me so much joy!)

The good thing about this whole self-doubting business is that for me, it translates into never settling, always striving to be better. As long as it keeps me on the move, always trying to create something then I can probably learn to live with it, right? If I were curled up in a ball, unable to get on with life, I’d be worried. As it is I’m always working hard and trying to connect on a deeper level with people through my work. But it does make me wonder, when will it feel like I’ve made it?

Have you guys heard of it? Do you relate to any of this? Would love to hear your thoughts. x

Above are two of my favourite images taken from my second book Bohemian Modern. The first one was in Copenhagen, the second in the Netherlands. Photography by Katya de Grunwald.

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  • Reply freckleface 3 February 2016 at 12:56 PM

    My friend who is a psychologist diagnosed me a while ago. I’m right there with you. When I had my own business, anything that I achieved, never seemed enough or as good. When I got a distributor for Australia and one of her major customers told me mine were her favourite cards, when I walked into Paperchase or Selfridges and there was a whole display of my stuff, when I was approached to be in design books, when I won awards, friends and family would be so excited for me, but I was always able to minimise everything. I never believed. I’m working on it, but, like you, I know that the truth is I don’t want an easy ride. I always want the next challenge.

    • Reply Emily Henson 9 February 2016 at 9:36 AM

      It’s such a strange thing isn’t it, freckleface? (cute name btw)
      I’m trying really hard to look objectively at my life and see how far I’ve come, rather than always looking forward to the next thing. It’s important to acknowledge your successes even if you’re not yet where you want to be. Thanks for reading. x

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