3 Ways to Cope with Imposter Syndrome

When I first started teaching and directing, I felt very alone and isolated.

Part of this isolation was my fault because I didn’t seek out support or ask for help very often. Truth be told, I was simply surviving and no where near thriving.

During this period of isolation, I began to struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Almost like I was an imposter pretending.

There is a mean little voice inside my head nasally asking, “Who are you? Who are you to SAY anything?? Who are you to THINK anything???”

It has been a challenge to finally put a name to these weird feelings that often pop up without warning.

It’s the kind of icky feeling that won’t let me feel joy or happiness when other colleagues succeed because I see their success as a failure on my part. It’s the type of feeling that creeps up from the pit of my stomach whenever I feel out of place or suddenly unimportant to others at work.

Almost like I’m a fraud…an imposter.

It has taken several years of teaching and directing for me to even have the confidence to start writing about my experiences. Even now, there are still days when I just feel like a complete phony.

I find myself wondering: why do we all struggle with these feelings of imposter syndome?

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe the internal feelings many people experience of being inadequate or a fraud. The irksome feeling of being unqualified or not experienced enough.

When I decided to write about my own experiences with imposter syndrome, I thought about where my own insecurities might stem from.

Part of my issue comes from negative experiences with others.

Negative experiences with others may be a source of your own imposter syndrome.

During my first year of teaching, I had an experience that has never left me the same. I was a nervous first year teacher taking some of my students to a competition at a very large school. I didn’t know anyone in my field yet, so the idea of traveling to a big school was daunting.

When we arrived at the school, I stopped to ask two women standing in the hallway where to go. At the time, I thought that they were both teachers. One of the women told me that everyone was waiting in the cafeteria for the competition to start. I thanked her for her help and led my students to the cafeteria.

After we settled down at the tables, the other woman from the hallway burst into the cafeteria. She was angry.

In a flash, she approached me and proceeded to tell me that SHE was the teacher in charge of the competition. She wanted to know why I didn’t think to ask her for instructions.

“WHAT is your name?” She demanded with the most condescending tone of voice.

I learned that the other woman in the hallway with her was her student. This teacher was offended because I didn’t know who she was or that she was the one in charge.

All of this was said in an aggressive tone in front of all my students.

We ended up resolving the matter as a miscommunication, but it has stayed with me since then. She humiliated me in front of my students, made me cry my eyes out at my first big competition, and rekindled my already bubbling imposter syndrome.

What could have been an extremely positive experience for a brand new ( and extremely nervous) teacher turned into a nightmare all because some people cannot put their egos aside.

I have never forgotten how she treated me and I doubt that I ever will.

Those feeling of humiliation and shame bubble up sometimes when I’m wrestling with self-doubt. Rather than place the blame where it belongs, I find myself remembering how awful I felt and blaming myself for not reacting or behaving in a different way.

A more experienced teacher would have handled the situation better. They wouldn’t have cried. They wouldn’t have been in that type of situation to begin with. It’s a slippery slope of blame and insecurities.

I still struggle with imposter syndrome even after several years of teaching and many successes as a director. It’s so easy to let past insecurities and feelings perk back up. Even when I feel like I have finally conquered my doubts, I can let something silly and insignificant tear down my confidence.

How do I cope with these feelings?

This is something that I am still working on. It’s definitely a work in progress for me. I have good days and bad days when it comes to this topic. I wanted to share 3 of the ways that I deal with my own imposter syndrome.

Keep in mind that my journey is going to be different than everyone else, so the things that work for me may not work for all.

  1. Remember that nearly everyone struggles with these feelings. Even some of the most confident and famous people that you know may struggle with their own insecurites and feelings of being an imposter at times. One of my absolute favorite actors, David Tennant, recently spoke about his own issues with imposter syndrome. Check it out here if you would like to watch the video. Use this knowledge to remind yourself that although you may feel like fraud today, you are not alone in your feelings and you can get through it.
  2. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media. If you are trying to cope with your feelings of inadequacy, you many benefit from some time spent away from social media. Remember that most of what people post on social media is the highlight reels from their lives. Their posts are curated and planned out. They are also having raw and vulnerable moments in their lives that they may not share online. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they have perfect lives, perfect students, or a perfect classroom. That’s not real life and that isn’t the case for ANYONE.
  3. Take an internal inventory of your strengths and talents. Think about all of the things that you do well and take an inventory. I feel like in education, we are encouraged to focus on what we need to work on and how we need to grow. That’s all well and good, but it’s also important to notice all of the things that you are already knocking out of the park. Sometimes, constantly focusing on your growth can lead you to lose perspective of the present moment. I promise, there are a plethora of things that you are amazing at already. It’s okay to acknowledge those things and also know that you have more growing and learning to do on your journey as an educator.

Do you struggle with imposter syndrome? I would love to hear from you in the comments about how you cope.

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1 Comment

  1. Preena Wyatt
    October 13, 2019 / 5:51 pm

    Very smart advice! Especially about taking breaks from social media.

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