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What is Imposter Syndrome and What Can You do About it?

Imposter syndrome affects 62% of people in the workplace, and two thirds of women at work. In the creative industries that figure is much higher, somewhere around 87%.

Published: 07 October 2019 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM
Photograph of person in balaclava peering nervously around a corner.
It can be hard to get comfortable identifying what you do, and explaining it to people. Photo credit: Shutterstock

But what is it? And what can we do about it? Mentors and mentees taking part in the she.grows X MU mentoring programme explored the issues with Chloe, founder of thy self, in a workshop at Musicians’ Union HQ.

What is imposter syndrome?

n. the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills

Imposter syndrome affects a lot of people, and every one of those people will experience it in a different way. "For me, it’s an overwhelming feeling that sometimes I can shake off and other times I can’t,” says Chloe. Her imposter syndrome takes the form of overwhelming self-doubt or dread.

What triggers it?

For Chloe, it’s being in a boardroom. But working in the music industry it can be anything, and again different for everyone. Ideas in the room included:

  • Moving between genres, styles and sectors but not feeling at home in any of them
  • Job interviews and pitches for work
  • Identifying as a musician – especially if music is not the primary earner

“It’s because something matters to you” that you feel this way, says Chloe.

How can you overcome imposter syndrome?

There’s no one way to overcome imposter syndrome, but there are different things you could do that might help. The first step is recognising it and wanting to combat it. “Stop thinking like an imposter, or of yourself as one. Separate feeling from fact,” says Chloe.

She encourages everyone to get comfortable identifying what they do and explaining it to people. If you haven’t done it before, identifying yourself as a musician can be a powerful thing. Own your USP, she says, “No-one’s going to be you. Everyone is learning that their capabilities are different”.

Creating something new is also an inherently disruptive act, and Chloe encourages everyone to recognise and embrace the power that has; “What you do could turn the industry on its head”.

“Stop believing that if you don’t excel at one part of your job, you’re not good at any of it,” she adds. ‘Progress not perfection’ is a useful mantra to have.

Knowing your worth is also key, says Chloe. That includes your financial worth and asking for it – and more – when you negotiate your next fee. “Always scale up and leave room for negotiation. Let that negotiation be someone else’s choice,” she suggests.

Remember, saying ‘no’ to a bad deal is a positive act. If someone gives you a deal that you’re not sure about, the MU can help you work out if it is right for you. And it is totally okay to walk away.

The session ended with a look at compassion, and a call to show the compassion and encouragement you show to others to yourself as well; “Remember, you are more ready than you realise.”

Want to learn more about Imposter Syndrome?

MU members were able to attend a free webinar on overcoming imposter syndrome shortly after this news story was published. Keep an eye out for future events where you can find out more about the cycle of imposter syndrome, it’s impact on yourself and others, and what you can do about it.

Not a member of the MU? You can join now and pay only £1 for your first six-months.

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