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Music

David Bowie once openly discussed the moment he felt "utterly inadequate"

David Bowie oozed confidence, and whenever he stepped foot on stage, he looked as though it was one place on this planet in which he belonged. However, in reality, it was a completely different story, with Bowie once admitting that he felt “utterly inadequate”.

Throughout his career, the only constant for Bowie was that he was always changing and developing his characters, which on reflection, was perhaps a way for him to create a barrier between his true identity and his art. Despite his outward persona, behind the mask, he suffered from imposter syndrome, which made him throw every ounce of his body into his work as a coping mechanism.

Nobody can doubt Bowie’s originality, but remarkably, the man himself didn’t see himself in that same light. In a revealing interview in 1972, he admitted: “Sometimes I don’t feel as if I’m a person at all. I’m just a collection of other people’s ideas.”

This insecurity pushed Bowie on to brilliance, and perhaps, if he didn’t have that edge, he wouldn’t have made such an emphatic mark on the world. These problems particularly tortured him over the early years of his career, and he was insecure about almost everything about his identity apart from his art. 

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Looking back at this dark period, he told Q magazine in 1997: “I had enormous self-image problems and very low self-esteem, which I hid behind obsessive writing and performing… I was driven to get through life very quickly… I really felt so utterly inadequate. I thought the work was the only thing of value.”

Furthermore, Bowie saw his art as an escape which protected him from falling foul of severe mental health problems. His brother, Terry, suffered from crippling schizophrenia and seizures, but he felt that music gave his mind a vehicle to stop those thoughts from getting out of hand. He explained to the BBC in 1993: “I felt that I was the lucky one because I was an artist and it would never happen to me. As long as I could put those psychological excesses into my music and into my work, I could always be throwing it off.”

Although Bowie felt unnerved by the attention he received and being lauded as an icon, he never stopped fiercely believing in his music. When he stepped into a recording studio or on stage, he morphed into David Bowie and channelled the problems which haunted David Jones on a daily purpose into his art — without one, the other wouldn’t exist.

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