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Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Today’s show is brought to you by THE DAVE BULLIS PODCAST

Imposter vs. Impostor

The noun referring to one who takes an assumed identity in order to deceive is variously spelled imposter and impostorImpostor has the edge, and it is the form recommended by most English reference sources, but imposter is not wrong.

Wow, so here we are at a very grand milestone for Film Pro Productivity and I’d like to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules and joining me here on this very special occasion. I’m not going to launch this one with any grand fanfare though as next weeks episode is not only the final show of this season but it is also the New Year special. I’ll talk more about that a little later but first let me look back at the last show, which was all about OUTRAGE CULTURE, a blight on the modern world if ever there was one. In that show, I delve into that topic and shed light on a grand manipulation pulled by strings held by the world media. It’s called Outrage Porn and it's available to listen to right now so if you have a few minutes to spare, go check it out.

Now Albert Einstein once said “…the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

And that feeling - spoken by a man that most today would regard as an unprecedented genius, is a very good example of how IMPOSTER SYNDROME manifests itself.

I often have to remind myself that the topics I cover here, some of which I have been thinking of for many years, are often entirely new concepts to many listeners. The term IMPOSTER SYNDROME was coined in the late ’70s by psychologists Dr Clance and Dr Imes and describes the feeling that HIGH ACHIEVERS have when they cannot recognize their success and are afraid of being exposed as a fake.

According to these doctors, it can be identified in three ways:

  • Feeling a fraud and being afraid of being ‘found out’.

  • Attributing success to anything but your own achievements.

  • Downplaying your achievements.

The term imposter syndrome is interchangeable for Imposter phenomenon, fraud syndrome or impostor experience but I’m going to refer to it as mostly today as IMPOSTORISM.

Impostorism is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". I’ve touched upon it before in my season one episode entitled THE INNER CRITIC but today I want to get very specific about what it is, how it limits and damages us and what we can do to overcome it.

A recent study noted that 70% of successful people had experienced feelings of imposter syndrome in their lives... And as it’s only the most awesome and highly successful people on the planet that listen to this show, I figured that this episode will be particularly relevant to you today.

Initial studies of this phenomenon were focused on women but over the years there have been many more and it’s now very evident that the problem of IMPOSTERISM is something that to an extent affects all genders and ethnicity.

Even now in my quiet moments, I suspect that I am going to walk onto a film set to discover that I just don’t know what I’m doing and that someone of import there is going to ask me to leave and bring in someone to replace me. Over the years too I have very often dodged the bullet of direct praise by bouncing it off onto others that have been involved. I’m simply not comfortable with praise. I find it kind of embarrassing and try to slink away from it when offered. I don’t mean to be rude when this happens I just don’t like being in the limelight.

Mostly though, I’ve been able to control these feelings. It took me years and years but I can now say pretty confidently, that I not only know what I’m doing in as much as it is possible to do so but that I’m really very good at what I do and deserve the payments and the accolades which I’ve had over the years. It’s hard to say that without sounding arrogant but I’ll stand by it.

The pressure of not wanting to sound like I'm full of myself or arrogant, especially since I’ve worked with many people who really were arrogant and I don’t want to appear to others as they appeared to me - is something I do struggle with though. I find that it is always easier for someone else to announce how wonderful you are, rather than to do so yourself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe it in yourself of course.

A couple of things have happened recently which have strengthened my self-belief.

The first was pretty simple. Partly due to my role here as the host of this podcast, I came to the realisation that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. That knowledge takes the pressure off feeling like you are expected to know it all and to be perfect – which is good news indeed for a recovering perfectionist like myself. I have an affirmation I use, and I talked about affirmations a few episodes ago – check it out if you missed it, but the one I use now is that I CAN ONLY SEE SO FAR.

No matter how hard I plan, I may still have to adapt on the day. This realisation takes the pressure of perfectionism off everything that I do but still allows me to plan in detail what I am doing.

Secondly and I kind of hate going on about it but I got treated very badly a couple of times this year and have had to change my outlook and my way of working quite considerably as a result. As I mentioned numerous times this season, it actually resulted in my giving up on film-making, which I’d been doing for 12 years, but there’s only so much a person can take.

Being looked down upon by idiots who have little or no understanding of matters on which I am an expert got me so annoyed that I finally called them out and when that happened the switch flipped in my head and I realised – wait a minute here – I AM THE EXPERT HERE not THEM.

I won’t allow myself to be treated as an inferior again, and so I’ve worked hard to subdue my feelings of imposterism and stand up for my rights. A few episodes ago I also tackled the topic of bullying, and you may have to use some of the advice from that show to get back control for yourself.

Now Jodie Foster famously suffers from this (She passed me once at the Cannes Film Festival and smiled in my general direction – just an aside - but I feel I know her now) She famously said -

‘When I won the Oscar, I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, “Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.”‘

That’s a really common theme with imposterism btw, Have you ever looked at someone else in your line of work and thought, I’m not as good as them, or as worthy of my place as them? I know I have… So to follow up on Jodie’s quote there, Meryl Streep said on this topic

‘You think, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”‘ Unquote

You can never be a mind reader folks, so don’t even try. It’s getting you nowhere. The human brain has a negativity bias so you will always think the worst.

The sort of people who most often suffer from the syndrome include “Perfectionists” who set extremely high expectations for themselves, “Experts” who feel the need to know every piece of information before they start a project, “Soloists” who feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud and “Supermen” or “superwomen” who push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors —and feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something. I think I was one of those for a while. It didn’t end well. Do you think you might fit into one of these categories?

And why do people suffer from Imposterism? In an article in Time Magazine by ABIGAIL ABRAMS, we discover that there’s no single answer. Some experts believe it has to do with personality traits—like anxiety or neuroticism— Psychologist Audrey Ervin focuses on family or behavioural causes.

