Here we are, standing in front of our students, responsible for their academic, social and emotional development. But who are we to take on such a role?
We are teachers, and probably damn good teachers at that, (would a ‘couldn’t-care-less-teacher’ be reading a blog on education in their free time?) However, the truth is that at least 70% of us, will at some point in our careers, feel like imposters. Coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, imposter syndrome is marked by a high achieving individual’s inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting imposter syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success that have achieved.
While this syndrome is not classified as a mental disorder, there are common markers:
- The tendency to reflect and dwell upon extreme failure, mistakes and negative feedback.
- Lack of courage or motivation to take on new challenges, for fear of exposing failure.
So, what can we do to address and manage imposter syndrome?
FIRST: Discuss the topic with other individuals, especially those early on in the career path. Having a mentor that can talk about their own experience with this syndrome can help by reassuring their colleague that others can and do feel inadequate sometimes. Once the situation is shared, people no longer feel along in their negative experience. Addressing and reflecting on the syndrome is also key to overcoming the burden of feeling that you are ‘winging it’ or cheating in some way.
Sharing situations in which you have experienced imposter syndrome diminishes its affect.
SECOND: Try making a list of all your accomplishments, positive feedback and success stories to help manage the times you feel overwhelmed by self doubt.
Objective evidence of multiple successes over time is hard to dismiss as luck.
Develop a strong support system that provides feedback on performance. Have regular meetings that include discussions about imposter syndrome. Coherence therapists claim that the most effective treatment is facing the juxtaposition created when self-depreciation does not match objective accomplishments.
And remember, wanting to be a better teacher, or accepting that you did something wrong, does not invalidate all the good you do and have done, every day in your classroom. Be kind and honest with yourself, and – when you have a moment – point out something awesome another teacher did, so they can add it to their list.