Queen of the Imposters

impostor1

palpak.org

Yesterday, as I was just about to leave work, my boss asked me to have a look through some of the learning objectives he had planned for one of the lessons that he is going to deliver next week. I read through what he had written, and offered some suggestions.

He wrote my suggestions down.

This isn’t the first time this has happened since I started teaching at my current school nearly two years ago. To most people, it wouldn’t mean anything. However, I was (yet again) taken aback by the fact that he actually valued my opinion. He’s an experienced and excellent practitioner and I have an enormous amount of respect for him, so why would he want to know what I think?

This is something that has plagued my working life since I graduated in 2006. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that I’ve been in full-time employment ever since, while some of my friends have experienced various struggles when obtaining jobs over the years. I’ve always felt that this was predominantly down to luck and being in the right place at the right time.

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images.com/corbis

Job 1: Two weeks after I had received my degree results, I saw an advert for a Learning Mentor at a school on the other side of the city. I didn’t fully know what a Learning Mentor was, but after doing some research I thought that it sounded interesting and I decided to apply for it anyway. I got the job. (It turned out to be the best job I’ve ever had).

Job 2: The funding was being cut for the Learning Mentoring posts, and I was worried that I was going to be made redundant. A random conversation with a Deputy Headteacher, in which he learned that I had an honours degree in music, led to him suggesting that I apply for a Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) course, which the school would support. I applied at the end of May and by the beginning of June I had been accepted. GTP courses are now notoriously difficult to get onto and the competition to be allowed onto them are enormous, with application being submitted months in advance.

Job 3: As my GTP was nearly finished, the school informed me that they couldn’t offer me a teaching position after I had qualified and so I needed to find another job. I saw an advert for a school that was situated not far from where I lived and applied. I heard nothing back from them, so assumed that I hadn’t been granted an interview. Unfortunately, at the same time, my mother (who lives 100 miles away) was taken into hospital and so I rushed to catch a train. Two days later, my mother was recovering and we knew that she was going to be fine. At 6.00am I checked my phone answer machine messages to discover that I had an interview for 9.00am that day at the school I had applied for. My sister raced over to look after my mum, I jumped on a train, informed the school of the situation and that I was on my way. I turned up nearly two hours late, with no lesson plan and no resources (aside from a few CD’s that I happened to have in my bag). I got the job.

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Family Guy

After this I had a few interviews at two different schools that I didn’t get and at the time I was crushed. However, I managed to get a job at my current school, which I love, and have since found out that the places that I applied for and was turned down are places that I would have really struggled in  – the education system is a small world – everybody seems to be related to each other – and I have heard horror stories and thanked my lucky stars that they turned me down as I know that I would have gone from the proverbial frying pan into the fire…

There’s that word again… Luck.

My problem is that I feel like an imposter. I have been given lots of praise and encouragement at work – my last few sets of lesson observations have been awarded with ‘Outsanding,’ trainee teachers are sent to my room to observe my teaching, I have trained other members of staff that have been in the profession twice as long as I have and I have been grateful for every opportunity that has been offered. However, I can’t shake the feeling that at some point I am going to be found out for the fraud that I feel that I am. My faculty is filled with hard-working, lovely, high achieving adults who seem to spend their entire lives marking and planning and be able to do everything better than I do. I hate having to attend meetings as I feel that my opinion is going to be viewed as irrelevent and so I often feel that it is best to keep quiet unless I am absolutely sure that what I am going to say makes sense. When something good happens, instead of feeling proud of myself I often find myself thinking that I’ve managed to fool them this time and have got away with it. What I find most ridiculous about it is that I haven’t experienced any negativity from my colleagues, I have enough evidence to prove that I shouldn’t feel like this and yet the thoughts still won’t leave.

I’ve often been told that I have a tendency to overthink things. I must admit, I feel silly writing about it, and haven’t done so to prompt further praise or fish for compliments, but it has been troubling me for a while. Is it luck? Fate? I’m not sure what initially caused these thoughts – it could be a lack of confidence or bad experiences that I have had in the past, but it is beginning to affect the way I think about myself and my job.

