Do you sometimes doubt your your abilities, talents and success? Welcome to the club. "Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". - Wikipedia
Let's face it. As artists, we are continually putting ourselves out there and expressing our inner worlds for the the public to see/hear/evaluate/judge. Likewise, this phenomenon is more common in higher achieving individuals who have worked hard and "made it" to a certain level. I remember auditioning for college and having that first "am I good enough" bout with my musical acumen. Then, as an undergraduate wondering if I was really a pianist, and in graduate school questioning if I was really prepared to do the work I was being trained for. I've been on stage before thinking, "who do I think I am playing with these people?" It happens to a lot of us! Do a google search for Imposter Phenomenon Celebrity Quotes, and you'll find yourself part of a club of people who thinks they are where they are only because of luck. While we often times underestimate that element in our levels of success, it is simply not true. Luck may have played a part, but without grit, hard work, talent and perseverance, luck wouldn't matter.
I came across this article on the American Psychological Association that I feel captures this phenomenon beautifully, to which I will share this snippet. "But as a PhD student in clinical psychology at The New School in New York City, he began to doubt his abilities. Now he wasn't just studying to make the grade, but actually leading therapy sessions with patients in a hospital psychiatric unit. "I felt, what gives me the right to be here?" he says. In those moments, he says, he didn't just feel he was lacking certain skills. He wondered whether he belonged there at all. "There's a sense of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and needing to learn to swim," he says. "But I wasn't just questioning whether I could survive. In a fundamental way, I was asking, ‘Am I a swimmer?'"
I've had those moments multiple times in my career. "Am I a good enough musician?" "Am I really a pianist?" "Am I a great teacher?" "Who do I think I am playing with this person/band? I'm not good enough." These are actually great reflection questions, to which I have answers to today, though put me in a stressful situation and that self-doubt creeps back in and the answer may change. In the last year I have had two situations where I was playing with incredible musicians where I had a hard time getting out of my own head. One I was sicker than a dog (playing with a temperature of over 100 degrees and with strep) and the other my mind was clear. The one I was sick for ended up being fine, but I felt like I could have/should have done better. What I realize now is that I need to offer grace to myself and be okay with 90% and sicker than sick. I wanted to be on the level of the soloist, and I couldn't do it. 90% that day was actually my best. I gave 100% at the most recent event and was able to talk myself down from the tower of self-doubt into a fantastic performance that I really enjoyed. So I've begun changing my narrative. "I am a wonderful musician. I am a fantastic teacher. I am enough."
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