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My mental health story: imposter syndrome

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

As we’ve dedicated this week’s content to mental health for World Mental Health Day, it only seemed fair that I – as editor – contribute something about my own wellbeing to round it off.

*Check out the rest of our mental health content*

At first, I struggled to write anything. Not because my own mental health story is so debilitating that I can’t bear to let my fingers dance over the keyboard and tease the words out.

Far from it; I simply thought I had nothing to say.

I feel incredibly lucky to say that I’ve always enjoyed good mental health. I’ve never suffered from depression, the only time I’ve experienced low mood has been the fault of Aston Villa and, thankfully, any anxiety I’ve experienced has always been fleeting.

To be honest, I don’t even get stressed either – well, apart from when my Internet is being slow.

All in all, I didn’t feel like I had anything of note to add into the mix.

And then, it hit me – I do, absolutely, have something to talk about.

I regularly suffer from self-doubt. I’m often convinced someone, somewhere will suddenly find me out.

In short, I’m talking about imposter syndrome.

To be honest, it’s a bit of weird one. It wasn’t obvious to me that I was affected by it until I really sat down to plan something for this article. But, then it all came flooding through.

Every single new job I’ve ever been given, I’ve spent at least a year waiting for it to be taken away – for my new boss to call me in a say “OK Dave, well done for getting this far, but we’ve found out. Go on, off you go – you know why.”

The same goes for pretty much every creative thing I’ve ever done.

Setting up, launching and even naming this very website? I was convinced everyone would pull the same sort of face my Grandma makes when she’s offered ‘foreign’ food.

Every time I get up to speak at a conference? I dread people looking bored, asking me a question I can’t answer or ripping me to shreds in the evaluation form.

When I used to photograph weddings on my weekends, I was sure every couple would hate the photos I gave them.

And every time I interview someone for any of the podcasts I produce, I’m convinced my guests will think I’m an incompetent idiot and will request that I never use the footage I’ve just made with them.

Most annoyingly, I have no idea quite why I feel this. None of the fears I listed above have ever proved true and I know that plenty of people value the things I create.

And yet, the moment I click send, press publish or clear my throat to start speaking, I feel like a fraud and I feel like I’m about to be found out.

I’d like to think I have plenty of confidence in myself and in my ideas. Hopefully, when you consume my content, you *do* get a sense of self-confidence. Hopefully it comes across.

But, in my head, I will often let self-doubt gnaw away for far longer than I should.

It’s not even as though I crave praise and reward either. Sure, those things are nice, but I’m also a natural introvert so unless those things are done in an email they would probably make me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Reflecting on my feelings of self doubt and this whole idea of imposter syndrome, I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part of my problem is that I’m so keen to do good stuff.

If someone tells me that I made something they valued, that means the absolute world to me. As such, I will let myself worry. Getting people’s attention in 2018 is a rare privilege and, if someone is spending time with something that my name is attached to, I couldn’t bear that time not being well spent.

With all this going on in my head, it’s all-too easy to forget that I *can* actually do this stuff and I *am* good at it. After all, I wouldn’t get those jobs or speak at those events if that weren’t true.

Likewise my written and audio content – people consume them because I make good shit. I know all this. But it regularly stays hidden.

Interestingly, there is one part of my life where I don’t feel like an imposter, where self-doubt doesn’t get past the bouncer on the door; music.

I’m in the twopiece band WAVE and do everything that isn’t drums. We make shouty, noisy hardcore punk metal. Our live shows involve bubble machines, inflatable beach balls and games of pass the parcel, and I use the sort of cheap pedals and amps that many guitarists turn their noses at because I’m more interested in how things sound than what brand made them.

We even made our own homage to Stephen King’s IT in a bid to try and make people actually leave their house and watch us play a gig. 🤷‍♂️

In everything I do with WAVE, I have confidence and feel comfortable. I write the songs I want to write and present the band the way I want to present it. In short, and in true punk rock fashion, I don’t give a shit what people think.

If people don’t like our music, that’s fine. We’re not for everyone, but I know we’re better than plenty of other bands and I know that we make a good brand of the sort of music we do play.

If people watch us live and write us off as a joke band because we can make you laugh as well as bang your head, again, fine. You’re wrong, but if that’s your opinion then so be it. Being funny and writing good music are not mutually exclusive.

What I would love is to be able to adopt more of my band persona in my professional life. I’d love to present my work with the same confidence I have when playing my songs, all the while giving precisely zero fucks about what people think.

But, let’s face it – that probably ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Pull me off a stage or take my guitar off me and I’ll go back to worrying about being found out. That’s just how my brain seems to work.

I wanted to round off this ramble with something actionable, some sage advice for anyone else suffering from imposter syndrome – but I don’t know how successful I’m going to be at that.

I could try simply having more confidence in what I do and worrying about it less, but then I’d probably worry that I came across as an arrogant twat.

I could try taking beach balls and bubble machines with me to my next speaking gig, but it probably wouldn’t be appropriate (although, it would look cool, right?).

And, I could try using my guitar as my communication tool for all aspects of my life – work stuff included. I could…but it would be a terrible idea.

Instead, I’ve realised that I’m happy enough being aware of how my brain works and just, well, dealing with it. It’s far from perfect, but having that self-awareness and knowing, deep down, that I’m fretting over nothing, has helped me massively.

One day, eventually, I’m sure I’ll kick that feeling of imposter syndrome into touch. But, for now, it’s there and I can cope with it. I’m very lucky that these feelings only come and go, as I know there are plenty out there who have it far, far worse.

If you are ever struggling with your mental health, don’t be afraid to look for help. Whether it’s friends and family (virtual or in real life), colleagues or organisations such as Mind…there’s no shame in asking for help and there are people there waiting to be there for you.

Take care.

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