Does anybody else feel like this?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @Suzie81blog

35 thoughts on “Queen of the Imposters

  1. I did all the time in the military. I was one of the best, I had been trained for two specialties in the Naval Intelligence field, I had briefed Admirals, and Captains in the Navy. They admired my work, my work ethic and my professionalism. I always felt like I was coming up short with my guys. Like I was holding them back, and that my work really WASN’T bar none… I felt like I was slowing them down and that I was using their input and it really wasn’t all me.

    I had lots of positive energy, and lots of encouragement. I just felt this way. You know, it could be a number of things darlin’. Know this though, from what you’ve told in your story you’re AMAZING at what you do. You’re vital to your community, and without you it wouldn’t be the same.

  2. You described my feelings perfectly – I often feel that way and don’t really know why.

    Like yesterday: I wrote a long post about photography tips and then was afraid to post it. I was sure I would make a mockery of myself and people would laugh and scoff at my writing, despite the fact that I have ten years of experience at racing photography.

    Grrr…

  3. You are more than likely as good as everyone around you believes you are. Don’t sleep yourself short. Having said this, why do I get the sense that you feel undeserving! You say you feel like an imposter? What are your own personal benchmarks? Who are you measuring yourself against?
    The thing to remember is that you don’t want to create a situation in which you realize a self fulfilling prophesy. Stop it.
    You are exactly where you ought to be.

  4. Every damn day! Thank you for posting this as it really does shed some light for myself. Maybe we are good at what we do! Maybe we do deserve praise! Maybe it is Luck! Maybe we have a lack of confidence in a world of men and women who consider (in the back of our minds) lacking confidence on most levels to be the hidden ‘norm’.
    I think it is time to shed the mask, be happy and fulfilled by our accomplishments, and to once and for all believe we are worthy. Can you imagine the heights we could go to if we remove and release the inner negative ‘chatter’ in our mind and unveil the leash we so willingly wear as a sign of martyrdom. I myself walk around saying I can ‘do’ anything, and for the most part, I am able to accomplish these fetes. Then I return home and the ‘chatterbox’ starts and I feel like a fake, an impostor of sorts.
    I think it is time for a new lease. Your post has enlightened me. It has made me realize I am not the only one who feels like this. True confidence can be had by all. We must start trusting ourselves and wholeheartedly believing in ourselves.

    Thank you!

  5. Suzie, hold your head up high. If your colleagues are asking for your opinion, thoughts and ideas, if means they value your knowledge and how you go about your teaching methods. In my job, I have seen very young employees who are bright, self-motivated, intelligent people who could run circles around employees who have been around and who are supposed to know everything. While you are learning from the high achievers, you are also giving them a fresh look and vision at what they do. Don’t diminish yourself in your position. You would not have this job if you were not worthy.

  6. Hey Suzie,

    I can understand where you are coming from, because my husband says the same thing to me pretty often. He says things like “why does such and such person think I’m so good at this? I could do better.” Of course, we all strive to keep improving. That is part of being human. But maybe, you are just not seeing yourself the way that others see you.

    We all see our flaws, our mistakes and the places where we can improve. And it may be true that you have room for improvement, but that does not mean that you are doing poorly or inadequately right now. Maybe, you are just looking at your weaknesses while your colleagues are admiring your strengths.

    You are an amazing woman and you don’t need to doubt it.

  7. Seems to me that if they value your opinion and send others to learn from you because you’re doing a good job, that you ARE doing a good job. Perhaps you did luck into the job opportunities that you have had, but that doesn’t mean you are unqualified for those jobs.

  8. Dulcinea in Don Quixote thought herself a lowly barmaid until the crazy man came along and told her she was a lady. She didn’t believe him, but it turns out, deep down, she was noble. She just needed the crazy man to show her the truth within herself.

    This is a tough world, and when enough people are listening and praising you, then believe them. Treat each piece of praise as a Christmas present to be cherished.

  9. I constantly feel this way about everything! Getting my resume updated and ready to go, I did one and a dear friend (and former boss) suggested I send him my resume so he could look it over. Shortly, he sent me an updated copy to see if I liked it… how he wrote and what he wrote made me feel so talented… I’d hire me! anyhow, I think how we see ourselves is not accurate most of the time. From what I have read of your blog, you are a teacher. I don’t mean that is your job. You have a gifting as a teacher. Teaching is who you are. People recognize that.

