At the beginning of this year, when I was drafting the content for my blog, one of the topics I wrote down was “The imposter syndrome of an Islamic geometry artist”.
And then I spent 30 minutes thinking about where I was at.
Which is great because these blog posts are meant to serve you, but they are also great opportunities for me to sit down and evaluate my growth as an artist, educator and designer.
That said, I also want to give you a little bit of context.
I am a diaspora child. My parents escaped the Balkan War when I was 1 year old, and I’ve been raised in Italy. If you are a diaspora child you may know how it feels. Basically, at 7, you have to know how to fill out tax papers for your parents.
I remember clearly when I was 8 years old, my father asked me “Do you know how to fill this residency permit request?” and I was like “No, I don’t, I am just a kid” and he was like “Why am I sending you to school then?”. Of course, he was just making fun of me, but I took it very seriously.
I spent my whole life being the best at school. My grades were perfect. My parents didn’t even need to tell me to do my homework, I was taking care of everything.
Then I grew up, and I started dating boys. And my goodness, my first boyfriend was such a smart kid.
He was talking about Platon and Aristotle, and I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Seriously I couldn’t understand a word, but I played it cool and pretended to understand everything he was saying because I didn’t want to look ignorant.
Years passed, and I met a guy who is now my husband. And he really gave me a hard time haha. He is very passionate about debates and has an opinion about everything.
That is when my feelings of inadequacy really showed up.
Even if I had extensively researched a topic if he said the opposite, I would just shut up and started questioning myself and my knowledge.
HOW THAT AFFECTED ME AS AN ARTIST AND TEACHER
I felt ignorant. And I had no previous experience with debates. I would either shut up or cry out of anger because I wasn’t able to impose my point of view. That was so frustrating.
During that period, I started learning about Islamic geometry and eventually started publishing some of my pattern analysis. And my goodness…doing that was so stressful.
What if it’s wrong?
What if they find out that I am a fraud?
What if they ask me something that I am not able to answer?
The imposter syndrome of being an Islamic geometry artist was real.
HOW I CHANGED MY MENTALITY
Later, when my coach gave me #1 advice that totally changed my career as an Islamic geometry artist, and things started to drastically change for me.
I shifted my mentality from “I have to be right” to “we can have our own opinions and still respect each other”, from “This tutorial is wrong, and I am a fraud” to “ok, let me see how I can learn from this and improve it” and from “If I don’t know how to reply they will see that I am an impostor” to “I don’t know the answer, but I will find it out and let you know” AND being ok with that.
I started seeing people’s questions as contributions.
Did someone prove that my construction was wrong? Yes, they did.
Did someone attack me for something I said? Of course, it happened.
Did someone ask me something, and I didn’t know the answer? Absolutely!
I GIVE YOU PERMISSION
At the end of the day, if you really think about it, what is the worst thing that could happen?
Don’t you think that a humble reply and honest approach would be rejected by anyone making questions or doubting you?
If you don’t know, you don’t know. And there is nothing wrong with that.
You have to do the research and learn, yes. You have to invest in your craft to improve yourself, yes.
But at some point, you will not know something, that is a guarantee. And if you need permission, then I give you permission to relax and not be good enough.
At the end of the day, you are here doing something no one else is doing. And I want you to acknowledge yourself for that.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an Islamic Geometry Artist
May 29, 2023