Faux'get About It.
“Why don’t you think you can do this?”
“I don’t know...I just don’t think I can.”
It was a lie. I knew exactly why I didn’t think I could teach a yoga sculpt class. I made it through the training. I knew the flow of the class. I knew had every tool I needed to teach. I also knew I couldn’t do it. I’m not a yoga teacher. I get my pants at Target, not Lulu. Most days I can’t do full chaturangas through classes. I use the lightest weights. I don’t look like a teacher. In my head I knew anyone walking into a class would see me and think I shouldn’t be teaching. I knew they would know I’m an impostor.
Impostor Syndrome, first named by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance, is the feeling of inadequacy even when information exists to prove it is unfounded. It’s frequently found people highly motivated to achieve. Impostor syndrome takes a normal feeling of humility towards our efforts to the extreme, creating an overwhelming fear of being exposed as an impostor.
My first brush with impostor syndrome came early in my career selling medical software. I was able to discuss specs, architecture, implementation timelines but I had no idea where the words came from. Clearly I had absorbed knowledge and was able to apply it in an intelligent way but that was so incongruent with who I decided I was I felt like a fraud. It still happens. I talk through a strategy or idea while feeling detached from it. As if it is coming from somewhere else because I’m not capable of producing it.
Once I allowed doubt into my professional life it became easier for it to creep into other areas. People sometimes tell me I’m interesting. I’m pulled together. No, nope, not this girl. Most recently it’s been “inspirational.” It makes me squirm, the thought of someone finding things I do worthwhile, that anyone could or would look to me for motivation. Compliments, accolades, awards should all quell this feeling of anxiety. Imposter Syndrome has the interesting ability to turn praise into an anxiety fountain; more people buying into the fraud means the eventual exposure will be bigger, more damning.
One of the most difficult parts of Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that it is singularly yours, that everyone else is the real deal while you’re the lone fraud. However, Sheryl Sandberg wrote about it in Lean In, every member of my book club copped to having it, All The Things podcast covered it, and if you do quick Google search you’ll quickly discover there is a flock of “frauds” in this world.
So this Impostor Syndrome is a thing, it’s a thing other people experience, but how do I deal with it? Spoiler Alert: I’m still figuring it out. Here is what I know so far…
Recognize the feeling - Know what you’re dealing with, that’s just a good life rule. Once you understand what is happening you can tackle it.
Talk to a fraud - Realize that you have people in your life dealing with the same thing, talk to them about it. Verbalizing your fears with a friend helps ease the feeling. Hearing how I’ve been “justifying” my Impostor Syndrome helps me realize my arguments aren’t the most logical and ultimately move past them. Knowing that while Impostor Syndrome is ultimately fear, it is also something that you’re not alone in feeling. When you talk through yours you are letting someone else open up about theirs, something most people will appreciate.
Embrace the shake - Working on core is when I feel most like an impostor teacher. My middle is...soft...not strong. How can I teach people when I can barely do it myself? One thing I frequently yell as encouragement while I’m trembling in boat pose is, “if you’re shaking you’re finding your edge.” Essentially, when we push ourselves to our limit either physical or mental we meet resistance, we shake. Impostor Syndrome is simply a mental shake. Embrace it, it means you’re changing.