Insecurity is a very human experience. Even if you’ve established your success in something, that little voice of doubt makes its appearance at the worst of times. The key to navigating imposter syndrome, however, is to work with it. For critically acclaimed songwriter Natalie Prass, allowing herself to become a student of the craft again helped her to embrace the vulnerability of insecurity and identify the root of her struggles.
American Songwriter checked in with Natalie as she wraps up her songwriting degree at Middle Tennessee State University. A student of the program during its infancy in 2008/2009, the songwriter returned to secure her final credits. Check out her advice below for meeting imposter syndrome with curiosity and how returning to a structured school setting allowed her to heal and reconnect with the excitement of songwriting.
American Songwriter: So, what has been your experience in coming back to MTSU?
Natalie Prass: The songwriting program was super new when I was here before, so I got candidacy, but in 2008/2009. I was so scared to come back. And so scared to admit to anybody that I hadn’t finished. Because I was so close. I was like, “That’s so silly.” I still feel so embarrassed I never finished. And this is ridiculous. I need to free myself with this. So, I was like, I have to tell somebody. I told my husband first, and he was just like, “Oh, that’s it? Yeah, go back to school. Who cares?”
American Songwriter: Yes, tell me more about that. What was it like for you to go back to school while healing this insecurity?
NP: In the time like the pandemic, you just get locked up in your own thoughts and like you’re in this like loop. Then eventually your brain is telling you, “Okay, that is actually like how it is. You do suck, you do. You don’t know how to write songs anymore.” You just get caught in this loop. And this really helped in meeting a whole bunch of new people.
As far as having deep self-confidence, that’s something I’ve always struggled with. And so I’ve been trying to build that. “I feel good in my own skin” kind of confidence. There’s a difference between really feeling good in your own skin and just faking it. I just knew I had something to say, and that’s what kind of fueled me. My advice to you is just know you have something unique to offer.
When you get older, and you get out there and you’re actually working with a bunch of strangers, sometimes it’s like, “Oh, they’re so good. I have no right being in the room with this person.” I’m susceptible to that. I’m just like, “I’m not worthy.” I wish I would have learned to be comfortable in my own skin a lot earlier.
American Songwriter: What is it about the process that you’ve reconnected with?
NP: I think just the excitement of creating something that wasn’t there before, the excitement of discovering how you’re going to put something together that did not exist before. I still just get a huge kick out of the art. That’s my favorite part of it is like, “Oh, how am I going to put all the pieces together?” This really fun puzzle that I’m making. I love, love writing a drumbeat on a drum machine and then being like, “Oh my God, there are so many possibilities. What am I going to do?” I think before when I was in my funk, I would have my drum machine and go through all my sound and saved beats that I had made in the past. It felt like staring at a blank page. If you’re not an artist, you’re like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” That’s how it felt.
Class just helped me find what I love about it again, it really did. I know that’s really cheesy, but it did. There’s nothing like being in a class with a professor and students. It’s the best. It’s the best way to learn. And I’m really lucky that I get to do it.
Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns