Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday 2 February 2023


I think it is quite common for musicians and other performers to have a degree of imposter syndrome, I have certainly experienced more than my fair share of it over the years. I remember talking to a couple of singers once and saying how often I had the fear that somebody in an audience would stand up point at me and say "I'm paying to listen to proper musicians not them!" only to be told that is an ordinary everyday part of being a musician, that we all get it from time to time. I don't know whether it comes from setting too exacting standards, from not appreciating your own qualities or maybe from just not feeling sufficiently prepared. For me I think it came from the idea that I was always playing a part.

In costume as cabaret compere
This all came back to mind following a recent post over on Crysti's Condo where she talks about acting as her true self, and self confidence as the most important accessory a trans woman can have. Most people who know me would think that self confidence was something that I have never been short of, but believe me much of that was all part of the act, of playing the part. Whether I was playing the part of a manager, a musician, an entertainer, or whatever it always felt that I was playing a role not being actually being it. To this end I would always get into costume. A smart suit when I was being a manager, work boots and "fatigues" if I was a labourer, and of course the dinner jacket for concerts. These costumes would help me "get in character" help me to play the part, to give me that aura of self confidence. Little did people know the shrinking little girl inside.

2012 and still in costume

Having said all that it's hardly surprising that when I started to go out dressed I was still playing a part, true the costume was a bit more elaborate and the role a rather different one. Although playing a woman was in many ways a lot more satisfying than any of the other roles I had been playing, I was still getting into a costume to get into character to play a role. ~ I should say that I was totally oblivious to all this as to me at the time this was just how life worked.

Of course one of the things that visually separates men and women is often our hair, so if I wanted to go out I would have to adopt a wig ~ now I know some girls have to wear wigs for a variety of reasons, this is simply my experience and how I feel ~ at first I bought a rather nasty cheap grey wig, it was sold I think as part of an "old woman" fancy dress but it served my use. when this started to get a little tired I tried one in my original hair colour, dark brown, and it looked awful. I realised that if I was going to do this I should buy a decent wig, and ended up with the blond bob on the left. I realised that as my hair had gone greyer, my skin tones had changed as well, now dark hair made me look washed out, whereas the lighter blond tones match my natural grey.

2014 and out of costume, just me!
Of course as anyone who has had to wear wigs for any length of time knows they are not terribly comfortable, and very difficult to forget. As I gradually began to grow my hair and have it styled in a more feminine manner I could abandon my wigs, and that's when I made an interesting discovery.

Suddenly for the first time I felt as thought I wasn't in costume and wasn't playing a part. I wasn't dressing as a woman, I wasn't pretending to be a woman, I wasn't pretending to be anything, I was simply being me, being a woman. This of course also made me realised that for all those years I had been playing a role, pretending to be a man, now I could really start being me rather than simply playing the role that society expected of me.

Now I am being authentically me rather than role playing I have real self confidence, it's no longer an act, the imposter syndrome has (virtually) gone and as a consequence I am sure I am a better, nicer person, and I'm certainly a better musician. Without that self confidence from being true to myself I don't think I would ever have been have been able to do stand up in public, I used to "get away with" conducting, but now I love it and think I help others too.

Every now and then I do still play a role, and I will get into costume to do it. but these days I think the costumes are more fun! I have always loved clothes but now I just wear them for the joy of it, rather than to get into role. The strange thing is that when I started being honest about my cross dressing I thought it was all about the clothes, yet bizarrely it was through cross dressing that I realised just how much my "ordinary" day to day life had been all about the clothes.

No comments: