Do you ever feel like you’re faking it? If you do, you’re not alone. The Impostor Syndrome or Imposter Phenomenon (IP) is found in people who have skills and abilities but who do not feel that they are successful. Many of the sufferers of IP have achieved high rates of success through earning advanced degrees, gaining professional recognition in their field, or obtaining senior management positions. But despite their accomplishments, those affected by IP believe they do not have the ability to perform in their roles; instead they attribute achievement to luck, or some external factor. People from many different types of professions report feeling like an impostor.
Impostor Phenomenon and Teaching
Due to the public nature of our jobs, teachers tend to experience high rates of IP. Part of the problem with having IP is the anxiety caused by fear of exposure. Often we feel like we should know all of the answers to all of the questions asked by students, and if we don’t then we are at risk of being exposed. Many of us don’t recognize how much we have achieved because our skills as teachers are reflected in our students. They leave our classrooms and go out in the world to live their lives. We never get to see how much they achieve based on what they’ve learned in our classes.
Do you have IP?
If you sometimes feel like you are a phony, know that you are not the only one who feels this way. The feeling of impostorship is something that occurs more often than you would think, mainly because people don’t want to expose themselves by talking about it. It is so common that there are four different scales available to measure yourself against if you have it. The original scale, the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale, was developed by the psychologist, Dr. Pauline Rose Clance, who coined the phrase Impostor Phenomenon. If you think you might have IP characteristics you can do the survey.
What can you do about it?
According to Stephen Brookfield (2002), critical reflection can be an intervention for the progression of IP. In particular, he describes group reflection as providing an environment that can alleviate the isolation a teacher feels due to fear of exposure. Recognizing that colleagues also experience similar feelings can go a long way to providing relief from the anxiety caused by IP. Awareness through discussion is an excellent way to treat IP.
Do you have an impostor story to share? How did you overcome your impostor anxiety?
Brookfield, S. D. (2002). Using the lenses of critically reflective teaching in the community college classroom. New Directions for Community Colleges, 118:Summer, 31-38.