LONG READ ALERT!!! :)
dear OP...I'll see your "ramble", and I'll raise you two rambles!
so many awesome gems here, folks! glad I stumbled on this site as I could use these reminders even for myself.
I arrived here by trying to find tips on how to minimize accidental string noise on bass and guitar while moving around the fretboard. I'm a 41 year old who has had some sort of relationship with music for over 20 years, but I've only been "playing" (yea, let's call it that..."playing") the guitar now for almost 2 years. I still suck. and the bass I'm playing has been in my possession for almost 10 years and I'm JUST NOW starting to try to dive in (smh). also, I have a Fender Rhodes Seventy Three in my room that I can't play AT ALL, so while I'm still actively working in music and still get paid to do that work and still getting mixes approved and still getting new clients, that feeling of "am I good enough?" or "am I a real musician?" is still there.
that's what this journey can do to you as a creative, and I'm sure anyone who has any kind of passion for anything has felt some iteration of this feeling at some point. and the pressures and expectations that feeling creates can push you to that point of doubt and insecurity and frustration. and it doesn't get easier as the talent pool keeps getting more and more crowded and competitive with every Macbook Pro and Mbox sold!
but I believe that this is the time to truly measure your love for this thing or anything that is important to you...when it's at it's lowest point. here is where you find out how much this all means to you, not during the times when the productions are perfect and the people are cheering and the checks are clearing. I think you have to be able to have a real conversation with yourself, one that only you can have and ask yourself "self: how much do I REALLY love all of this??" I know my personal answer is "no matter how much I think I suck at any of this at times (that's what being an imposter...err...perfectionist can make you think), I still love it with all of my being!" and that is enough for me to get through my lowest points of inspiration, doubt and motivation.
try to remember that you didn't get this far by accident. you being at this very point on your journey is the result of some questionable decisions, but also some really good ones as well! recognize that and honor it. Richard's point of giving yourself some credit is key...less focus on what you can do and more focus on what you can do. and maybe try this:
get around other musicians...that's your immediate peer group. of course every group will have the ego driven types that do a ton of boasting, but you'll also find a support group of sorts in the folks that likely feel the same way you do. we have to help each other get through this stuff TOGETHER and being around more creative folks of varying skills/talents/abilities can help.
use YOUR work, not the work of others as a gauge of your progress. VERY often, I will pull up a previously approved mix/master session and mix it differently using different techniques, plugins, etc...just to see if/how my ears and workflow have changed over time. you'll be surprised at how much you've grown!
pick ONE potential area of improvement and try to acquire as much information in that ONE area as possible. trying to break up an infinitely deep rabbit holes of information into smaller, more manageable chunks can work wonders for gaining new insight in any given area. "how to be a better mix engineer" is so general, it can make the end goal seem impossible to reach. instead, research "vocal mixing tips" and try to find as many inspiring tips as you can on how to improve your vocal mixing technique. and then apply what you've learned. if you're a guitarist, dig around for tips on how to use your scales more creatively in your work.
I truly hope this has been more than a ramble that you find something useful here. I'm also content to bookmark this thread as my own confirmation in the future that these feelings are normal when you care about what you do...and after the quick read through these really inspiring tips, I'll TRY to get back to what I love! much positivity and clarity to you all and thanks for sharing!
peace and continued blessings!