• Phil McDonald

Impostor Syndrome

This week I thought I'd tackle a subject which affects, or can affect all of us at one time or another. It can sneak up on us without us being too aware of it and before you know it, you're experiencing crippling self doubt and left unchecked this is something that can be potentially career ending. I am of course talking about impostor syndrome. So what is it? Why do we get it and what can we do about it?

Put simply, impostor syndrome is a feeling that you're not good enough. Or any good at all. That you don't measure up to other people, other artists. You basically shouldn't be doing this. It's a horrible thing to experience but it is pretty common. On a personal note, I suffered from this to a degree in my studio the first time I took on a client wanting to do a full album for professional release. Initially, I was really pleased to land the project, not just financially but because I really liked this artist music and I was looking forward to contributing to the album. But then it hit me - I started questioning myself. Was I good enough to be doing this? What if the artist hated what I produced? This feeling came totally out of the blue. I went from being elated to land the project to wondering if I should cancel it as I wasn't a good enough producer.

So if you're unfortunate enough to have these sort of feelings what can you do about it? There's no doubt you need to take action - if you let these thoughts overcome you you're not going to perform well, you're going to be doubting yourself whilst playing and the moment you make a small mistake on stage, playing the wrong chord or fluffing a lyric it's going to be amplified 10 times in your head and the chances are you're going to make more and more mistakes like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger. Confidence shot to pieces.

The first thing you need to do is talk to someone close to you. It's hard to look at ourselves objectively but if you open up and share how you're feeling, a few words of encouragement and support will go a long way. Secondly, you need to remember you are unique. Don't compare yourself to others. No musician ever made anything of themselves by copying other people, artists who stand out for doing something differently are the ones who turn heads. So if someone in your area is playing somewhere you haven't, don't think it's because you're not good enough, you're probably doing something that they're not. Comparing yourself to others is a pointless exercise.

Finally separate fact from fiction. Look back at some of the things you've achieved and ask yourself, "How did I do that?" If you really weren't good enough would you have been able t play that gig? Make that album? Most people would struggle to write one song, let alone an album's worth and then record it. So try to look at things objectively and even if you are having doubts, look at the facts and concentrate on that. Impostor syndrome is a nasty thing, it can get on top of you and wear you down but by taking the actions described previously it can be overcome and conquered.

Have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome? What did you do about it?

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