How To Use Imposter Syndrome to Your Advantage

imposter syndrome
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imposter syndrome
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Photo credit: engin akyurt

I’m not the right person to be writing about this topic. I live with imposter syndrome. He’s my good buddy. But I’m going to write about this anyway. The imposter will not win here because I, despite my self-doubt, have helpful things to say on the topic.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is when you doubt yourself, when you feel like you’ll be found out as a fraud. It’s when you believe you’re not worthy of the success or competence you do in fact have. You feel like you’re an imposter in your own skin, in your own music career.

Imposter syndrome can be debilitating if you let it take over. It has stopped many artists from creating anything at all. I personally know someone who recorded a whole EP with his band, only to scrap the entire thing because of perfectionism, which is a form of self-doubt.

Why Imposter Syndrome Is Not a Bad Thing

It’s totally normal to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. And it’s normal to feel like people will think less of you if they find out you don’t know what you’re doing. We all have a little imposter syndrome inside of us, even the most confident people.

“Self-doubt lives in all of us,” writes legendary music producer Rick Rubin in his book The Creative Act. “…Flaws are human, and the attraction of art is the humanity held in it. If we were machinelike, the art wouldn’t resonate. It would be soulless. With life comes pain, insecurity, and fear.”

It’s liberating to realize and admit that you are not perfect. You doubt yourself, and so do I. That’s part of being human.

Imposter syndrome is a reminder that you are a complex human who is not too arrogant that you don’t occasionally doubt yourself.

How To Let Imposter Syndrome Teach You

When you feel imposter syndrome bubble up, there are some practical things you can try that may help…

First, try to recognize and be okay with this feeling of inadequacy. That’s the first step to dealing with it. Let it have space.

Second, challenge your negative thoughts. Uncomfortable feelings are natural, but consciously thinking negatively about yourself can be unhealthy. Try to identify the negative thoughts that are fueling your imposter syndrome and push against them. Look for evidence that contradicts your negative thoughts, and focus on your strengths and achievements.

Third, practice self-compassion. Treat yourself and speak to yourself the way your best friend would. Remind yourself of all the things you’re doing for your music career, not of your (perceived) failures.

Fourth, talk to someone. It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about your imposter syndrome. A friend, a musician acquaintance, or even your therapist. Sharing your feelings can help you gain perspective and remember that you’re not alone.

Fifth, keep a record of the things you’ve accomplished. Make a list of the goals you’ve reached, positive feedback you’ve gotten, and career milestones you’ve passed.

I have a Google Doc where I list every song I’ve released, any personal streaming records I break, cool co-writes I got to do, you name it. Any good thing that happens goes on my list. Then whenever I’m feeling like I’m not good enough, I revisit that list.

Lastly, let me share another quote from Rubin…

“If you’re not up for it, no one else can do it,” he writes. “Only you can. You’re the only one with your voice.”

No one else has the combination of voice, lyrics, music, and lived experience that you have. No one else can make music like you do. So make the music that only you can.