Have you ever felt like a fraud? You’re writing away or starting a new painting or composing a song and you’re suddenly stopped by those terrible voices in your head that say you’re a fake, a poser, a no-good mime of life.
I pretty much have this feeling every day. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing or working my business, it’s always there at some point—whether it’s a whisper or a tsunami of sound. That little nudge of self-doubt. Can I really do this? Will “they” find me out? Whatever made me believe I could write a novel? Or be an artist?
Imagine all the time, opportunities, and joy lost to the fear of “being found out.” I’ve known people who have become crippled by this fear. Unable to move on. Unable to pursue their dreams. Unable to get out of their dire circumstances. Unable to live.
Amanda Palmer’s 2011 commencement speech at The New England Institute of Art’s Class addresses this issue. Amanda calls these voices in our head the Fraud Police.
She says the Fraud Police are an imaginary terrifying force of grownups that don’t exist. But they come to your house at three o’clock in the morning and pound on your door and shout “Fraud police!! We’ve been watching you, and we have evidence that you have no idea what you are doing….You do not actually deserve your job and we are taking everything away and we are telling everybody.”
We’ve all felt, at one time or another, that we’re “fakers,” that we don’t really know what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter who you are—an artist, a teacher, a police officer—everyone has a fear of the Fraud Police finding them out.
Amanda says that there are no rule books for artists. Scientists and doctors and astronauts actually have an easier time because they have a specific path to follow with certain rules. They have a destination.
So, how do we combat the imaginary Fraud Police? One way, says Amanda, is to continue doing what you do. Every day. Take opportunities to learn and grow and help others in your field. Volunteer. Do your work. Create your art. Step outside your comfort zone.
She says, and I believe, that making art is just as important as building a bridge or curing cancer. After a long, stressful day of work or saving lives, what do you think these professionals need to save them? Yes, art.
Keep making your art. It is important. It saves lives.
When my Fraud Police stop by now, I say, “Hello! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I’m a fraud but so are you! At least I’m trying to figure it out. You’re just annoying. I’m busy now but check back later. Bye-bye!” What usually happens, is they go off and bother somebody else and forget to come back later, at least that day.
Watch Amanda’s short video here: