TikToker Cate Osborn Talks About the Imposter Syndrome She Felt After Hitting 1 Million Followers

Cate Osborn

We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.

This week, we caught up with Cate Osborn, aka catieosaurus, over email. Osborn is an ADHD and sex advocate who has over 1.2 million followers on TikTok. She creates educational videos and is the co-host of mental health podcast Infinite Quest, which is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Osborn spoke with us about what she wishes she knew when she first started out as a creator, the imposter syndrome she felt after hitting 1 million followers, and the support she’s found within her community.

The interview below has been condensed and edited.

What’s the first thing you do to start your day online?

I do a community hang-out on Twitch, which has become a cornerstone of my community. We have a group of about 150-200 regulars who come by to check in on each other, vent, share celebrations and successes. We remind each other to take our meds and drink water; it’s a very uplifting experience, and can really set the tone for the rest of my day.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out as a creator?

1. You can’t please everyone. 

Someone will always find a reason to be mad at you or hurtful to you. If you try to please everyone, it’s the best way to burn yourself out. I spent too much time agonizing over every comment, message and interaction I had, just to make sure that no one was mad at me. I realized the best thing you can do is: learn to distinguish valid criticism from pedantry, spend less time on the negativity, and way more time on the messages of kindness and compassion.

For context, I have received: criticism from my hair cut, how I should dress to look less “heavy”; death threats and rape threats; messages saying that I’m faking my mental illness for clout—I was diagnosed with ADHD at 30 and live with depression—that I’m a pervert for being openly bisexual. The main thing I get told is that ADHD and/or depression doesn’t exist and that I’m exaggerating my reality.

2. Creating content is a full-time job. 

When you decide that being a content creator is a path that you want to build and sustain, you dedicate every moment for success. I’ve worked 10-12 hours a day, every day for two years to get where I am now. I push out 2-4 videos a day, do live streams, shoot episodes for the podcast, edit videos, find inspiration for new videos, admin, work on certifications to build my professional qualifications, attend conferences, reply to DMs and update the website, it’s a lot of work. 

When did you realize you’d broken through and become a successful creator?

I was at DragonCon in Atlanta last month (early Sep 2021) and just hit 1 million followers on TikTok. It was my first major convention and I had a room where people showed up to hear me speak. I felt imposter syndrome, was terribly anxious and unsure if anyone would even turn up. 

Over 40 people attended and due to COVID-19 restrictions, people were turned away. Afterwards, almost everyone waited in line for two hours to meet me, take pictures, say thank you and share their stories on how my work has impacted them or their relationships. It was a humbling experience to see this massive line of people standing there to meet me

At that moment, I realized I’m doing something that is affecting people, that my education and advocacy means something to people. Knowing this has profoundly changed how I see myself. I know my work matters and I’m not embarrassed to say that.

If you hadn’t become a creator, what would you be doing right now?

Some kind of performance-based work. Before the pandemic, I was the Entertainment Director at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and loved it. It was the best job and I was great at it. Prior to that, I was an actor and teaching artist at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. I have two masters degrees in Shakespeare and a BFA in Theatre, so my heart has always been in performing and creating and educating; I just found a unique way to do that online for a much larger audience than I ever anticipated.

What’s one thing you do to manage your relationship with your fans?

Always keeping my DMs open. While I am transparent that I can’t always reply to their messages, it’s important that my fans have the ability to reach out if they have questions or need guidance towards different resources. I also add useful resources in my linktree to hopefully help people find the support they need.

Simultaneously, creating boundaries while keeping my DMs open is important to manage my relationships with everyone. It varies depending on the platform—Tiktok, Youtube, Twitch, OnlyFans, Instagram, Twitter—that I engage with them on. There is a strict list of topics that I won’t answer or can’t advise on, especially when related to medication or symptoms or diagnosis, as I am not a doctor. I just live with ADHD and mental health.

What do you think of the idea of cancel culture?

It’s a razor’s edge. We should be accountable for our actions, and that accountability and responsibility are paramount for being a good person. Many of the people who have been “cancelled” have rightfully deserved it. However, there is a difference between reprehensible behavior and someone who honestly makes a mistake, or finds themselves in a situation where what is maybe not a huge deal but becomes one as the community double-down on their perspective.

The prevalence of short-form content and social media has resulted in the death of nuance. I see this a lot on TikTok. Someone uses an outdated phrase or terminology, or presents an idea perhaps less than ideally, and the comment section is suddenly filled with people smugly reminding them that they’re a terrible person for saying X instead of Y, and it turns into an echo chamber of who is the most correct. And that’s really hurtful and harmful behaviour.

We have to remember that not everyone is on the same page or on the same journey in terms of being “all the way” there yet. Rather than rushing to cancel someone, we should instead open a dialogue for a teaching moment. 

How much of your true self do you show online?

Being my true self has allowed me to be the creator I am today. Sharing my story, experiences, struggles, frustrations, and passions or what gets me excited; people respond to that and tell me they feel the same and we are not alone. The community was formed around this idea and is a valuable lesson for me to learn as a content creator. 

I’m pretty open about my life it’s the bulk of my content, which is on: self-advocacy, mental health, sex and how it is all interrelaled. I share certain aspects of my relationships with my husband and partner, keeping intimate parts just between us. And in relation to my sexuality, I’m open about the fact that I’m demibisexual and what that means for my neurodivergent experience.

What’s one of the best interactions you’ve ever had with someone who follows you?

A regular who comes to most of my daily Twitch streams, has a daughter who is around 8 or 9 years-old, who really likes to draw, let’s call her Annie. On my streams, I do this thing where people can redeem points and I’ll improvise a song for them, on the topic of their choice via the ukulele.

Annie was scared to go to the dentist, so I wrote this elaborate bardic song about how this brave adventurer princess named Annie, went to the dragon dentist and found the magic toothbrush. She loved it and ended up being super excited to go to the dentist and drew me a thank you picture.

Annie’s mom asked me to open the picture on stream with the entire community, who was already hyped up and waiting to see it. I wrote another elaborate and ridiculous ukulele anthem about how great it was. Since then, Annie’s mom has kept our community discord server updated on her journey as an artist.

It was a small gesture to help a little kid go to the dentist. It grew into an online community that ended up supporting a young artist who is now awaiting the official public opening of her Art Store (in her bedroom). It speaks to the power of community and how being kind can lead to much more kindness.

What is your most treasured tool?

Lioranboard. It’s a program that allows you to do different things on Twitch, like switch screens and do little pop up animations and stuff. It’s a steep learning curve and you have to work to get good at it, but it’s been a game changer in terms of the content I’m able to produce and the fun interactions I can have with my community.

What holds you accountable?

My desire to not let down my community. I want to be the best person I can be, to educate and advocate ethically, with kindness and compassion.

I owe it to my community to produce the best content possible. I am meticulous about research; I work hard to be as inclusive and welcoming as I can, and, sometimes I screw up. But those are still opportunities to teach and to create a stronger community, and so when that happens, I hold myself accountable for the community.

My community has done so much for me and I don’t take that for granted. They fought for me when my account was maliciously reported by homophobes; they supported me when I had a major depressive episode; and followed my journey to getting on antidepressants, while offering their support and kindness.

This experience has been the absolute honor and privilege of my life. I have found a community that embraces and accepts me for who I am, found a job that I am deeply passionate about, a special niche in that job (neurodiversity & sex and also gaming/dungeons and dragons)—and that is extraordinary. Not everyone gets an opportunity to do something that they truly love to do, and I’ve been given this one. I literally get to play Dungeons and Dragons for work and use that as an avenue to talk about inclusivity and ableism in the gaming community. It’s incredible. 

Thank you, Cate, for talking with us!

We’ll be featuring a new Q&A with a creator every week, so shoot an email to [email protected] for a chance to be included.

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