Artist Julia Mills Shares Her Strongest Counters To Impostor Syndrome

Artist Julia Mills Shares Her Strongest Counters To Impostor Syndrome
 [four-minute read]
If you’ve experienced impostor syndrome, it’s likely that you’re a highly creative person. 
That’s artist and Oats Overnight customer Julia Mills’ theory. Julia knew she wanted to be an artist from age four, and has since gone on to have a long, diverse, and successful art career. She’s earned an MFA in fine arts, she’s worked as a freelance artist for 15 years, and she’s taught the arts to adults and children for nearly as many. She can draw, paint, and has even dabbled in sculpting. But her passion, she realized after having her daughter, is writing and illustrating children’s books. Currently, she’s teaching kindergarten while awaiting the publication of her first book, which she wrote and illustrated herself. 
But all of this success hasn’t stopped her from experiencing the self-doubt that sometimes leads to impostor syndrome.
Because she’s made art her career, Julia has had to develop several strategies and mindsets to help her overcome self-doubt. She was willing to share these to help others who may also be struggling with impostor syndrome and self-doubt in general.

For Artists, Self-Doubt Is Normal

Each time Julia’s up against a new project, she has to overcome an initial wave of self-doubt. She says these feelings are something artists experience regularly because of their innate desire to improve things until they’re the best they can be. “As an artist, I’m always trying to find what’s wrong and fix it,” she says. There’s just one issue with that: “That skill is very hard to turn off. It’s really hard to stop finding faults in what you’re making, and also in yourself. I think that being an artist is where the feeling of impostor syndrome can come from.”
What helps Julia overcome these waves of doubt is realizing that they’re normal, especially for creative people. “I think everybody doubts their own ability to make things,” she says. “It’s scary to make things. And if you make something and it’s successful, then it’s scary then you have to make another thing.” Understanding this fact helps her overcome impostor syndrome in most cases. But her latest project may have been her greatest challenge yet.

Julia Overcame Self-Doubt To Create and Publish Her First Book

Julia’s counters to self-doubt and impostor syndrome were put to the test while writing her first book, which she started soon after Covid hit. Because writing prose wasn’t something she had focused on up until that point, she felt out of place in a way that people who experience impostor syndrome may be familiar with. “Oh, this writing thing—I don’t know if I can do that,” she recalls thinking. “I don’t know if I’m a ‘writer’ yet.” But she knew from experience that persisting in the face of her own self-doubt was necessary if she was ever going to bring her vision for her children’s book into reality. So she kept at it.
Beyond persistence, Julia also credits an online critique group as being essential for overcoming self-doubt this time around. The members of the critique group, which she joined while quarantined during Covid, meet over Zoom to critique and develop each other’s work. Julia says that their willingness to have open and honest conversations about each other’s art helped her overcome her initial self-doubts about her abilities as a writer, and allowed her to believe in herself and her potential. The members of the group praised her strengths while letting her know where her work could stand to be improved. From there, she would go home, write, and rewrite, making incremental improvements until she finally brought them something that all of them knew was a successful work of art.

Ultimately, this community of supporters and like-minded artists helped her overcome her self-doubt and lean into the creative process that led to her finishing her first book. What also helped her was shifting her perspective to view art as individual expression rather than as a competition.  “When I moved into the picture book world as an illustrator, I thought it was competitive, and I thought other illustrators were my competition,” she says. “The truth is that art is so individual and there are so many styles, you really don’t have to be the best. You just have to do the best you can do at telling your story.”

United in Our Journey

At Oats Overnight, we’re always asking, “How can we do things better?” This desire for excellence has helped us create a new, superior way to do breakfast, and we’re pretty pleased with that. At the same time, we’d be lying if we said that as a young company we rarely struggle with impostor syndrome. If you also wrestle with this, we invite you to join our community of support and encouragement. We’d also love to help you fuel your growth with a nutrient-dense, delicious breakfast each morning. 

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