by Lily Guerrero
They’re going to hate me. I’m a fraud. I didn’t deserve to win. Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If so, you may be one of the many singers who suffer from what is known as Impostor Syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome is a term coined by psychologists to describe people who can’t internalize their own accomplishments. According to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, about 70% of people suffer from this monster. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy describes it as, “the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief that we have been given something we didn't earn and don't deserve and that at some point we'll be exposed.” Many famous women have expressed this deep fear of being “exposed,” and it should come as no surprise that artists of all genres are especially plagued by this fear.
Why does this happen? In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg suggests that Impostor Syndrome is a result of women underestimating themselves, judging their own work as “worse than it actually is,” or attributing their success to external factors like luck or the help of others. These ideas become lies we tell ourselves. I didn’t sing that aria very well. I only got the role because I was the only spinto soprano at auditions. I happened to sing the panel’s favorite aria and that’s why I won. My teacher probably told the director to hire me. How do we quiet this little voice in the back of our head that tells us we aren’t good enough?
1. Accept praise from others.
Even if you don’t believe the compliment is genuine, say thank you and accept it graciously. You may not believe all the praise you got for your mad scene, but if you hear it enough from others, eventually you will start to believe it yourself. Fake it until you make it!
2. Examine the hard evidence.
We’ve talked previously about the idea of keeping rejection letters. Make a contract binder, too! While it is great to see how many attempts you’ve made at climbing to the top of the mountain, don’t forget to keep track of all the flags you’ve planted at every summit. It is concrete evidence that you’ve achieved success, and there’s no denying the white paper in front of you.
3. Deny all temptation to compare yourself to others.
You are your own artist, and your interpretation of Musetta is vastly different than anyone else. There is no need for comparison in art, when anything genuinely inspired by the creative human spirit is a valid option for the character.
4. Give yourself a break.
Women create unrealistic expectations for themselves in every aspect of life. If you look hard enough you will probably find something wrong with every performance. You will convince yourself you could always be a pound lighter, or your teeth a shade lighter. Here is your permission from the universe to make mistakes, be adventurous, and embrace the perfectly imperfect human that you are. You are good enough!
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Valerie Young
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy