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Feeling Phony? Maybe It's Imposter Syndrome

Over the past few weeks, I've been hanging out with a subtle, but nagging case of the Impostors. Maybe you know that feeling too?

The Impostor Syndrome is when we feel like we don’t really belong in the position we’re in or that what we’ve accomplished is just a fluke. That our inside doesn't match what people see on the outside. 

Like maybe we got that great job or promotion or new client by accident. And any second now, we’ll slip-up and reveal to the world that working with us was a mistake. That we’re not qualified or competent enough. We feel like frauds.

After launching my compassion fatigue class, while also starting a new semester in grad school, and finishing a draft of a DINOS ebook, I came down with this persistent itch that at any moment my new students or my readers or my professor would turn around, take a good look at me, and say:

“What are you doing here! You’re not a real writer/teacher/grad student!”

Just as I was feeling like maybe I should quit while I was ahead, I was assigned to read an article by Stephen Brookfield called What is College Really Like for Adult Students? And wouldn't you know it, he writes that the majority of adult students feel like their acceptance into college was a fluke and that they’ll be laughed out of the program when everyone finds out who they really are.

Now, just last semester I took a class where we discussed that it's teachers who feel like impostors. We’re worried that our students will discover we’re only humans and not this idealized version of what a teacher should be - an all-knowing expert.

Light bulb: Students feel like impostors. Teachers feel like impostors. Actors, writers, musicians, and business people - them too.

A-ha! It’s a universal feeling. 

Here's the problem: The Impostor Syndrome makes us feel isolated and afraid to try. Which can get in the way of us doing good things.

You know what helps beat back the Impostor Syndrome according to Brookfield? Talking about it, so that we realize we're far from alone in feeling this way. Then we can practice self compassion, as we connect with this common aspect of our humanity. 

That shook the phony-baloney feeling out of me! What I've got going on is rooted in my anxiety about taking on new challenges, putting myself out there (hello vulnerability!), and feeling less than perfect while I do it.

So I’m outing my dance with Impostor Syndrome here, just in case anyone else is feeling this way and thinking they're the only ones.

Plus, I'm cutting myself some slack. I don’t want the fact that I'm imperfect or still learning to get in the way of what I have to offer through my work.

And the same goes for you. Your less-than-perfect self earned where you are and can help others, even if you haven't mastered the universe. Please don't let the Impostor Syndrome get in the way of your trying.

Mistakes and all, we need you and what you have to offer us.
So tell me, have you ever felt this way? Do you ever panic that your clients or adopters or students or boss will see you as an impostor? Tell me about it on Facebook. I started a new page, where we can continue our conversations.


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