The Impostor Syndrome

The thing about “impostors” is they have unsustainably high standards for everything they do.

The thinking here is, If I don’t know everything, then I know nothing. If it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s woefully deficient. If I’m not operating at the top of my game 24/7, then I’m incompetent.

An old girlfriend used to remind me that because I didn’t attend a glamorous university that Marin County millionaires would approve of , I was somehow deficient. I thought I had sloughed all of that BS off. Apparently not.

Fake mustache and glasses

I had a moment today in my office. Sitting with a woman with a double masters in education, she was riffing on course learning outcomes and rubrics and myriad educational concepts which I know and use, but are not expert in.

I told her, ” I need to share something with you. I’m embarrassed at this work I produced last semester. It wasn’t good enough, was it?”

She looked at me like I just told her Martians had landed in my backyard last night.

“Look”, she said, brow furrowed, “I have built classes for 20 years. You have built them for two. That class was good enough to be approved by everyone that matters. You did just fine. In fact, some of this stuff is pretty amazing. If you want to do consistently great work, then we should spend some time drilling down in this class and making some changes that will benefit both you and the students you teach. You can apply what you learn to future syllabi creation.”

I looked at her like she had just handed me a trillion dollar coin.

My work was not only acceptable, but good enough to make it through the approval gauntlet one must charge through to get a course published in my university. But it didn’t feel like it, thus the surfacing of the classic impostor syndrome.

The quotes at the beginning of this post are taken from this article. It’s a good read.

I had 34 years in my first career, which started before my voice changed. I know that career like I know the English alphabet. What a shock to recognize I still have a lot to learn in my new one.

My colleague made me realize that what I really have is an intense desire to do this work at the highest level. She’s right. I do.

I want to be an A.

We meet again on Wednesday.

Signature photoJohn Scott is a media instructor, online education coordinator and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. John’s debut book ”Destination: Reinvention” drops on Groundhog Day.

Follow John on Twitter @johnscottsf.



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