It’s been a question on a lot of people's minds lately and truthfully, I really haven't had breath enough to really break down what's happening. It doesn't happen that often that life feels like it's moving faster than the speed of my ability to process. When I think about where I came from and where I am now
my mind starts spinning.
I'm not arrogant enough to assume that you'll stay for a 2-part letter so I'll cut to the chase -
I'm an imposter (or at least I feel like one)
I don’t know what to say – I think that’s part of why I’ve been absent from this platform for a while. I don’t know who’s listening or who’s annoyed by another idiot’s blog on the Internet. Truthfully I agree with some of those thoughts, which is probably another reason for my absence. I have been picking apart my workflow, my message, and my ultimate goals for the present, the future, etc. I’ve noticed that futures look bright until it’s time to put the work in. Then all the sudden you think life is just too busy. Naw, fam, you just scared.
My wife has, unfortunately, been privy to this declaration more times than I’d like to admit but I have to admit when we had that conversations again for the umpteenth time the other day I felt a little something different. The cadence wasn’t the same. This wasn’t an emotional decision from someone who got caught up in a moment, it was words getting uttered from someone who’s finally had enough of being insecure.
Those who know me know I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with a good friend of mine for the last few years putting magic on SD cards and watching what happens when people get a look at them. Lately our relationship has been more of a mother bird pushing a baby bird out of the nest. Last October he texted me and asked me if I was free to go do some video shooting for some dancers near Hollywood in his place. He had double booked himself (or so he said) and couldn’t go. I excitedly said “yes” and played my part for all my friends and family. I remember talking to my Dad and trying to be as casual as I could be. I was mostly doing it for my sake because I figured if I played it cool for everyone else I would play it cool when the time came.
I have to pause here and mention that the choreographer who was leading this dance class is the man who taught Whitney Houston how to dance…taught Michael Jackson how to moon walk, and inspired the character POWERLINE from The Goofy Movie. So…this is the shoot my friend, the guy who has taught me most everything I know about shooting videos, this is the shoot he couldn’t make. Uh…what am I doing here?
So I show up with my modest camera rig and begin to take as long as I can to put things together. I nearly got stepped on by another guy who was filming as well…. for Oprah’s show. I’m not trying to impress you with name drops; I just want you to know the exact moment my heart fell into my stomach. I’m trying not to let myself freak out. Here I am, with people who are near, or associated with, legend status in the industry and then there’s this kid in the corner who grew up farming, has a funny accent, and only just realized how not casual this just became.
Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. It bares its teeth during some of our most critical times. Right when we find ourselves teetering on the edge of continuing or stopping: a whisper comes from behind us and gives us a reason to back away. That moment came in the midst of my next conversation. The Choreographer’s wife was walking me to the studio we would be in and when she asked a little about me I mentioned how I knew John, and when she asked me how long I had been working in film I told her a hand full of years and then said “I’m not as good as John is, though”
Can you guess where I went wrong?
It’s not her fault. Really it’s mine. I gave this person a reason to doubt my abilities because in a moment of insecurity, in a moment of truly feeling like an imposter, feeling like everyone here thinks I don’t belong – I gave this person a reason to think I didn’t belong. From then on, it was different. For the first hour of the shoot she was giving me direction, telling me where to stand, giving me suggestions, second-guessing some of my angles. Normally this isn’t an issue, I don’t mind taking direction, I don’t even mind suggestions but when you give someone a reason to believe they can’t trust your abilities - the direction stings a little more. Eventually I got in a groove and was able to allow my creativity to ignore the knot in my stomach and the rest of the shoot went well. The more confident I got, the more confident she got.
Understandably, I left the shoot mad at myself. I called John, “dude, I screwed up.” I said. “I was talking to my contact and basically told her I’m the worst,” He laughed. “It’s all good, bro! I’m sure you killed it!” He’s always saying that. Part of why I love the guy.
Imposter Syndrome. A term coined in 1978 by a couple of clinical psychologists – basically it’s an inability to internalize accomplishments, a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, or someone who is convinced they’re a fraud and doesn’t believe they deserve the success they’ve earned. Sound like you at all? Me too. So here’s the "bench" we’re sitting on. We have dreams of being successful, doing big things, making a difference, but in the back of our minds we’re convinced we’ll never get there. Even if we’re making progress it must just be a mirage because none of this could really be true. I believe this is part of the reason a lot of us prefer to dream rather than execute. The reason it’s easier to cut ourselves down than actually put ourselves out there and see what happens. There’s a reason more people are more afraid of public speaking than death.
We know we’ll die eventually but we don’t know what’ll happen when we get up in front of all those people.
Dare to lean in to what’s happening around you. The unknown can be a daunting endeavor and one too many of us stay on the couch for but if, even for a second, you see glimpses of what could be – ignore the impulse to adjust course. Some of us are all too familiar with what our fear looks like. That fear is partly what feeds into the thoughts that we will never be any more or any different than we are in this moment. That’s why we’re so willing to buy the lines that insist we’re just putting nonsense into a pipe dream. Being an imposter is essentially the equivalent of putting up a storefront and having nothing behind the door. Imposter Syndrome is having a storefront and being afraid, or convinced, that no one will want what you have to offer. The funny thing is – we all have a little bit of both within us. What drives this? Fear? Insecurity? Pride? A little bit of all of that and more? Probably. You can’t change where you’ve come from but you have say in what happens in this moment – and you are not alone. I’ve heard CEOs who insist they have no idea what they’re doing, Youtubers with tons of subscribers who are convinced of the same. Singers, actors, teachers, preachers, spouses, all feel this. Maybe we are all imposters; all the more reason to give ourselves a shot at it anyway, right? I don’t think any of us is completely confident in what they’re doing. Some of us have learned how to use that to our advantage while some of us feel like we’re stuck in a parking lot doing donuts…and not in the good way. But eventually we all have to come to the same crossroad - do we try, and see what happens, or do we not try and let that be our legacy?