Imposter Syndrome and Lying About Everything

It is frustrating that I can’t be as confident as my experience tells me I should be. Somehow, I can both know that I am capable and useful and not a siphon on dwindling resources that could be better devoted to someone else. It’s annoying to look at everything I’ve done and know I can do with complete dissociation, like someone else who is much smarter and quicker and more ambitious and better at staying up after midnight had done it. I know that person is me, but I don’t feel like them. I’m utterly pooped by 11:30.

What the world looks like when I start getting sleepy

Imposter syndrome is not uncommon in teachers. I get that. Honestly, I’d be a little worried if I got paid to boss a bunch of adults around and didn’t question whether or not I should be allowed to do that. Feeling like a fraud as a teacher is pretty manageable. If I suddenly get a sense of how close I am to my students in terms of age, ability, and academic credentials, then I just ask them a question. Checking in that I still know the topic I’m supposed to teach better than they do is useful in confirming I can at least be useful.

You losers still don’t know what a beaker is? Good, I can still get paid without hating myself

My position as a teacher isn’t so much the source of my feeling like a trashy sock puppet in a room full of fully articulated Muppets. It’s everything else, including anything between having to mentor new grad students and just talking to people. I wonder if there is a point in everyone’s personal development that they start realizing the way people perceive you is wildly different from the way you perceive yourself.

Will these new grad students I have to mentor know that I crawled my way through my own program. Should I tell them that I feel like I was one small mistake away from failing everything and that the only reason I can seem respectable is because the degree doesn’t look any different if you cried and screamed the entire time you were getting it. No, they won’t know any of this. I’ll probably tell them some because they’ll go through a lot of the same, but it’s weird to know I’m going to tell them not to do everything I did. I’m going to look them straight in their innocent little faces and say “don’t procrastinate” even as I remember turning in projects–including my thesis–within hours of them being due. That’s not necessarily lying is it? More of an omission.

The cashiers at Safeway don’t know how much of my Youtube history is the Mamma Mia soundtrack and videos of cats falling over. It’s a lot. This may seem like a weird connection to make because sharing your internet history with a person should only come after years of intimacy and trust, but this is different. Is it disingenuous to buy bell peppers and not tell the cashier that those peppers will go into a delicious curry and that while the delicious curry is simmering, someone nearby will be poorly singing along with “Super Trooper” by Swedish pop group ABBA and performed by Cher in the best 4 minutes in living memory? That would be a mouthful to get out at the register. I’ll have to put it on a sticky note they can read while I’m paying.

Lying is the most useful skill anyone can have. It’s how we convince ourselves and everyone around us that things are ok, and it’s how we pretend to know what we’re doing. I know I’m a pretty good teacher, but the idea of mentoring people who are in a position I barely got through not that long ago is intimidating. I know I’m a decent cook, but when I’m buying a pile of broccoli, should I tell the cashier it’s going to be serenaded to some hot Swedish pop before it goes into anything else?

The best part is that the more I get away with it, the more people don’t realize that all that I am is a loosely-bound bundle of character flaws and unhealthy coping mechanisms, the more I feel like a fraud for people not knowing. Anyway, back to ABBA.

I have so much to be ashamed of… and this is not it

14 Replies to “Imposter Syndrome and Lying About Everything”

  1. Aw, the Imposter Syndrome. I remember standing in front of a classroom of kids, or even more recently my own kid, and lecturing on the importance of good study habits and not procrastinating. It always feels like this out of body experience where I’m standing with arms crossed on the other side of the room watching myself, silently shaking my head in disgust at my own gall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I’ve seen that one! I like showing it to my students, and it helped me justify getting through my thesis in the last possible minute. Valuable or not, wow I need to either get better or procrastinating before I die, or I can get better at time management and boring stuff

      Like

  2. I’ve been in my current position for 15 years, and have always felt like I don’t belong and am just faking my way through. I felt the same when I was a teacher (previous to these past 15 years). And even in my social interactions; I’m not from this town–thank god–so no one knows the real me. And if they did…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The social fear is real. Every time I leave the house and see real people who can see me back, I start wishing I could break into their heads and see how they see me just to know if they can tell how much I’m just stumbling around until things figure themselves out

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can relate so much. I was lying in bed last night (still haven’t fully woken up because of that) thinking about exactly this. About how I know how to do my job, and well, but about how every time I have to actually do it I feel like I’n just pretending to know what I’m doing.

    I guess it’s not just teachers, I’d say everyone from just-out-of-college to… retirement age is probably feeling this way.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. At least we can all look at each other and give each other that ‘I feel you’ look when the other person looks like they don’t know what they’re doing. x.x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I tend to use the ‘martyr smile’. You know, that one when you can feel the lions coming and you have nothing but two feet and a bad sense of balance. (My mind works in weird ways, okay? XD)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rather than be a fraud, I think you should shop with a car on your shoulder humming Mamma Mia rather loudly. 😂

    It’s a strange transition to become “the expert” in something. This happened to me out of the blue at work, I suddenly realized I had the most experience and my opinion mattered. It was odd. But sometimes you just have to “fake it ‘TIL you make it.”

    Liked by 1 person

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