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What do you say when someone asks: “What do you do?”
Do you tell them you’re a “musician,” or do you instantly default to the safe description of your 9-5 title? Or do you just sort of fumble around the question, explaining what you do for fun or money or as a hobby, etc., slowly diminishing into incoherent ramble?
If you’re reading this blog and not self-identifying as a musician (or other type of creative artist), you might want to check yourself for any kind of slight panic, latent fear, or blood-pressure-rising anxiety that has a tendency to overcome you when being asked that question. If in the back of your mind you think that this person might only be seconds away from finding you out, that they’re fishing to expose you as a talentless fraud… Well then you might have come down with a bad case of Imposter Syndrome.
If you’ve ever suffered from these feelings (no matter how untrue), then you my friend, are part of 70% of the US population who have also experienced this horrible phenomenon. The good news? This is temporary; and it’s just a feeling, not a fact.
But it’s still pretty annoying to deal with and potentially very damaging to your ego, so we want to fix this ASAP. Here are a few things you can try next time you start to feel the pangs of Imposter Syndrome pop up.
1. Get to the root of it.
First, you want to see if you can figure out what’s causing imposter feelings in the first place. Try to think back to the first time you really felt this, and ask yourself a few key questions. Did something happen? Were there other stressors in your life? What made you doubt yourself initially?
If you can’t remember that far back, just start with where you are now. When does it flare up the most for you? When does that sneaking voice creep in to say: “What if…I’m not good enough. What if I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. What if they realize I’m actually an idiot?”
Pinpoint the moments, the stressors, and the situations that lend themselves to this feeling the most, and try to identify what strings those moments together; isolate the similarities.
2. Change the narrative.
When you start to recognize the patterns that lead to imposter feelings, you can stop them before they happen. For instance, if you notice this happens a lot before you go to a networking event, you might think the answer is just… not going. But of course, that would be silly.
What you really want to do is crush the negative thoughts before they even happen by getting out ahead of it. Think about why networking events cause Imposter Syndrome to flare up; is it because you think that everyone there will realize you don’t belong?
Okay, that’s a start. But here’s the thing: you do belong, you were invited, you’re there with your cohorts—whether you allow yourself to enjoy the moment or not, it’s your moment for sure. If you can’t psych yourself up for an event in advance, then practice your “elevator pitch” talking points on your way there. Be prepared with things to say about your work that make you feel comfortable.
Feeling prepared and in control is your friend here. A huge part of this is that we think that things just happen to us, that we got lucky, or we just lucked into having talent or creating any and all successes. Claim the role you’ve had in your own success and own it! Remind yourself of this every time you start to panic.
3. Acknowledge it — and then let it go.
It’s okay to feel like an imposter sometimes — most of us do. Sometimes it can even be the key to us working just a little bit harder and clicking in to the best work we can do.
But it’s also important to remember that this is not a definitive part of who you are. In fact, it really is just a feeling. If you can remind yourself “this is a feeling, not a fact,” it can help calm you in your worst moments. Remind yourself of all the reasons you aren’t actually a fraud. That you do know what you’re doing. That you deserve to be there.
There’s a power in acknowledging how you’re feeling and giving yourself that permission and then…. letting it go.
4. When all else fails…
If simply talking yourself down isn’t working, grab a pen and paper and start to write down all your accomplishments, all the awesome things you’ve done, the lives you’ve impacted (personally and professionally), and any nice thing someone’s said that has stuck with you.
You can also do this by laying out the albums you’ve released, or projects you’ve been a part of, or looking through photos of you playing music. Sometimes using a visual aid to remind you of all the hard work you’ve put into this, will cut through when words simply can’t.
It might feel indulgent at first, but I promise, this is a time it’s really okay to brag. I’d argue it’s even necessary because this list, or this pile, is for you and no one else — and it’s here to remind you how awesome you are when things get tough. Keep it close by and don’t hesitate to re-read it when that pesky imposter syndrome starts to rear its ugly head.
We’re just getting started! If you’re looking for tips on increasing fan engagement then join me for my free master class: “How to gain your next 1,000 fans. 3 simple steps that lead to higher engagement, sold-out shows, and life-changing opportunities.”
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