#06: A Teacher Combatting Imposter Syndrome

What I Know

I feel imposter syndrome often! It creeps up on me every so often, depending on how well I’m taking care of myself. Unfortunately, I do think it comes with being a rookie early in my teaching career. Imposter syndrome makes me feel like I’m not qualified or capable enough to accomplish day to day tasks at work. It also sneaks up when I’m trying to elevate my career. It’s when I become most critical of myself despite all external feedback.

What the Experts Say

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes identified Imposter syndrome in 1978 as “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications.”

Expert, Valerie Young, identified several behavior patterns that lead to imposter syndrome. Young argues, there are the perfectionists, the experts, and soloists, and the supermen/women.

  • Perfectionists typically refuse to back down from their high standards. When they don’t meet their expectations, their reflections can be catastrophic. 
  • Experts feel the need to have a 100% understanding of concepts when they work on a project. These people are often afraid to stand out and won’t speak up out of fear of being incorrect. 
  • Soloists are people who try to accomplish everything on their own.
  • Supermen and superwomen strive to prove to the world that they are not imposters. Thus, they focus on becoming successful in all aspects of life. Any lack of progress often results in guilt. 

I find myself to be a mixture of all four roles. If I ranked them to impact my life, the superman and expert mentality would be the most influential. As a wannabe superman, I stretch myself too thin with obligations. I often forget to put my oxygen mask on before giving my time and thought energy to others. The expert in me leads me not to participate and provide my input on things. If I don’t contribute what I justify to be extreme value, then I won’t participate.

Climbing Out of the Hole

I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that usually help me climb the ladder out of the imposter syndrome hole.

It’s an irrational mindset, so I have to get myself into a rational mindset by changing my language and going through my checklist of what makes me have a successful day. For me, when I’m overwhelmed and anxious, to get out of it, I have to consult my “feel better” checklist.

  1. Did I eat?
  2. Did I exercise?
  3. Have I listened to music?
  4. Have I spent time with my wife?

If I go through that checklist and make sure all of those things have happened, I can generally bounce forward into a rational mindset.

Each day, I write down five of my core values. Each value helps me find my ground and recalibrate. I’ve noticed that if I start my day with this proactive writing ritual, I can push forward into my day with confidence.

I want to leave you with one final note from Author and decadal blogger Seth Godin. On the Chase Jarvis Podcast, he casually mentioned the following quote: 

“You can’t get rid of imposter syndrome because you’re an imposter, and so am I. Because what it means to be an imposter syndrome is that you can’t be sure. You can’t be sure if it’s going to work. If you want to fight the fear and the feeling of being an imposter, you’ll exhaust yourself. The fighting is what makes you stuck. Accept that you’re an imposter to serve other people.”


If you’ve made it this far, do me a favor and reach out to me on twitter to connect and let me know what you think.

Interested in reading more? Here are my last three bits of writing.

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#08: How I Survived Going Back to Face to Face Instruction
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