At work, I am sometimes introduced to clients as the resident “social media Expert“.
At home, the wife has been known to say I am a very good cook
Sometimes, people stumble on to my ramblings and leave a little note. “Loved what you wrote!”, they say.
I smile, nod and grit my teeth through it all. Faking my way through the compliments. Guilty, because honestly, they should belong to someone else. I fooled them all, and stole these compliments away from someone who deserves it.
It never goes away. Never really stops being true. The best I can hope for is to subdue the nagging voice under a thin veneer pretense and confidence. I’m still faking it, but some days, it’s easy to buy into the act myself.
On other days, not so much. On other days it is a beast screaming in my ear. Or it’s one of those bug-eyed cartoons of my childhood, all spiky hair and honking sound effects, pointing and laughing. “You fooled them this time,” it says “but what about next? How pissed off do you think they will be when they figure out how fake you are. Forget being an expert, you’ll be ex-employed!” My inner voice has a terrible sense of humour.
Yes, I know there’s a name for it. It’s called impostor syndrome. Apparently 70% of everyone, hell, even really smart people are affected by it from time to time. People who write great American novels and cure diseases and accept awards from other very smart people. In fact, smarter people suffer MORE from it. But here’s the problem. Nowhere does it say that dumb people don’t.
That’s the thing about anxiety. It makes you feel like you are a special snowflake, but special in a very different way. Like you have been singled out to be extinguished with a blowtorch, like the world has been aligned and designed to expose how stupid you are. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because it’s going to be so much more fun when you are finally exposed as a fraud. Sure, the really smart people feel like undeserving impostors, but maybe one really really dumb guy feels it to, and that dumb guy is me?
It’s an interesting problem because at it’s heart lies a streak of narcissism. I’M the special one. I’VE been selected by destiny. Not to pull the sword out of the stone but to be the idiot who tries and fails spectacularly after everyone said I could do it. So what if I have pulled a few swords out of stones before? I’m sure I got lucky – they were loosed by all the other people pulling at it before I did. I’m sure the next one will be just a little too tight, and I’ll be left huffing and puffing and everyone who praised me will feel like an idiot. I won’t just let myself down, I will let everyone who supported me down.
“Make good art.” Neil Gaiman said, but you know what? Fuck him. He already knows how to make good art! It flows from his keyboard like a sparkling stream, a babbling brook, a terrific torrent of ideas and outpourings. I bet he wouldn’t get stuck after “brook” and have to look up a thesaurus and then a dictionary to check the spelling of “thesaurus”. And now I just looked up the “Make good art” speech and it’s where he actually talks about how HE felt like an impostor and oh my god that just made it worse because if someone like him feels that way then what kind of a chance do I have?
So what’s the point? Not just of this blog, which I will agree is turning out to be rather pointless, but of doing those things anyway. Of writing. Or cooking. Things I feel I shouldn’t be because better and smarter people have already done a better job than I ever will. And the answer comes to me while I write this. Oh, it comes to me frequently enough, but I keep forgetting because the voice in my ear is so damn loud.
Here’s the thing about the beast. It’s only there when I am being praised. When someone is tasting my curry, or reading my blog. When I manage to turn another project over successfully and indulge in a round of backslapping. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it feels good, but yeah, it’s tinged and tainted. But you know when it’s completely, totally silent? When it hears the clacking of the keyboard, or the sizzle of the onions in oil. When I am harried, sweaty, stressed – that’s when the voice is replaced by words and ideas and plans. Possibilities are infinite, nothing can go wrong, because even if the pain and the sweat and the late nights don’t mean a fucking thing in the end it doesn’t matter because I am creating goddamit, and I love every moment of it! Even if I won’t feel it’s good ten minutes later or even art twenty minutes later, none of it matters because right now, at this moment, is where I belong.
Making good art.