  10. You know in your heart if you’re giving your best. Sometimes people are simply good at things, and apparently you are good in your field. When you hold yourself to a high standard and feel that you could always be better it shows that you care. To a certain extent you do make your own luck. Don’t rest on your laurels, but you can be fairly confident that you are actually pretty good at what you do.
    BB

  11. I’m a teacher too 🙂 here’s to edumacation! I completely understand what you’re saying. I got my job when I was 22 straight out of grad school. No one saw the work I put into getting my job so when I got it many people asked: how, who did you know?
    No one. I worked hard.
    Second annoying statement that I had to deal with: it was luck.
    Yes. I’m sure. Luck is important in the scheme of things, but what about… Hard work!

    So, be proud girl, you are not an imposter, you are a person with a valuable voice!

  12. I think we all feel like this, like imposters, about to be caught out. I’m 38 and still don’t feel like an “adult”! The thing is, everyone I know feels the same way, about life and about work. I think you’ve made your own uck, your passion shines through, and you can’t teach that 😉

  13. Suzie, you are very talented and you care about your students. Beams like a beacon on a dark river. You are lucky, but those whom you teach are luckier as are the schools where you’ve worked. Of course your opinion is valued.
    Keep writing, singing, dancing, photographing, playing, and teaching. Best wishes for you in 2014 – and for The Bloke and your Mum.

  14. The way you feel about this is quite normal and part of the human condition for most – even for those that seem to be so confident or even arrogant. What is unusual is your courage to write about it, which I found quite inspiring and I am sure helpful for your readers, most of whom feel the same way. One of the most powerful things you can learn is to simply be grateful when you receive positive feedback or a compliment. Practice this the next 3-4 times: don’t do anything else but say “thank you”. Practicing acceptance of our talents is critical to our long term effectiveness.

  15. Absolutely I’ve felt like that but I’ve never been given an ‘outstanding’ during an observation – it’s not an easy grade to get and you got it and should feel proud, it means you are great at your job and most definitely others probably have something they can learn from you no matter what their experiences are.

  16. There is a golf saying – the more I practice the luckier I get. I suspect it’s more about how much effort you put in. It’s not a bad thing to not take your job or position for granted.

  17. A straightforward humble heart is always plagued by self doubt……because humility never lets our egos get inflated to the point where we think that We are beyond perfection…take the faith that people have in you as a sign that you are on the right path to growth…loved the post.

  18. We all feel like that, all the time. It takes an especially nurturing place to feel that shortcomings would just be the next area of improvement and not a gut churning, spine chilling discovery. I spent a few years in that environment; you take risks when there is a safety net!

  19. I very often feel like this. And then people tell me: You’re really clever, but you refuse to believe it” And I do refuse to believe it because I feel like it’s not me accomplishing things but rather luck or some other thing, but not me.

  20. I often worry that I am not making any sense to the people that I work with, and I always overthink; did she mean to say that in that tone, maybe I sounded stupid, maybe I should point out I didn’t mean to sound stupid, they must have took that the wrong way, etc. Although some people don’t overthink I know may that do, and, I could be wrong, but maybe that is what makes you a good blogger/writer. Overthinking must mean we have stimulated our imaginations with too many books and thoughts, and all that makes for good blogs? That’s what I tell myself anyway. Either that or I am just a paranoid nerd but I’ll take the former. Nice read thank you!

  21. I think everyone feels like this at some point in their working life. Many years ago (about 20…) an old boss and mentor told me that when he was hiring he looked for people who would be able to do 50% of the job without thinking, 20% with care, 20% by pushing themselves and 10% by knowing when to ask for help. But above all, he would chose someone who would be a good “fit” over someone with perfect skills, because the overall team was more important than any individual. So not really down to luck, but more that you have been able to tick all the boxes and just simply be the right person for the job!

  22. Such feelings are very common, and often due to our upbringing or other experiences. “Affirmations” are helpful, and I’d also suggest running “irrational guilt” and/or “feelings of unworthiness” through your favorite search engine. The results may point you in a useful direction. “Luck” is when preparation meets opportunity. You provided the preparation; others provided the opportunity. That’s always the way it is.

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