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Madam? Do you belong here?

“I don’t just study impostorism, I experienced it. And I didn’t just experience it, I inhabited it.”

- Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School Professor

Rachel Prendergast Producer

Image: Hi...would I maybe, possibly, be allowed to join this room full of people who are far more experienced, confident, wealthy, young, successful, talented etc etc etc, than I am? No? Ok, yes, of course I understand, that is so fine. I'm fine. It's all fine.

Ah, imposter syndrome. One might joke, very flippantly amongst friends about feeling like an imposter in a certain scenario, and as we do so especially well as British people; we joke about something that you actually feel very deeply and seriously about, but just throw it out there over a glass of wine between Bumble finds and cheap holiday options, and see if anyone notices that you are, in fact, desperate to unpick these feelings. But alas, more often than not, it’s laughed off and dismissed, “Oh, don’t be so daft” - and normal chat of recent Vinted purchases and new cocktail places resumes. 

But, Imposter Syndrome can be utterly crippling. And as Amy Cuddy writes, it is something you don’t just experience, but inhabit; taking up an arrogant amount of space in your head, bolshy and full of ego, but cowardly hidden from friends, family and colleagues. A monologue slowly gnawing away at your self-esteem; the Hyde to your Jekyll, feeding this notion that you do not belong. Sadly, social media only adds fuel to this raging fire of self-doubt, as we are relentlessly bombarded with people who seemingly breeze through life, slot in, are accepted with open arms and succeed with an air of confidence and ease we can only dream about. It’s also worth noting, these elusive people are few and far between, if they exist at all. Even the most famous and accomplished people on this planet have suffered with deep feelings of imposter. But when you are down that hole, the mental gymnastics of convincing yourself of this, doesn’t cut through.

I have felt like an imposter on MANY occasions. Sometimes you self-inflict imposter feelings, which I did on a massive 'sleepless nights and copious cigarette intake' scale, whilst on a project working with the amazing producers Mark Huffman and Aidan Elliott, alongside Dame Judy Dench and Grandson, Sam Williams. Did I belong with these people? Why on Earth did they call me?! To producing a short film with 40 students all looking to you for filmmaking guidance and experience, but really, you feel like they have their act together far more than you ever did, and oh god, I am a major imposter right now - and they can see straight through me. This is fraud.

Working with Judy Dench, Sam Williams, Jenny Cavell on Spirited for Apple+ TV. If you think for one second I am going to be humble about this day, you are wrong. It was terrifying and fab in equal measure.

Image: Working with Judy Dench, Sam Williams, Jenni Carvell on Spirited for Apple+ TV.

If you think for one second I am going to be humble about this day, you are wrong. It was terrifying and fab in equal measure.

Neither Richard, co-founder of SubMotion (and my husband!) or myself attended film school or studied at university, we have no family or friends in the advertising or film business whom we may have ‘earned’ our place in the industry through. We were, and are, total imposters in the world of filmmaking. What right do we have to claim to be a producer? A writer and director? Running a film production company? The audacity of it!

SUbMotion Productions producing short film Maximus

Image: Richard and I fraudulently running a film production company, with all these frauds.

Well, I’ll tell you what right we have. 

We wake up each day, passionate about what we do, so much so that when times are tough (and I think we can all agree they have been tooooough!) we continue to learn more, fail more, revel in the smallest of wins, and choose to work alongside a network of clients, friends, freelancers and brands that embody this same attitude of positivity and collaboration, over self-gratification. 

By definition…

imposter or im·post·er / noun

1. Someone who is an impostor is dishonestly pretending to be someone else in order to gain an advantage.

… we are in fact NOT imposters. Horrah.

Not an ounce of dishonesty or pretence. We are simply getting on and doing it, and if I do say so myself, doing it well.

Besides, does anyone really feel 100% confident in their abilities, knowledge and acceptance all the time? Having never experienced even the slightest pang of being an outsider? If this is you, please do email me, because I’d love for you to teach us all how to embody this! But I just don’t think anyone is immune. And if none of us are immune and we have all felt like this at some point in our lives, be it our personal or work life, shouldn’t we all take a minute to think about how we should act to disperse such feelings in others? Just get on with learning and gaining from each other instead. You get over yourself, I’ll get over myself and we can crack on!

I attended an event called the Big Book Crit* the other night. An event which allows speed dating between creative students, studying anything from design to film, and a selection of 40 creative professionals from the region. SubMotion have been (imposters!) on the creative professional panel for years and this week I noted how nervous many of the students who sat opposite me seemed. But as the evening went on, I was overwhelmed by the incredible talent, creativity and pure originality of some of the work I saw. Sometimes, you don’t feel like you can actually teach them anything new, they are so accomplished already (it’s quite terrifying really!). But what I do ensure, is that they live my table after 15 minutes, understanding that they, and their work, have a right to be entering a professional industry with as much belonging as someone who has been there for years. Because if you do not start banging at that door, for fear you are an imposter, the door will not open. Wow, now that was profound and extremely unobvious. Sarcasm aside, it seems obvious, but imposter syndrome can stop you from pushing yourself into uncomfortable places, but one small achievement after another, you will begin to feel like that egotistical, monologue in your head, becomes slightly less bolshy, more muted and put back in their place. Shushed, but not silenced mind you, just less loud.

Norwich Big Book Crit event and Norwich University of the Arts, NUA

Image: The Big Book Crit at Norwich University of the Arts

In recent years, life has been gruelling and we have been put through our paces as humans. So, I think it would be feasible to suggest, we should worry about one less thing. It’s about time we took pride in ourselves, our offerings, and our originality - no matter how insignificant you may feel they are in comparison,. Hold your head high and start belonging, rather than nervously skirting around the edge of your own life letting your imposter syndrome win.

Remember, you are not a fluke. 

* This wonderful event is run by DMA Talent and Cordell Burke, Global Executive Creative Director at Up There, Everywhere. A great collaboration breaking down imposter syndrome barriers for students.


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