"I don't belong here" . . . Yes, you do!

Jun 08, 2022
Written by Melvin Tunstall III

“I don’t belong here. I’m not as far as you guys.”

Dear TheaterMaker,

Thank you for your honesty and openness about feeling the way so many of us do on a daily basis. Whether it’s scrolling through social media and seeing an endless stream of our friends back in rehearsals for Broadway shows, or hearing the announcement that a peer’s new show found a commercial producer, or simply checking in with the #WeeklyWins on our Theatermakers Facebook Group, it is easy to feel like you don’t measure up. Like you don’t belong. 

Simply put, you may start to feel like an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful. Like most beliefs, it takes the brain time to form deep roots, so when it comes to defeating Imposter Syndrome, the secret is to recognize the 5 different types of “imposter brains.” 

Expert on the subject, Dr. Valerie Young, has categorized it into subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert



Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-dinga-da-dinga dong. Understandable, considering perfectionists set incredibly high expectations for themselves (you know, to be PERFECT) and often when not reaching a desired goal, find themselves falling victim to self-doubt. Even successes can sometimes be ungratifying because our self-critical thoughts always believe we could have done better. Adding to the fun, perfectionists are often labeled “control freaks” because of the belief that if we want something done right, we must do it ourselves. 

  • Do you have a problem delegating? Even when you do delegate, do you feel frustrated and disappointed in the results?
  • When you miss the (unreasonably high) mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for the job and ruminate on it for days or weeks even? 
  • Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?



Initial signs point to this week’s questioner – or commenter I should say – may fall into this group. People who experience the Superwoman/Man phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst “real-deal” colleagues. As a result, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up and receive validation. However, increasing your workload and- even more problematic- relying on others for validation, can often lead to harmful effects on one’s mental health. Luckily, as you become more attuned to the warning signs, you will be able to nurture your inner confidence, slow down and you gauge how much work is reasonable.

  • Do you stay later at the theater than the rest of the team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work? 
  • Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?
  • Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer to prove your worth?



Dr. Young says this type of “imposter” believes they need to be a natural “genius.” As a result, they judge themselves based on ease and speed as opposed to effort. In other words, if they take a long time to master something, they feel shame. Like The Perfectionist, The Natural genius sets the bar incredibly high for themselves- often placing the exception of mastering a skill immediately upon themselves to their detriment. Personally, I have fallen victim to this symptom of the syndrome more than I would like to admit. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret giving up on piano lessons when I couldn’t play and sing like Aretha Franklin after one lesson!

  • When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?
  • Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own?
  • Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?



Soloists wouldn’t be caught dead asking for help. They “go it alone,” feeling as if asking for help reveals them to be a fraud. Now, of course there is no problem with being independent and wanting to accomplish a goal on your own, but in a business where collaboration is key, The Soloist would do well to quickly learn the power of letting others in when they have reached the limit to their skill set.

  • Do you have an unshakable belief that you need to accomplish things on your own? 
  • “I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you? 
  • Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?



Experts base their worth on “what” and “how much” they know or can do. Fearing they will be exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable, they begin to believe they will never know enough and work tirelessly to increase their skill set. Yes, it’s true that there’s always more to learn and increased knowledge can certainly help you make strides professionally. But taken too far, the tendency to endlessly seek out more information can actually be a form of procrastination.

  • Are you constantly seeking out training because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed? 
  • Even if you’ve been in your role for some time, can you relate to feeling like you still don’t know “enough?”
  • Do you shudder when someone says you’re an expert? 


No matter which category you might fall into, if you struggle with confidence, please know you are far from alone. Studies suggest 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career. What is most important is that you don’t let these feelings drive you AWAY from groups like The TheaterMakers Studio! We are proud to have members from every level from novice to Tony Award Winner and we wouldn’t have it any other way! No matter where you find yourself on your theatermaking journey, chances are someone from our tribe has already been there and will offer help when needed. Believe me, there are no imposters Among Us!


P.S. If you’re ready to speed things up but know you need some help, get on a call with my team. They’ll give you an honest assessment of where you are and if you’re ready to go to the next stage. Click here.



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New York, NY 10036

Phone: 877-806-9969

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