The buzzword phrase of the moment is imposter syndrome. Have you heard it? Do you have it?
Imposter syndrome is that feeling you get that says you are a fraud or that you really don't have any business being in the place that you are in.
Chances are that at some point along your creative journey you will feel a sense of inadequateness. Mine usually crept in while standing outside the audition room door hearing another soprano sing my aria with ease and grace while I doubted what was even going to come out of my mouth. Good times. *eyeroll*
Or even worse when I was cast opposite someone I admired and felt the casting department had made a mistake. *actually happened*
How do we establish worthiness in ourselves when the voices inside our heads defy us and our strong feelings of unworthiness are winning the race?
There's some good news here and some other good news that comes with some hard stuff.
The good news is that you do not have to stay in this yucky place of self-doubt. There is a way out. Yay! Tell me...
Okay. Another good news is that there are steps to take and work that can be done to help mitigate these feelings. The part that's hard is that ONLY YOU can do this work for you. But I'd like to add that over the years I have come to enjoy this work and this is why: You get to focus on things you love and feelings you love. You get to cultivate caring for yourself and nurturing your needs. Think of it like taking yourself out on a fabulous date or my favorite, I treat myself like I treat my sweet dog!
So, how do you get out of imposter syndrome? With patience and:
You acknowledge that you have these feelings. Tell a friend. Tell a therapist. Sometimes saying it out loud makes you hear how absurd your inner thoughts can be.
Recognize that although the feelings may really be feeling deep, they are not exactly true. I heard someone describe someone they thought was totally off base by saying, "They are nuts! They actually believe everything they think!" Wow. That was eye-opening for me! I was believing everything I was thinking at the time so much so that I was making myself physically hurt with my thoughts.
Get to know your thoughts and how they make you feel. If you are having tightness in your chest or pain in your stomach, spend some moments seeking out knowledge of what you may be thinking about. Ask yourself if you know that thought to be true. For instance, a classic imposter syndrome thought is, "I'll never get that role/job/because I am not prepared or as good as someone else." Start to see this inner statement as an opinion and not a factual statement. Ask yourself, "Who would I be without that thought? Who would I be if the opposite were true?" Usually, by answering these questions we can distinguish when our inner voices are coming from places of true knowledge or if they are just optional thoughts. The good news about optional thoughts is that they are optional and you can choose to change them!
Practice changing your thoughts. Once you get good at being aware of your thinking you can start to actually change the thoughts you are having. So often in my career, I have found myself being critical before I've even made a sound. Now I can catch myself and I treat myself like I treat my sweet dog. Every day I look at him and declare him to be the nicest sweetest dog there is and I tell him that everyone knows it and everyone says it. So, I try to treat myself the same way the instance those voices want to creep in on my process. No, I say. "You are the most talented and sincerest voice that you have ever been today. Everyone is rejoicing that you are here."
Another way of keeping these thoughts at bay is to make sure you are doing everything you can to nurture yourself. If you seem to not be able to keep those thoughts and feelings under your control, then meditate, go for a walk, take a nap, practice some breathing techniques. Do something good for your body to reset the vibration of your thoughts. A cup of tea and looking outside at nature is often the way I redirect my patterns and I move in the task of making the cup of tea with love and care for each little step. I focus on the movement of my hands making the tea. I relish in sitting and stillness. I allow myself some time to be patient with my yearning and feelings.
We often fall into imposter syndrome when we make mistakes. My biggest fear used to be making mistakes in rehearsals. For God's sake, IT'S A REHEARSAL! But, like most singers, I was just overwhelmed with what this would mean for me. The embarrassment. The worry the music staff would have to overcome because they would fear I was going to need extra coaching! Or that I wasn't PERFECT!!! OH ME OH MY! Now, I make sure that in the first sing-through of any opera that I am the first one to make a mistake. I do it on purpose. I do it because it cleanses the air in the room and it lets everyone else off the damn hook. It's like saying, "Let's get a grip here. This is a process, not a performance. I'm gonna work it all out in these weeks of rehearsal and love myself in the process. Oh, and GET OUT OF MY WAY!" Try it. It's so liberating and doesn't waste any time.
My final suggestion for you who suffer from these thoughts is to consider that you are in this very place at this very moment simply BECAUSE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. To be is to be. Get what I am saying. You are here. You didn't get here because of anything other than WHAT IS. So, stop trying to justify how or why and embrace that at this moment, you are here. It is what is. It's the magic of life. Stay there. OWN IT. And treat yourself like you would your sweet little dog. Pat yourself on the back and say, "Well done! Good Girl!"