The Arts Fraud Police Are Coming!

You are an arts imposter! You have ‘cheated’ your way in! You aren’t a ‘proper’ performer! You are going to be found out soon, by the ‘real’ arts professionals and believe you and me, they know… If those words strike fear in your heart, you are not alone! Lilly Laudanum has been feeling like an imposter for most of her life! And now she’s ready to face the fraud police…

Here’s a secret that’s been weighing me down since, like, I first picked up a drumstick at 15 (I didn’t have lessons, I couldn’t possibly be a ‘real’ drummer). I have lied to you all. I am pretending to be whatever you think I am. I have tried so hard to keep up this facade of ‘professionalism’ but to be honest, my game is up; they are on to me and it’s only a matter of time…

Almost everyone who strives for ‘best’ – especially those who work in the arts industry have these feelings at some time – as Amanda Fucking Palmer (Dresden Dolls and just awesome performer) puts it, that the Fraud Police are going to knock on our door and say, “You stand accused of making stuff up as you go along, you do not deserve your job or any of this and we’re here to take everything away” (watch this it’s amazing!) Now here’s a little secret: most of us feel like we don’t deserve to be in the position we are in, and that we’ve somehow cheated the ‘real’ people out of the jobs… We constantly feel lucky to live off our own creations (which is no bad thing to count our blessings) but feel we have juped people into believing our talent lie, and we are looking over our shoulder in case of the ‘real people’ you know, those ‘who deserve it more’ come and take their job back. We second guess ourselves, we doubt our abilities and achievements and constantly revise things.

lillylaudanum_trialanderror2_marywhiteI’ve had this feeling in whatever job I’ve worked. And that’s been a lot. I wasn’t educated to degree level, I didn’t go to drama school or train as a journalist, I just fell into these things – and that is part of the problem. I feel like it’s all been luck, like I’ve given someone the right wink and they’ve taken my hand. I’ve written for an International music title and interviewed massive people in the rock world (Manson, Maiden, Motorhead, Ministry – and other acts beginning with different letters…) and in that time, although I knew I was good at my job great at extracting awesome ‘confessional-style’ interviews (must be my fraudulent people skills right there…) and writing funny, entertaining and thought-provoking features (which sometimes made people cry – hopefully not with horror…) I still second-guessed myself. I still sat (and sit!) at my desk, whilst slaving away on my 3000 word cover story, waiting for that tap on the shoulder by someone who had ‘found me out’.  I ran the actors company at a top London attraction, training actors, devising shows, making costumes (I still make costumes for them and some of the shows I ‘invented’ are ‘brand shows’ that have been rolled out in the other venues) but, however lucky I felt to be in my dream job (halloween every day! Creative boxes constantly ticked – ooh we do like to keep our boxes ticked!) I felt like someone with at least a ‘degree’ was waiting in the wings to ‘expose’ me (I’d rather they exposed themselves, much more fun!).

So we come to this burlesque business… This life of cabaret – all the world’s a stage and we are just merely players… Or are we? Some of us are looking over our shoulders for the ‘real’ players to come along and take their jobs back. We harshly judge ourselves for lying to the audience, for making them believe in us… The higher the praise, the more the pressure to keep up the facade – we can’t be found out, remember? Which could then lead to feelings of guilt – ‘wow, these people believe all the glitter-coated lies’…

lillylaudanum_trialanderror_marywhiteIf all this is familiar to you, then you are not alone. In fact, Imposter Syndrome is actually a thing. First mentioned by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in an article written in 1978. They found that high-achieving women are more likely to suffer, believing they’re  not intelligent, and that they were over-evaluated by others. It’s not a mental disorder or personality trait and apparently it affects over 70 percent of the population and can be seen as a mild form of anxiety. We are actually our harshest judges and critiques. It’s why we do well, because we care. We care about our output, which is why you often catch us over-thinking our work, over analysing our output and we care what others think of us. That we’d better keep on fooling the Fraud Police (remember: those silent watchers who could come at any time and reveal us!), blinding them with our rhinestone-encrusted ways. So I’m going to tell you something that will change everything… The Fraud Police are FRAUDS! yes! They don’t exist. They are this made-up force that have been lying to you that they’re here to take all your talent and suck it up into a big black hole. Don’t let them take you alive! You are not alone – if we put everyone in a room who feels the same, then we’d need a pretty big fucking room… Perhaps a whole continent? We could even call it the Land Of Liars – bagsy me as queen.

Joking aside, one of the only ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to own it. And actually, I’ll tell you another secret – we are the genuine articles. We may not have got here through University (don’t you sometimes cringe inside when surrounded by those discussing which arts school they graduated from, hoping they won’t ask you the same question? Yes, we’ve all been there), but we got here through LIFE and through just working very fucking hard, having life experiences and actually because people like what we have to offer. You, the magic in you, has got you to where you are today. If you’ve applied for a job, you were the one they picked, not because they were so dumb they were blinded by your lies (come off it! Give those who believe in you some credit!), but because they believed you had something to offer and they wanted it. Yes, we strive for perfection, but who the hell is perfect? What is perfection? And would we really be happy if we achieved it (or actually, would we even notice – because if you think anything like me, you wouldn’t believe you had achieved it and would carry on pushing…)?

Some quick Imposter fixes…

  • Take off the mask – by this I mean tell others how you feel. You’re not seeking their approval, but you might be surprised they are shocked at how you feel – or that they feel like it too.
  • Own it… Yes, I just said that before – but acknowledge that it is a ‘thing’ and that others feel it too. That it is normal to think it.
  • Believe – that you deserve what you are being paid. That you deserve to be where you are in your career.
  • Stop thinking that the ‘you’ that is the fraud is different to the ‘you’ that others believe is the expert. You are the expert. Or you are pretty close to it. If others value your opinion and you are able to talk freely with them on whatever topic, you are all on the same level.
  • Laugh at your mistakes. EVERYONE makes mistakes. You occasionally making mistakes in whatever it is you do shows you are real, not a robot. I fucking fell over on stage the other day. I could have felt that the whole audience would know I was lying to them about my fakeness as an entertainer. Instead I laughed and learned. Ooh, and I ticked the ‘entertained audience’ box too – as they found it hilarious. Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t mean the fraud police are waiting in the wings, literally, with a hook to drag you out of the limelight.
  • Accept that you can’t know everything. And you are not a fraud because you don’t know everything. We sometimes think of experts on a subject as those who know and achieve everything. No one can hold that much information – their brains would actually explode. So accept that you don’t know all. No expert does. And actually what makes us more human is admitting this.
  • That everyone is making up stuff as they go along. EVERYONE> it’s how great things are invented, how great shows are created, how new magic is produced. It’s called being an innovator. And that’s good…

Right, now take a deep breath and look at yourself. You are the real deal… You really are. You deserve this. Right, I’ve gotta go – there’s a knock at the door… 


(main pic DNA Photography and pics in feature Mary White).


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