Since the first caveman (or cavewoman) first painted their hand on a cave wall and then thought, “My hand is no apt representation of my inner turmoil — why bother painting my hand on this wall at all?” there has been imposter syndrome.
Actually, “imposter syndrome” — that feeling of inadequacy in the face of professional challenge — was first coined in 1978 by a couple of psychologists, Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. They “described it as ‘an internal experience of intellectual phoniness,'” wrote Sindhumathi Revuluri in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Their research was based on work with ‘high achieving women’ in which they found this phenomenon to be particularly prevalent.”
Sound familiar? Sure it does. And imposter syndrome affects more people than you’d expect in all sorts of careers.
What Does Imposter Syndrome Have to Do with Me?
You’ve likely felt the cold cold claws of “imposter syndrome” at some point in your grownup life. It might have been while trying to write a big paper in college (“Who am I to have these big thoughts?”) Or starting your first big job (“Why the heck did I get hired? I don’t know what I’m doing!”).
Turns out teachers can have worries they’re not good enough, too, according to Revuluri’s article.
But what we all have in common when it comes to facing our fears, is that really, deep down they’re just emotions, not reality. Many times these feelings arise in women in professional settings, but both genders are susceptible.
But Surely Educators Must Feel Great About Themselves
Nope. They often don’t. Just like you and me, the person in charge of a classroom of eager young minds has periods of self-doubt. They worry about doing their job well, being in charge of so many young minds looking to them for direction and being able to rise to the occasion of a new classroom or professional challenge. (Sounds pretty familiar, right?)
How We All Fight the Imposter Feelings
But what is a person in charge to do to feel better and less like a fraud? There are some tips from Revuluri that translate from the classroom to the boardroom pretty easily.
- Don’t get ahead of yourself — if you’re just starting out, admit that you still have much to learn, but that’s no reason why you can’t do your job well.
- Focus on your past accomplishments —You’ve done stuff to get yourself to the point you’re at in your career. What smart stuff did you do previously? I bet you can name at least a dozen things.
- Don’t feel bad about having smarter people in the room — In a conference or in a meeting at work, if there are preeminent scholars in the room, acknowledge them but know that you, too, have much to bring to the table.
- Learn how to take criticism —Revuluri says we all should read Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Sounds like a good way to conduct yourself in work and non-work situations, really.
- Create your own “board of advisors” — Revuluri points out you should “ignore the haters” and surround yourself with your own set of smarties who can advise you when you have big professional questions. And stop comparing yourself to people on the internet!
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