Imposter’s Syndrome (& well-intentioned friends)

Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
- Limelight, Rush


You is kind. You is smart. You is important.


Then He added, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown."
- Luke 4:24

Let me start by saying a couple things.

FIRST: I’m not seeking affirmations. If you read this and are tempted to offer some type of congratulatory comment in an effort to let me know you enjoy what I do, STOP! Again, that isn’t the purpose of this piece.

Side note: Nothing is more affirming to me than throwing a few dollars my way. So, should you be tempted to offer compliments, instead, click the link below and buy me a cup of coffee… er… I mean, 4 Venti Soy Latte’s*

* I've heard if you do not ask, the answer is always no. I've discovered that if you do ask, the answer is still often no. 😉 But...

SECOND: I’m confident to the point of arrogance much of the time. And then, if I am on stage performing music or presenting, that confidence/arrogance is ratcheted up. I’m good there and I know it and I enjoy it! Ask my girlfriend. I’m hardly liveable in those instances. It’s a high that everyone should experience sometime and somewhere.

I say this because y’all don’t have to worry about me. This post is not an existential crisis.

It is, instead, a point of reflection on imposter’s syndrome and why well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned) friends can detrimental to the creative soul. And I offer some ideas on how to offset this.

Also, I’m NOT calling out MY friends or any specific people. If I am calling anyone out, it is me - because I have been the aforementioned friend more times than I care to admit.

Point #1: Imposter’s Syndrome is real

I’m a published author. Published with a major publisher. Published by a publisher who paid me advances and pays me royalties. I’ve been published in The Wall Street Journal, numerous newspapers and magazines, websites, and been paid to write corporate pieces.

That’s me telling myself what Viola Davis was telling her young charge. “You is kind. You is smart…” Do you get the picture?

And yet, what I’m left with is… I ain’t no Stephen King…. And don’t get me started on what Josh Ritter’s songs do to me.

Writers have always been my heroes. Songwriters too.

And so, regardless of the fact that my editor and her team gushed over my writing - likening me to Malcolm Gladwell and others - I struggle with what I am not.

I view writers and songwriters as being part of this pantheon of god-like creative beings. This makes it impossible for me to take the assumptive step into that pantheon.

Who the hell do you think you are?

This is both a product of my failure to produce some of the stuff I’ve wanted to and a cursory look in the mirror - naked and in a harsh light. I simply cannot believe that I have earned the right to join their ranks.

And so, I don’t… I can’t!

Point #2: Friends are not fans

The other sober fact is that friends (and family) are not fans. They can’t be. They know you too well. WAY TOO WELL! Your just that kid who ran around with them, talked too much in class, cried when you stubbed your toe playing kickball... they know you and you're just you.

And yet, too often, that is where we look for our first and most important feedback and those unmentioned but desired affirmations.

If I invite friends to a performance, it sounds a little like, “Eh.. if you have nothing else going on, aren’t too tired, nothing is on TV, etc. then, if you’d like to and wouldn’t be bothered, you could maybe drop by if you are in the area and don’t need to go buy light bulbs or something.”

Basically, give them every out. That way, when they don’t show up, you know that they probably needed a light bulb for the freezer. Gotta be able to find the Popsicles.

In this way, you are safe from disappointment. Am I right?

Now, let me state emphatically... I really do understand this. I'm that guy. Your friend is sort of always there so you can get out to see him the "next time." And there is always a next time, so it is an easy out.

I'm not complaining - I get it because I am it.

Battling Imposter’s Syndrome

Upon reflecting on this topic and having a few good months in the creative front, I offer my advice. This is what I’ve discovered works for me.

First, recognize that everyone feels like an imposter.

I’m going to bet Stephen King feels it too - or at least felt it. Maybe 20-30 best-sellers cures it. I don’t know - but I’d love to find out… personally, I mean!

Second, get serious about performing/presenting/writing.

Do that thing that you know you are good at but are also aware you are “not qualified” to do. Why? Well… “doing” beats “feeling qualified.” Doing gives you an emotional rush and an opportunity for feedback that screams, “I am qualified… over-qualified… I’m the shit!”

That feeling is golden. You want it - believe me!

You don’t have to think yourself into this idea - you have to do yourself into it. And doing yourself is self-love of the highest order.  (sly grin)

A note to friends I’ve failed to support

I’m sorry.

More than being sorry, I’m putting myself on notice. I’m going to get out more and cheer them on. And no, I can’t do 7 days a week. I have my own stuff to create.

But a few times a month, I’m going to show up to let them know that I’m listening. I want to ensure they know they are not an imposter. They are part of the pantheon.

And to those who I might casually mention that I’m performing, if nothing is on TV or you don’t need light bulbs, consider coming out. Better yet, buy me the above mentioned lattes.

Posted in Blog, music, Writing and tagged , , , .


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