Dealing with imposter syndrome in the music community

Shortly after the birth of Vamp Media, myself and another founder Kennedy Enns were asked to come into CJSW, a local radio station, to do an interview about the site. We also sat down with some of the DJ’s at the station who identified as women, and we had a frank conversation about being involved in the music community and feeling like you aren’t supposed to be there.

As we were leaving, Kennedy remarked to me that she often felt the same way, and talking to others and doing an interview made both of us feel a little more validated about those feelings. I sometimes still feel that way, even though I’ve been involved in the community for over a year and have made some pretty neat friends along the way.

The name of the phenomenon is imposter syndrome. The feeling is felt much more by marginalized groups - women, LGBTQ+ individuals, racial minorities - and for good reason. More than anyone, people in those groups are told more often that they don’t belong in certain places. In a world where cis-white men still dominate many fields, it makes sense that we feel like this.

It rings true for the music community as well. Whether you’re a band member, a music journalist, working at a venue, or even just someone who enjoys hitting up local shows, the music community can be a harsh place for marginalized groups. It shouldn’t be your responsibility to disassemble the societal structures that affect you, but while some people are working on doing just that, here are a few ways I have personally dealt with this feeling that you might be able to relate to.

Talk to people who feel the same way

The first thing that made me feel better is knowing others felt this way. That’s not me being happy about other people’s suffering, but rather recognizing that I am not lonely in feeling misplaced in the music community. Once you start noticing other people have the same feelings as you, you are able to start realizing that you can’t all not belong. People you look up to and value feel the same way you do. By talking to these people, you can help each other feel a little better about your fears.

Understand that everybody fucks up

Your weaknesses do not mean that you don’t add value to the community. If you messed up on a song you were playing, missed a few notes, wrote a review that your editor didn’t like, or don’t know all the bands that someone is listing to you, that doesn’t mean you are out of place. If you make a mistake, or don’t have the same level of knowledge as someone else, your interests are still valid and you should be allowed to enjoy the things you want to enjoy. Mistakes are part of learning and growing in your craft. 

Realizing you can do what you want

There is no threshold that you need to meet to enjoy music and involve yourself in the field. The mere fact that you enjoy being there is enough, and if you continue being involved, you’ll learn more. However, it is true that sometimes spaces are not safe for some individuals, and it’s okay for you to not want to be somewhere that makes you feel unsafe. Reach out to people who are in similar situations to you (if that’s something you’re comfortable with) and see if they can recommend venues, musicians, or provide other advice.

Don’t be your biggest critic

Something I’ve learned from other areas of my life is that confidence doesn’t come easily. I often have to remind myself of my good qualities. This is a tactic many people use when trying to teach themselves body self-love, and it can also apply to your work and personal life. Know that you are constantly expanding your skills and knowledge, and you might not think the first thing you produce is the best thing ever, but it’s still something to be proud of. It's a process, and you will keep improving and learning and building on your interests and skills. 

Those are just a few things I try to do to get around the mindset that I don’t belong in the community. Of course, some people might not feel quite as ready to dive into music knowing that it often doesn’t welcome you with open arms. That’s completely valid too! 

If you were looking for a few helpful hints I hope this helped. Feel free to share ways that you challenge imposter syndrome for yourself in the comments below.