Sometimes childhood memories, such as feeling that your grades were never good enough for your parents or that your siblings outshone you in certain areas, can leave a lasting impact. “People often internalize these ideas: that in order to be loved or be lovable, ‘I need to achieve,’” says Ervin. “It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.” Unquote.

The IMPOSTOR CYCLE is described as follows.

First, they’ll become anxious, which can make them spend too much time on the task or procrastinate and then rush to finish it. Once the project is done, they’ll feel relieved and accomplished. The feeling of relief when a project is over is something I have experienced many times. I am nearing the end of this series which has been very tough for me, and this feeling of anxiety about it all is extremely heightened right now.Next, The cycle continues as they won’t accept positive feedback.They’ll ignore the fact that they could actually be smart or talented — insisting that they got lucky, or just worked a lot without having real skills. They don’t think they deserve success, which creates more anxiety, so the cycle repeats itself once more.

IMPOSTERISM takes what we all know as self-doubt and magnifies it. I am trying to be careful not to drift too far from the topic so I’ll leave more general issues about confidence and self-belief for another show. If, however, what I’m going on about here is something you think applies to you then don’t panic - there are some simple ways you can start to overcome it:

  • First things first - remember: everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Remind yourself that your best is good enough. As I said on my episode on perfectionism though, this is not a that’ll do, It’s accepting that your GOOD ENOUGH can be really very good indeed.

  • Talk to someone. You are not alone – I’ve been researching for this for a few days and I can say that without exception, everyone that I have spoken to about it has recognised it in themselves. Share what you’re feeling with trusted friends or mentors. People who have more experience can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal, and knowing others have been in your position can make it seem less scary. If you want to delve more deeply into these feelings, then seek out a professional psychologist. There’s no shame in that and it is affordable despite what you may think. Having a really strong support system and getting on-going feedback that validates your efforts and outcomes is important for improving confidence levels.

  • Lastly, believe in yourself and ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS. Take recognition for the work you did, treat yourself and move on. I’ve mentioned this before too and it’s part of what is known as the CYCLE OF PRODUCTIVITY. If you don’t acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, if you miss that part out, then YOU ARE DOING YOURSELF A DISSERVICE and burying your accomplishments in the past. RECOGNISE YOUR SUCCESSES and THE FAILURES FROM WHICH YOU HAVE LEARNED and celebrated them. Write down lists of your achievements, skills, and successes to demonstrate that they really do have concrete value to share with the world. When it’s there in black and white, it can’t be denied.

Summing Up

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck, also fought feelings of inadequacy – he said “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”

Imposterism can be debilitating, causing stress, anxiety, low self-confidence, shame and in some cases, DEPRESSION. Perhaps the most damaging part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit our courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and PUT OURSELVES OUT THERE IN A MEANINGFUL WAY.

Remember “You can still have an impostor moment, but not an impostor life.

Call To Action

If today’s topic has resonated with you then I want you to begin to understand the power of your attitude toward yourself. How you perceive yourself, how you talk about yourself, and how you represent yourself eventually becomes a reality for you.

One of the first steps to overcoming impostor feelings is to acknowledge your thoughts and put them in perspective. And this is a huge part of productivity too – Self-assessment is an ESSENTIAL SKILL to develop if you are trying to improve yourself. “Simply observing your thoughts as opposed to engaging them” can be helpful, so try and ask yourself ‘Do these thoughts help or hinder me?’”

And if it happens that you're putting yourself down, belittling your worth, and making light of your talents, then you will come across as self-effacing, low in self-esteem, and almost a part of the wallpaper. You will also come across as I believe I did myself to some, A PUSHOVER.

Your call to action is Take a few moments RIGHT NOW to celebrate your victories and achievements. Take this further by identifying a specific time each week where you can look back over what you have achieved and celebrate it each and every week from now on. Don’t miss out this crucial part of the productivity cycle. If you have a diary, write it in there. Write my achievements and schedule 15 minutes to look back and think on them. This is part of the productivity cycle – if you DON’T do this, you are setting yourself up for a much harder journey ahead. The 15 minutes you commit to this, and it may take less, are more valuable than having 15 minutes of free time.


Comedian and time-travelling international man of mystery

Mike Myers says “At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.”

If that sounds like you, then I hope this episode will guide you to a better place.

Today’s show was sponsored by THE DAVE BULLIS PODCAST and if it wasn’t that show I wouldn’t be here today. I have listened to and enjoyed his shows as I went to and from many a gig and they certainly have taught me a lot and inspired me to do more, not only when I was making films but as a podcaster too. His episodes are incredibly informative and engaging and he has created a body of work which is very significant. Sadly though this hasn’t timed in too well as at the end of this year Dave will be taking down all of his shows and stopping his podcast. It is my hope that they will be repurposed and re-released in some way but as for now, you only have a few days left before they will disappear. In Dave’s last show he recommends this show and Alex Farrari’s Indie Film Hustle and for that too I thank you Dave. I just listened to his final show a week or so ago and it was absolutely incredible, so if you are a filmmaker and you plan to shoot a feature in 2020 I am ordering you to go and download it right now. Download as many as you can in fact because once they are gone we may not see them again. I’ll link to THE DAVE BULLIS PODCAST in the show notes and if you are on apple podcasts you may have to go there to listen as I think it’s already off of that platform.

Next week’s show will be a retrospective look over the past 50 episodes with a TOP 10productivity tips section and a good bit of advice for moving forward into this new decade too. Please join me for that and for another 50 awesome episodes yet to come!

Let me end with the words of Roy T. Bennett who wrote The Light in the Heart

“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.”

Now - take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’, and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.

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You can view the show notes for this episode on the official website

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