Hello, my name is Sara Foley, and I suffer from Imposter Syndrome.
This is where my mind shouts, “You don’t belong here! You are an imposter!” and then adds, sotto voce,”If you just keep quiet, nobody will find out.”
Hey, I know I am not the only one this happens to – we probably all feel like this from time to time, except maybe for the narcissists – so I thought I’d share with you something that happened to me this week.
I have been working as a teacher’s aide for about 9 months. During that time, I have had several Imposter Syndrome occurences, usually when I am sent to do a workshop, seminar, function or other event where I am surrounded by teachers, Principals and other staff. This particular time, my boss, the Principal of the school I work for, asked me to come along to a Year 7 Transition Meeting at the local High-school. My son is going into Year 7 next year, so I have a special interest – plus, you know, I am a sticky beak – I like to know how everything works.
We go in separate cars, and I arrive about 20 minutes earlier than my boss, leaving me with very important Teacher and Principal people – and me the only lowly teacher’s aide. IMPOSTER! In addition to this, the smell of the library where we are meeting has given me an intense throwback to when I was in year 7, at this very school. Visions of the books I borrowed, and the excitement I felt when I first walked in here – all these books! so little time! – flash in front of my eyes, making me a little giddy.
They are wanting our feedback on the process of transition – which I know nothing about, having never had anything to do with it. IMPOSTER! my mind shouted at me. Lay low, be quiet…it whispered. Finally, my boss walks in, and I refrain from throwing my arms about her neck in relief and smile calmly at her instead. So we go about the room in groups, having conversations, with me watching and listening, trying to get a handle on what’s going on. It soon becomes clear that the high-school is worried about its drop in enrollments, with more and more parents choosing to send their children to one of the private high-schools both in and out of the valley.
All of a sudden, I am talking. I say that one of the key ways to build enrollments is through nurturing good relationships with the feeder primary schools in the area, and one of the ways that you are already doing that is through the Valley 10, an affiliation between all the public schools in the valley. But, I said, this group has no web presence at all, which I found out when working on our school’s website, and I went looking for a link. Nothing at all. If they are serious about working together, I said, then you really need a website. There is silence as everyone looks at me, including my boss. And then there is a nodding of heads and more questions: how? who? where? My boss walks over to the butcher’s paper of ideas and writes it down as discussions continue. I feel giddy. I talked! They listened!
As I’m driving home, I laugh at myself. Even though I feel like an imposter and tell myself I know nothing, I can’t help myself but participate. I may not know what to teach kids or the latest education pedagogy – but I still know stuff. And you know what? So do you.
So, fess up – who has felt like an imposter? What were you doing and how did you deal with it?
Best Short Read
Bringing a Daughter Back From the Brink with Poems by Betsy McWhinney for The New York Times.
Okay, look. If you only read one thing this week, make it this one. It will not disappoint, that I can promise you. It may make you cry, but that’s okay – your eyes needed a wash anyway, didn’t they?
When George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, my 13-year-old daughter, Marisa, was so angry that she stopped wearing shoes.
She chose the most ineffective rebellion imaginable: two little bare feet against the world. She declared that she wouldn’t wear shoes again until we had a new president.
I had learned early in motherhood that it’s not worth fighting with your children about clothes, so I watched silently as she strode off barefoot each morning, walking down the long gravel driveway in the cold, rainy darkness to wait for the bus.
The principal called me a few times, declaring that Marisa had to start wearing shoes or she would be suspended. I passed the messages on, but my daughter continued her barefoot march.
After about four months, she donned shoes without comment. I didn’t ask why. I wasn’t sure if wearing shoes was a sign of failure or maturity; asking her seemed like it could add unnecessary insult to injury.