I think that every creative professional is, at some level, a victim of self-doubt. But there’s always been a little part of me that believed if I made it to some measurable level of success, then I would stop doubting myself. (“If I were a NY Times bestselling author, then I would never doubt my writing again” is a personal favorite). It’s as if I believe that once I reach a certain externally-validated metric, I will have “arrived”—though arrived at what, I can’t tell you. Happiness? Success? Fulfillment?
It’s not just me, either. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard say, “If I were a professional model like you, then I’d never feel ugly again.” Some people would dismiss this as the media’s unrealistic portrayals of feminine beauty and how they negatively impact our psychology. However, I’m intrigued by the fact that their comments sound just like my “If I were a NY Times Bestselling author” spiel.
Here’s a fact: I am a full-time, professional model. Here’s another fact: I still constantly face self-doubt about my appearance.
And here’s yet another fact: every other model I’ve talked to feels the exact same way. We all have a list of body parts that we think are hideous. For me, it’s my breasts—I just can’t stand them. One model hates that part of her lower lip isn’t pigmented, making her lips look thinner. For another model, it’s her ankles (yes, her ankles, to the point of considering ankle bone implants). All of these instances of self-doubt are completely irrational. Those same body parts are often coveted by other models, who wish they had big breasts, tiny ankles, and delicate facial features.
So here’s the last fact: no matter who you are, if you reach the level of external validation that you’re looking for, you will come up with an excuse that tells you why it doesn’t matter. So many models have told me that they don’t feel attractive. They know that they are on an intellectual level—they make their living because thousands of other people around the world find them to be. But no matter how many other people tell them, they still don’t feel it.
This isn’t meant to be a body-image issue post (though if it helps with that, great!). The point here is that experts at the top of their respective field still doubt themselves about the very skills and attributes that allow them to be so successful. This is not unique to the modeling industry. I’ve seen it personally in dance, writing, music, computer science, and business. If you look into any field, I guarantee you’ll find the same problem.
Be careful though: some self-doubt IS valid, so don’t dismiss it out of hand. It’s just important to be realistic and accurate in your perception of it. If it starts with “If I were ____” and ends with “then I would never doubt myself again,” or “then I would be happy,” or “then I would be successful,” it’s flat-out wrong. These statements will never give you an accurate assessment of yourself, or an accurate answer to get the results that you want. Throw them out. You’ll have that much more time and effort to put into accomplishing your goals.