Impostor Syndrome: doubting your skills, talents, or accomplishments and having a persistent internalized fear of being exposed—of being thought of as a fraud.
Raise your hand if any of the below sound familiar:
Knowing in your heart you’re great at what you do but you keep second-guessing yourself.
Frequently falling victim to comparing yourself to others—bands who have gotten where they are faster than you, who are seeing the success that you want, etc
You stop yourself from doing/saying/going after things because you’re worried you’re not ready or people will make fun of you. IE: you don’t apply for that festival because “what’s the point” or you don’t make that attempt because “it’ll never happen for you.”
This is impostor syndrome and it hits even the most seasoned musicians out there—but it doesn’t have to run your life. And the truth is, while I’ve never met a single person who hasn’t dealt with this, you want to start to identify and get a handle on it so that it stops ruining your chances of success. It’s one thing to feel these waves of insecurity—it’s another to let them hold you back.
Because the irony in all of this is that impostor syndrome will make you think you’re not good enough (when really you are) and that fear of not being good enough will be what stops you from chasing your dreams.
And we don’t want that. So, how do you kick it for good, and start showing up as your best self?
Figure out what’s causing it
What’s causing your impostor syndrome to come up in the first place?
As with so many things, if we can first identify what’s causing the problem, we can begin to work on it. So ask yourself, do you remember when you first started to feel this way? If not, that’s ok, just do your best. Start with where you’re at and ask yourself when it flares up the most. Is it on stage? At networking events? In the DMs? When do you feel that overwhelming sense of being “found out” as a fraud begins to creep in?
Write it down and start to pay attention to any common denominators between the events.
Reframe it—you’re not nervous, you’re excited
There’s a really fascinating thing I learned about our bodies’ response to fear, and I always keep it at the back of my mind when I’m worried about something. And that is, that we respond to fear and excitement the same way.
Think about it. How do you feel when you’re nervous? You get butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, racing heart. What about when you’re excited? Butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, a racing heart….the body’s response is the same. This means it comes down to the way we’re thinking about it.
From now on, every time you feel nervous, reframe it as excitement. You’re not nervous to get on stage, you’re excited to share what you love with the people around you. You’re not nervous to go to this networking event, you’re excited to meet new friends.
Always be prepared
The more prepared you are, the less room for those insecure thoughts to get hold of you.
So, get ahead of it. Prepare as much as possible. For instance, if you’re nervous around networking events, first, ask yourself what you’re nervous about. If you feel like you don’t belong, write down all the reasons you do. If you’re worried you’ll run out of things to talk about, prepare a few topics you can chat with anyone about (IE: what brought you here/what do you do/other general ice breakers).
I’ve found that what really stops impostor syndrome in its tracks is preparing because preparation breeds confidence and confidence is the enemy of impostor syndrome.
A few other things you can try:
-Write out a list of 10-20 reasons why you are awesome at what you do.
-Write out a list of 10-20 reasons people will benefit from your music/live show/etc. (be indulgent here—brag on yourself!)
-Write out a list of 10-20 reasons why you NEED to make this your life’s journey and be a full-time musician – personal & professional reasons welcome (IE: “you want to provide for your family” is just as valid as saying “you want to change someone’s life with your music”).
-Keep a list/folder on your phone or computer of positive/encouraging words from people that love you/your music/help prop you up.
Ultimately, overcoming impostor syndrome takes time, and with each new level you break through to, odds are you’ll have to deal with a new version of it—but that doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be seen as you showing growth and making serious progress. And that’s something to celebrate, and look forward to. You’ve got this!
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.