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Battling with "impostor syndrome"


I think this post will be relevant to many who have experience in working in the arts and other creative fields. I want to write about this as its been an ongoing struggle for me, not only with doing the podcast, but in the other creative/artistic pursuits which I've been doing for years.


For me, I am periodically and in fact frequently, hit by waves of massive self doubt where I question my ability or even right to be doing what I'm doing. A voice in my head tells me that what I'm doing is worthless and amateurish, that I'm kidding myseld to think that I'm any good. Sure, I've got a little better, but still what I'm doing offers very little of any worth. It becomes like a cancer of self doubt that spreads through my mind, to the point where the voice in my head is excorciating me for having the temerity to think I, a white male with the most homogenously Anglo heritage imaginable, should think I could tell the stories of the 177 different nationalites in Tasmania ? What are you bringing to the table, Mark ? I try to justify myself with my professional skills, my journalistic training and editing skills...Who do you think you are ? You're nothing special. You're barely offering anything of value. Look at all the mistakes you've made....you're a joke, you're embarrassing yourself....and so the doubts gnaw at me like festering maggots inside my brain.


Sometimes I just want to give up, feeling I'm just wasting my time doing this project which takes so much work and so much time for what sometimes seems like little purpose...But I keep pushing on. I've committed to this, any big journey has its steep hills to climb and rough rivers to cross. You may feel lousy at the moment, but it'll be worth it in the end. You'll get better at this. You've got time. Don't expect to be perfect, you are doing some things ok, just remember that.

But then just when self doubt seems to be about the engulf me entirely, I'll bump into someone, an African friend who mentions my podcast and says "You're doing some really important work"... or I get an email from one of my interviewees praising the job I've done in telling their story. I don't believe in living off compliments, you can't depend on them, but in moments of crushing self-doubt, this kind of validation really helps me stay determined and resilient. It can be easy to get stuck in your own dysfunctional world and not have any awareness of what effect your work is having on others and how meaningful it can be to allow others to tell their stories and be heard.


I am not good at receiving compliments, and often I feel I'm unworthy of them. People often mistake this for modesty, but actually in my mind I'm just trying to keep myself grounded. Just as criticisms can be subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt, same with compliments. But of course it very much depends on who they're coming from as well. That's why it's meaninful to me to receive meaningful feedback from the people whose stories I have recorded and edited.


So it's important to remain self-critical and always aim to be learning and trying to better oneself, but it's also important to remind myself that self-doubt is normal but don't allow it to bring you down or give up. It's just another bump you have to ride on the journey you're on and you have to realise that part of the journey is to face and overcome challenges both internal and external.



You can expect to be frustrated, demoralised and disappointed at times, but that just makes your achievements all the more satisfying, for as the clichee goes, nothing worth doing is ever easy or else it wouldn't be worth doing !


I hope others can relate to this and feel that they are not alone in having this feeling of being an imposter in the field. This is not abnormal. Don't be deterred. Keep pushing through those self doubts no matter how loud they shout. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes and you can feel like giving up, but you will reach those good moments where you bask in the sunshine for a bit and make the struggle through darkness worthwhile.


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