Hey everyone –
Imposter syndrome and shame have their talons in me today. I know it’ll pass, but while it’s here, I might as well share my frustrations and invite others to do so (now or in the future, if/when you have a hard day/week/etc.). I find that talking these things through helps to put them in context, and this is such a supportive group besides.
I have imposter syndrome & shame around music more so than anything else in my life. It ebbs & flows in severity, but I don’t think I’ll ever be totally rid of it. I will always, to some extent, feel like a johnny-come-lately dilettante who doesn’t “deserve” music because my parents didn’t set me up to deserve it. Others have put in more work, more time, etc., and I should know my place as a spectator and consumer. STFU and take a seat, you hack.
People in my life who aren’t as into music as I am tend think of me as a font of wisdom and creativity, but compared to other people in my life who live/breathe music, I am nothing but a clueless toddler banging on pans. I don’t have obsessive, encyclopedic knowledge of any genre or theory or instrument. I didn’t receive any extracurricular music lessons as a kid (& hated music class in elementary school). My mother put me in dance classes from age 6-12, which I am grateful for, but the fact of the matter is that she chose dance for me because of fatphobia. I was a skinny kid and she wanted to keep me that way. It had nothing to do with physical literacy or music appreciation – though it inadvertently resulted in both (and I can still cut a rug in a pinch).
From Grade 6 onward, we always had to choose between band & visual art; I had no interest in brass or woodwinds, so I always chose visual art. I didn’t even realize I really “liked” music until I was 12 or 13, when I realized that there was more out there than my parents and teachers listened to. Then my world opened up, and I asked for a bass for xmas. I was an arrogant and impetuous teenager, so I joined my high school’s jazz band (again, forever grateful, in spite of how that turned out). Everyone else in jazz band had been playing their instrument for at least 5 years, most much longer. They were all proficient sight readers. I muddled along by writing each letter note above the staff and practising like hell every night. In our last big concert of the year, I made a dog’s breakfast of the hardest song in my repertoire and the one I was most proud of knowing/playing. I simply lost my place and couldn’t find it again – one of many skills others would’ve developed over the years, but which I never had time to.
I promised my band teacher I’d keep on playing anyway, but of course I stopped. I was humiliated and unaccustomed to being that bad at something I cared about. Developing my other artistic interests – writing, drawing, dance – felt like a cakewalk by comparison, because I’d been engaging in them since I was a young child. It was simply too late for me and music.
Throughout university, I immersed myself in English and creative writing, and wrote album & concert reviews for my campus newspaper. If I can’t make music, I’ll at least talk about it. Worship at the altar. But imposter syndrome sneaks in even there. Like I said, I don’t have that profound genre knowledge – which most reviewers seem to rely on. I can’t hear a record and name 10 obscure artists you’ll “also like” if you like this one, or immediately rattle off half a dozen relevant subgenres. I can set the scene, describe a record poetically, and draw on cultural touchstones, but I can’t construct its family tree or nitpick chord choices.
Shame pulls me from music, but it also keeps me coming back. Frankly, I am ashamed of not being able to proficiently play an instrument. (So here I am, muddling through B2B.) I am ashamed of feeling like a dilettante. (So I read as much as I can about music, watch as many films as I can, etc.) I am ashamed of coming from such a musical family that for some reason didn’t see music education as important to my development, even though I could play songs by ear on xylophones and toy keyboards as a very young child – that window closed long ago. I’m trying to open another. Some days it moves, other days it jams up. Sometimes I’d bloody well like to smash it!
On good days, I know that everyone deserves music. It’s one of the most human things there is.
On bad days (like today), I am convinced that I have failed music & therefore fail as a human.
Most days are somewhere in between.
Share, if you like. Get it off your chest. I’m here to bear witness.