If you’ve spent any time in gifted circles, or read about gifted adults, or checked out any websites on self-care in the last few years, chances are better than average that you’ve run across the term Impostor Syndrome. It’s that Lying McLiarpants voice in your head that never, ever shuts up. You know the one…it’s the one whispering that you’re a fraud, that you’re going to be “found out,” that you’re going to fail because you’re nowhere near as good as you appear.
I hate this voice. I’ve tried for years to gag it, but as it communicates with me internally it just ignores the gag and keeps on yappin’. Every time I think I’ve got it under control it just laughs at me and yaps louder. Let’s review what it says, shall we?
- I wrote a book. I am told it is very good (see the Impostor Syndrome yappin’ in that phrase?), and nearly three years later (and how the hell did the time pass that quickly?) it is still selling well. I’m under contract to write a second one on the needs and self-care of parents as they raise gifted and 2e kids. Yet I still think the first book is a fluke, and I’ll be shown up as a fraud with the second because what the hell do I know about self-care? For Chrissake, I’ve barely got my own shit together right now. At this point the book is going to be a list of ways I’ve managed to totally bork up caring for myself.
- This week I learned I was included in a list of 50 resources for the parents and teachers of gifted kids. Jaw-droppingly floored doesn’t begin to cover it. While I’m honored to be on a resource list that includes others such as Hoagies Gifted and SENG and Gifted Parenting Support and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, don’t these people realize that I don’t know anything? I’m not an expert. At best I’m the parenting version of the FDA Black Box Warning, complete with skull and crossbones…only my skull and crossbones will be holding a wine glass and the eye sockets will be slightly crossed and there will be a very deep furrow in the brow of the skull in which grapevines are growing for the wine and that’s why the eyes are crossed. If I had mad Photoshop skillz I’d make one up. (Note to self: get younger son with promising mad Photoshop skillz on this…)
- I’ve taught flute lessons for close to 25 years, off and on. Most of that time I’ve focused on elementary and middle school students. My rationale was that very few teachers focus on that age (which is true), that I love that age when I’m teaching one on one (which I do), and that I can be my true ridiculous self with that age when I teach (and boy howdy I am). And then this fall I started giving lessons one day a week at a high school, and some other, very vocal thoughts came yappin’ out. I’ve avoided teaching high school flutists because I don’t think I’m worthy to teach that level, that I will be found out as a teaching fraud, that I’m only good for repeating fingerings over and over and over again. Advanced students require guidance in musicality and interpretation and who am I to be that guide? Never mind that masters degree in flute performance and 30+ years playing, of course.
- I’m principal flute of the North Suburban Wind Ensemble, and next weekend I’m soloing with the group. I hear the other flutists in the ensemble and wonder why the hell I’m sitting where I am, and when are they all going to figure out that I suck and shouldn’t be there? It’s just luck and timing that I am where I am (though if you try to take it from me I will fight and fight hard).
- People have told me for at least the last year that I should be a consultant of some sort, that I know so much about parenting gifted kids and homeschooling, with resources out the wazoo. That’s something I’d love to do, however please see previous bullet point on my very own parenting Black Box Warning. The corollary to this is “Who would ever hire me? I’m only a homeschooling mom who has been out of the official workforce for 15 years, with little experience in the areas of competence/expertise and overqualified for the entry-level positions that would hire me.”
- I’m an Ambassador for GHF, which is an honor. Why me again? Surely I’m not qualified for that gig.
And these are just the ones that are loudest in my mind. I’m a riot at parties.
How exhausting it is, having this voice yappin’ all the time, and then how crazy it looks written out, like one big HumbleBrag. It’s not. It’s an incessant jab to my self-esteem and it won’t shut up. What’s the point? Do we ever grow out of this soul-numbing one-sided conversation? Nothing good ever comes of it, and it only serves to make life harder. I don’t often admit it, but I’m a good flutist and a pretty good teacher. It’s even harder to admit that I’m a writer, and nearly impossible to add any positive descriptor to that title.
I know I’m not alone in this, not by a long shot. I know many people, mainly women, have this same yap-yap-yap in their heads as well, and it is distracting and annoying and damaging to our very selves. So let me tell you about Impostor Syndrome. It lies. It lies to keep us from believing in ourselves and admitting that we’re good at what we do, that our success comes from hard work and taking advantage of opportunities that come our way. It tries to convince us that the rest of the world is unkind, hoping for our failures and waiting to attack, like vultures on a wire. And we believe that shit, because god forbid we believe something awesome about ourselves.
So here it is. I’m a flutist, and a teacher, and a writer, and a gifted advocate, and a resource to others on this journey. And I’m pretty good at all of those.
Baby steps. It’s a start.