Looking Like The Hero, But Feeling Like The Imposter Of Our Story

Seth Godin recently made a post reminding us that even those who seem like they are well-established in their career as artists may not feel that secure. He cites an article on a recent documentary about the recording of “We Are The World” 40 years ago.

The article recounts how Huey Lewis’ knees were shaking when he sang a solo that had been intended for Prince who was a no-show.  Stevie Wonder was the MVP of the effort, intentionally flubbing his part to make other artists feel at ease and coaching Bob Dylan through his part–doing his Dylan impression–to help Dylan through his anxiety to hit his solo. Waylon Jennings ducked out when Wonder suggested inserting a Swahili phrase.  Shelia E. felt a little disaffected when she began to suspect she was invited to entice Prince to participate.

Godin notes that we assume all we need to feel confident is the recognition and validation of hundreds or thousands of people:

We’d like to believe that if we only had the adulation, market success, and fan support of superstars like these, then we’d finally be comfortable and able to do our best.

In fact, it seems the opposite is true. Imposter syndrome shows up because we are imposters, imposters acting ‘as if’ in search of making something better.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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