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Impostor Syndrome

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Impostor Syndrome

I had a rough start with my Koto.  I consider myself a good knitter, but this pattern is challenging me.  Nothing in it is too hard.  Not a complicated stitch pattern.  Shadow wrap short rows, which I know how to do.  The problem was in my understanding.  This is a very talented designer with a focus on details that make for a clean, professional-looking garment.  But for some reason the way she explained things, and the way I understood things, did not match up.  It wasn't until nearly a skein and a half into the short row section that I realized something was very much wrong.  I was going to run out of stitches before I'd completed the prescribed number of short rows.  Many hours of knitting needed to come out.  The ripping out was easy, but getting it started again? That was another matter entirely.

My high priority project sat on the table ready to be worked, but I couldn't do it.  I couldn't get started again.  I wasn't looking forward to retracing my steps, obviously, but it was more than that.  In truth, my confidence was a little shaken.  I'm the one who'll be teaching the class on this sweater, and I messed up.  Good lord.  How stupid am I? Cue the impostor syndrome music. 

Have you ever felt like that?  I think most of us have at some point.  Impostor syndrome is a feeling that plagues many accomplished people. Characterized by doubts about our abilities and achievement, impostor syndrome makes us feel like a fraud.  We wonder when everyone will find out that we don't actually know anything, and we don't deserve our success.  A mistake is fertile ground for that little voice of self doubt, because confidence, like trust, is hard won and easily lost.   

So how do we get past a bout of impostor syndrome?  In her TED ed video, Elizabeth Cox talks about how important it is to talk about our thoughts and experiences with others.  We often think that we're the only one struggling, but when we find out that everyone struggled, we don't feel so alone or so incompetent.  When I went back on Ravelry and read all of the comment on the projects tagged helpful, I saw that plenty of people had the exact same issue I did.   It was tremendously validating. 

Ms.Cox also talks about how we should collect the professional accolades we receive.  Women especially, tend to be humble and brush off what people about our work, but Cox says it's important to listen to and store away some of those genuine and sincere compliments.  Those words help bolster our confidence when we're experiencing self doubt.

And finally, we need to remember always to speak kindly to ourselves.  It is the voice in our head that speaks to us most loudly.  Make that voice as loving and compassionate.

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.  ~Ellen

Back to 2 July 2019 Newsletter

Comments on this post (6)

  • Jul 05, 2019

    Knitting is such a study in human emotions. Fear and doubt are present often in project making. I wonder how may new knitters quit because of “fails.” It’s been so beneficial watching knitting podcasts, because seasoned knitters have to rip projects out all the time. The project turned out too large or too small; the yarn didn’t have the right drape; the color choice was not great; and the list goes on. That’s so comforting to find out I’m not alone! We are still learning with each project.

    You are going to do beautifully. You have so many “wins” in your past!

    — Lisa

  • Jul 05, 2019

    Message right on point….so many of us are so critical of ourselves that we become locked in fear to try anything outside our comfort zone.

    — Mollie

  • Jul 02, 2019

    As a beginner knitter, I can become very intimidated when something goes wrong or I can’t figure out the next step. Deep breath, read carefully, think about how it should end up … or just drop by Crazy for Ewe where help is always available. Thanks for sharing your experiences! Always inspirational!

    — Susan Dyer

  • Jul 02, 2019

    Right message at the right time. Three projects in a row….did I say THREE!!! One was for me and kept making the same mistake. Decided to stop ripping delicate cashmere and finish, mistakes and all, as it was for me. Second project drove me crazy. It was to be a gift for my sister and I didn’t want any mistakes. It’s sitting on the needles. Start project three…a birthday gift for my daughter……and bingo!! You got it. A big glaring mistake after all had been going beautifully. I refuse to be defeated. You are the ultimate knitter so sharing your experience really helped. Thanks Ellen.

    — Connie L. Khinoo-Olsen

  • Jul 02, 2019

    Ellen—
    I think you have the best newsletter in the fiber industry! So heartfelt and open. Always thought-provoking. I always look forward to your pieces of wisdom.
    Thank you.

    — Gilda

  • Jul 02, 2019

    Boy did this hit home with me. Thanks.

    — Barbara

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