Imposter Syndrome is a real thing.
Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as:
Impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women, while others indicate that men and women are equally affected.
I generally have trouble seeing my achievements as legitimate. With me, I believe it is rooted deeply in my history of being bullied. I can’t remember a time when I have not been bullied. In kindergarten, one of the boys pulled my hair everyday. From first to eighth grade, I rotated from bullies who called me to tell me we couldn’t be friends anymore to bullies who were borderline sexual predators that stole my textbooks and tried to make me fail math and science classes. In high school, my group of friends turned on me because I declined peer pressure to wear a skirt a friend of mine made to make me look ridiculous as her proof of ownership. In sideshow, there was a performer who brought her friends to shows and would gang up on me between sets saying I was the sideshow performer that no one has ever heard of, that I was a cutter (and showed off my scars by grabbing my wrists and displaying them), and then other performers saying I needed to be more like her because she made more tips than me.
A person once said that my awards from university didn’t mean anything because my school accepted anyone, that I was a straight A student only because everyone else was probably really stupid, in turn making my valedictorian title meaningless. I have struggled for years trying to find a sense of legitimacy that was always brought back down by hurtful words of other people. Eventually it becomes that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how big of a deal anything you do is, there is someone (or you) who will discount your achievements.
It is very common for people in film communities to not see 48 Hour films as legitimate films because they are done on such a quick turnaround and often end up to be “bad,” but bad is relative. Good is relative. It’s all taste. Taste is up to an individual and people seek out others with a similar taste. It’s the entire reason that critics exist as a career. People are always tearing each other down so they can get ahead. In competition, it’s always called “psyching them out.” You make the other person go crazy so they can’t succeed or so they quit. People hit thumbs down on Youtube videos just to be jerks. When will everyone learn that it’s not all a competition? Or that we can award the best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not good (especially when you’re not in the contest)? I keep thinking, “Oh, this film wasn’t a feature and it only cost me $300,” but who really cares? I made something awesome and if others don’t see it as awesome, I MADE SOMETHING. I put my blood, sweat, and soul into something, which is more than most people can say.
Lately, I have been working on reprogramming my brain to make me not repeat the discounting words of others and trying to see myself as I am because the cycle of thinking makes me very depressed, and as someone who repeatedly struggles with mental illness, Imposter Syndrome is not helping on top of the other things going on in my head. I have done many amazing things in my 29 years of living. I have traveled with sideshow, doing many shows from carnivals to sold out Insane Clown Posse concerts in front of thousands of people. I have two self-published e-books. I’m on the DVD of Friday the 13th Part 2. I have been in magazines, have made over 100 short films (all of which should count as short films, despite many of them being made alone and uploaded to the internet). I made a commercial that aired on TV by myself. I am waiting on news of a fellowship for a novel I am working on. I have worked on several feature films and two of my three short films that I have allowed screenings have been award winners.
I am awesome. I can say this now because I am in a good mood and I know that in a few days, or maybe even a few hours, I will stop feeling this way and will once again believe I am a fake and that I don’t actually deserve these accomplishments. I do deserve them. I am good at what I do. There will still be people trying to force that way of thinking back onto me, but I need to recognize it as their own personal fault, not mine. I could always do better, but improvement comes with practice and time, as do more major achievements. Other people have not done anything outside of the set path of graduate, get married, have kids, stay at the same company for 40 years.
I dare to take a different path even among artists. Different does not mean I am a fake.
I’m not the person who plagiarized a bunch of writers’ works to make a web series based on the work. I’m not a con-artist. I’m authentic.
If you are feeling like you are a fake, that you don’t deserve your achievements, I urge you to look at your accomplishments through fresh eyes. What would a younger you think of the things you’ve done? Can you see where you’re headed if you continue?
If you’re perpetuating Imposter Syndrome in others, you should also look at yourself. Shouldn’t you put more effort into making something of your own, instead of making enemies?