The voice in my head is asking: ‘Who are you to be writing/talking about …..?’ and the words in the gap can be anything, including teaching, training, writing, course design, launching a project, organizing an event, applying for a grant, creating a new proposal, and many, many more situations. And the voice can keep going with something along the lines of ‘Who told you have a right to…?’ or ‘How can you consider yourself an expert if you can’t even….?’, etc. You get the idea.
It could be an Impostor (Imposter?) Syndrome*, as the post title suggests. According to a simple definition, it is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a constant fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. By the way, the Wikipedia entry where the definition is from offers a list of famous people who experienced this phenomenon.
*Or Impostor Phenomenon? Sounds so much better! (to me)
Here is one of the articles on the subject by Kim Morgan I saved a while ago. My favorite part is the practical exercises suggested by the author, which can be wonderful classroom activities in a language classroom.
At the beginning of any new project, and especially if it is/was going 100% ‘solo’, without a team or a partner to exchange ideas with, my strategy is to create what I call ‘My Doubts Page’. It can be a page in a notebook, or a file on my desktop, where I just catch the thoughts like ‘What if … does not work?’ or ‘What could be my ‘plan B’ for …?’ It is interesting to look at those pages from the ‘archived’ projects and compare them, and to see how similar fears and doubts emerge or come back.
Know the enemy
A lot has been written about the phenomenon in the field of ELT. Sharing some posts on the topic I really liked:
In Chia Suan Chong’s post (2018) at ET Professional one of the steps/actions to take is to find people to talk about this. The ‘talking’ can be in writing, or in a blog post.
From Rachael’s post (2020) I loved these coaching questions from Byron Katie:
- Is that really true?
- How do I behave or react when I believe that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought?
Teresa in her post based on her mini-plenary from Innovate shared 5 categories or types of imposter and wrote about the need to recognize and celebrate our successes more (as a strategy to overcome this state).
Putting the Two Together
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Questions to Readers
- Have you ever experienced this state? If yes, what were your strategies, if any, of overcoming it?
- Do you know someone who (often) experiences this psychological pattern?
- Have you ever talked about it with your colleagues? (Could this be turned into a teacher meeting topic?)
- What are you celebrating this week?
Thank you for reading! 🙂