Impostor Syndrome: Silencing the Little Voice

There is a name for what I have.

That feeling I get when I’m staring at a roomful of screaming kindergarteners or moody pre-teens and the voice in my head whispers, mutters, or screeches, depending on just how bad a day I’m having “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re not a teacher!”

That feeling I get when someone says “I can’t imagine travelling as far or for as long as you do. You must be so brave!” and I’m completely lost for a response that doesn’t sound stupid.

What I’m thinking when I get that deer-in-headlights look on my face every time a child adds “teacher” as a suffix to my first name.

Oddly enough, having only the most passing interest in computery gobbledegook, I’m not sure what led me to click on this link on my cousin’s facebook page. It’s about women in computer science. My interest in computer science is minimal, but my interest in women’s issues is paramount to just about everything I do, so that probably has something to do with it.

I read the whole article, fascinated by the mentions of the university administrator who carries on staff meetings perched on a table, memorizes the names of incoming freshman, and learned how to skateboard in her mid to late 50‘s. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Towards the end of the last page, I noticed it. The reason behind my constantly feeling like a fraud. My diagnosis: impostor syndrome.

In spite of unequivocal evidence to the contrary, Dr. Klawe still has moments when she is convinced she is an impostor.
“If you’re constantly pushing yourself, and putting yourself in new environments, you’ll feel it over and over again,” she said. “So the only really important thing is not to let it stop you.”
To some extent, things like this take me completely by surprise: “Wait, you mean I’m not the only one who gets this idea?”

Once I think about it rationally, though, I remember that as surprised as I might feel, I notice this kind of thing fairly often. Where some kick-ass person or other confesses that they’re insecure, that they feel like a fraud, and that they’re constantly wondering whether they’re doing the right thing.

I always wonder why they’re even talking about it. It’s pretty clear to everyone —me included— that they’re not failures or frauds, and are likely very far from any danger of being either one.

Maybe it is mostly a matter of silencing that little accusing voice telling you that what you want is impossible, improbable, or impractical. Maybe the difference between the people we hear from who sometimes think (incorrectly) that they’re failures, frauds, or impostors and the people who are is whether they let that pesky little voice stop them or not.

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