One of my biggest fears about writing is that one day somebody is going to call me out – a fake, a phoney, or as a clueless wannabe.
She has no idea what she’s doing!
I always thought that this was just nerves or another wonderful side effect of having anxiety, that is until I started to learn more about Imposter Syndrome, more importantly, learning that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
Knowing this, at the end of last year, I resolved myself to take more opportunities, especially ones I knew I could learn something from if I just turned down the self-critic that lives inside my brain.
It all started with an advert I saw on Twitter for a poetry open mic night. A monthly event at a small intimate venue open to all. I knew the venue, I like poetry, what was stopping me?
I was instantly thinking about all the possible reasons I couldn’t go, I’d have to go straight after work… I didn’t know anyone there… My poetry could be terrible… excuses.
After much wrangling with myself, I went, just to watch. I beat down my critic just enough to attend my first open mic just before the end of 2019 and it was great. I listened and clapped and felt at home in the audience with my glass of red wine in hand (my unhealthy coping mechanism for nervousness). I then followed that up with a second trip with my partner, for support, as this time, I wanted to try reading out one of my poems… and I did! My Imposter Syndrome was still there, only now I felt like I was in an encouraging environment with people who were ‘real’ poets. I wanted to do more, learn more.
As I was writing my two poems for my third event, I was beaming with pride, excited that I hadn’t let my inner critic stop me and I went to my third open mic night and read two poems based on the theme: Who Am I?
I asked my partner to record me reading out my poetry because this was the final step in reflecting on my creativity, this would be evidence that I did this thing and I could get better at it, but recording – it added more anxiety and excitement, though I knew it would be useful to me in more ways than one. So we went and we did it.
I learned a couple of things:
- My Black Country accent is not as prominent as I thought.
- I put my hands in my pockets when I’m nervous.
- This was a safe space – polite, attentive and respectful.
- Poetry shouldn’t be feared.
The accent is something I’ve always self-policed.
Yowm one of us bab.
As a child I knew that the Black Country accent was not palatable to everyone, people told me to watch my annunciation, my spelling, studies were done on it. I have a distinct memory of a singing teacher telling me that I’d never be taken seriously until I spoke correctly. It makes me angry thinking about it still. The video proved to me that I’d created a monstrous caricature of my accent, demonised my tongue and it wasn’t true to life. You can hear my words correctly, feel their intent. Another win for my confidence.
I watched back the video the next day after the event, too worried to watch back the same day and I found myself smiling. Even though my inner critic was still ready to chomp at the bit, the things that I found floating to the surface seemed more reasonable, useful critique for my performance and I could see where I had done well. I liked what I saw for the first time in a long time.
Do I still feel the imposter?
Yes and no – not as much. I feel now more the novice, so that’s what I’ll call myself on the first step away from an imposter, heading towards a new title, Writer, Poet, Performer? I’m not sure what the last step is but I’m glad this video helped me climb that first step.
For anyone else feeling imposter syndrome – take the opportunity, it’s worth it.
I’ve written about my anxiety as a writer before, you can check it out here.
You can check out my performance here: