Have you ever experienced that awful feeling that someone, somewhere, is going to discover that you aren’t as smart/talented/employable/beautiful/brilliant as everyone seems to think? It’s an insidious thing and slides beneath the praise and recognition to cut doubt into your mind: ‘they’re so kind to say that, but it isn’t true – what if they find out that I suck?’
I’ve noticed this a lot lately in some of my smartest, kindest, best students. Mostly girls. From the outside it can be infuriating – believe me when I say you’re amazing dammit! But I know how it feels from the inside, and it can be very damaging.
I don’t know what causes imposter syndrome. I had it once upon a time. I don’t so much anymore, well, not about certain areas of my life. I’m confident I’m a good teacher even though I’m very aware of my failings and those lessons that could have been better planned. But when people praise me or tell me I’m amazing at my job I am super pleased, happy to be recognised, but I don’t feel like an imposter. I used to. I used to feel that people thought I was so smart, and one day they’d discover that I’m no great intellectual. I don’t know why I thought this. My family is probably the most supportive, encouraging, and affirming group of people you could imagine. The bullying I experienced at school was more about my lack of social inclusion rather than my actual attributes not being good enough. Even at 11, I understood the difference. I had a huge shock the other day when I realised my youngest son has a form of imposter syndrome. He’s super smart. Like, really smart. He is worried that everyone has said that he’s smart but because he doesn’t feel smart he’s just waiting for his teacher to discover he isn’t really. This has stopped him attempting homework – he gets frozen by the fear of being found to be an imposter.
The thing about imposter syndrome is that it warps your perception of reality. Continue reading “Imposter Syndrome – why it needs to be squashed like a bug”