Down For Tomorrow, on how to manage imposter syndrome in music

Down For Tomorrow, on how to manage imposter syndrome in music

The group's new single - titled Survive - speaks about the anxieties of uncertainty, and imposter syndrome definitely plays a part in that.

Header image by Robbie Walcott.

Down For Tomorrow aren't afraid to grapple with some of the bigger themes in their music. On their staggered-release EP Whatever Happens, the Sydney-based indie-punk group have tackled everything from selfishness and stubbornness (Show Me That You Care) right through to ghosting (Trouble Prone) and the difficulties of being supportive in a time of need (Until You Feel Alright); each theme dissected the emotional maturity and nuance of a band that use songwriting as a process for reflection, and working through things happening in their life.

However, their latest track Survive really takes things to the next level. It's a little more subtle and angst-ridden when placed comparatively to their past work, musically taking a step back to draw focus to frontman Cody Stebbings and his potent lyricism that takes centre stage throughout the course of Survive - and there's a good reason for that too. The track is perhaps the band's richest from an emotional/reflective point of view, channelling the emotions held by Stebbings throughout the rollercoastering pandemic restrictions as well as everything else going on in his life at the moment, which as everyone can no doubt relate to, has caused quite the emotional turmoil in our lives as we battle personal hardships on top of everything else going on in the world right now.

"I wrote the song within the first month of the lockdown restrictions being introduced in New South Wales, and at that time, I had momentarily lost my job," Cody says on the track, the final piece of the puzzle from their latest EP Whatever Happens, which has been gradually rolling out over the last few months. "All my classes had moved online, and I was just trying desperately to fill in all this free time I had with things that made me feel like I had done something productive - books, songwriting, journaling, exercising.

"Routine was simultaneous, my best friend and worst enemy. Besides, we never really know when this will end, or if this is the new normal," he continues. "So, this song is about the anxieties of uncertainty, and having to remind yourself constantly that if all you did was make it through today alive, that’s enough."

As it seems, one of the things Cody - and the rest of the band - thought about over this time was imposter syndrome, something that really impacts a lot of people working in music, from musicians right through to those that work behind-the-scenes. Simply put, imposter syndrome the all-too-relatable feeling of doubting your talent and skills; the feeling of being a bit of a fraud in whatever you're feeling doubtful about, even though your place and success is incredibly valid and worthy.

It's something that Cody has further dissected in a bit of an opinion piece for us, going deep on his relationship with imposter syndrome and how it's played a part in his career through the growth of Down For Tomorrow, and considering it's something we know a lot of people suffer from, it comes with some learnings and messages that are well worth the read.

Take a dive into the op-ed below, alongside Down For Tomorrow's full Whatever Happens EP.

Down For Tomorrow's Cody Stebbings, on battling + managing imposter syndrome: 

The compliments aren’t real. They don’t mean that, and you know it. Everyone else seems to have their heads screwed on while you are directionless and confused. There’s no way you can make a career in the arts or be anything more than your dreams. These are some of the many things that devil on your shoulder is telling you, your close nemesis, impostor syndrome. And it seems to be more common than we think. 

You may feel like you’re constantly holding yourself back, playing the role of your own worst enemy, and your largest obstacle. From the outside, it can easily be mistaken for being humble or kind, but self-doubt cripples and corrodes on the inside. It doesn’t discriminate either – high achievers can be constantly taunted by distorted contemplations that they are undeserving and are unable to celebrate any accomplishments.

While I may not have it as bad as others, I can say that a lot of personal achievements just haven’t felt right, and I’m convinced I shouldn’t be happy about it. I am so quick to encourage people to celebrate every small win they get and soak in the exaltation, but I ignore my own advice and focus on threats and dangers, because I feel hardwired to cast my attention towards things that hurt me. 

It’s understandable to feel these insecurities when you’re breaking the mould in a different way than you’re used to. The loudest voices tell you “it’s all luck”, and “I feel like a fake”, and the thought of following up any level of success seems unimaginable. That being said, there is no one way to experience it or fix it. But there are ways to work with it and train yourself to find a different perspective. 

The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it. Awareness is key, and as confronting and scary as it may seem, it’s courageous. Also, remember that it’s completely normal not to know everything, and as you progress, you will discover more about yourself and why you feel this way. Talk to people. People need people, and you’ll find that you are not as alone as you think. Open conversation is imperative for overcoming insecurities. 

The fact that you feel useless and fake right now does not mean that you really are. Repeat that to yourself as much as you can and reframe failure as a chance to learn.   You are allowed to make mistakes occasionally, so forgive yourself when you do, and don’t forget to praise yourself for doing the big things right. And it goes without saying that you should never feel ashamed about seeking support or coming forward about your weaknesses. You do not have to do everything on your own. 

Doctors have practised collecting enough evidence to say that there is no one-time fixing solution, but it is rather an ongoing overcoming process that is varied yet achievable for each person. It’s easier said than done to just stop thinking like an impostor - it’s a skill that requires training. Start by identifying moments when you act this way, accentuate the positive moments and the wins, and develop a kinder response to your failures. 

If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Headspace on 1800 650 890, QLife on 1800 184 527, Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277, ReachOut Australia.

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