“Life is a stage and we are all the actors.” So said William Shakespeare. It was the first day of school, I was terrified. Then 20 years later, the first day on the job as a teacher, I was terrified again —but for a different reason. That is when something I will never forget happened . . .Something that changed my career, something that changed my life.
The very first day, I thought I knew my material, but the reality was that I did not know how to teach. So I faked it. Yes I faked it. That is when that interesting something happened.
There is also in academic circles what is called the Imposter syndrome . Did you ever feel inadequate to do a job that people paid you to do? Have you ever walked into your office and said to yourself “I don’t belong here, I’m not as smart as the rest of these people?” That is how I felt, and at times still feel teaching today. If you have, you are experiencing the Impostor syndrome. It can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart person, that you are only imposing as such.
Some common feelings and thoughts that might characterize the impostor syndrome are: “I feel like a fake” “My classmates/professors etc. are going to find out I don’t really belong here,” “I’m a loser,” “I’m horrible,” etc.
So what can be done about it?
Well you can give in to the fears and suppress them — permanently hindering your growth and go get another drink~!
That was a sarcastic, sick joke. 🙂 However, sadly this is how many people have dealt with this.
Another option is that we pretend we are qualified by doing what qualified people do…we do the job, and do it exceedingly well! That is what I did that first day of class, and what I continue to do today. I started to teach like I remembered the great teachers did. I’m tried it, and it happened, I started to teach well.
When I am feeling inadequate and insecure, I pretend that I am adequate and secure. And lo and behold, I became what I pretended I was.
The ideal is not to put yourself in a place where you have to pretend at all! You avoid that by preparing and practicing–sometimes over and over.
Remember, the more we sweat in practice, the less we bleed in battle.
I do what successful people do, practice, even when I don’t feel like it. True maturity is about letting your feelings follow you rather than you following your feelings.
The difference between men and boys, women and girls, is that one controls their emotions and the other is controlled by them.
And when I am not feeling happy, I pretend to be happy, and something magical happens (usually) I start to feel happy.
Dennis Prager has a wonderful, short, video on this where he argues that we have a moral obligation to be happy.
So when I am down, I tell myself things that my soul needs to hear. Psalm 103 is a great example of positive self-talk from Scripture. It is telling yourself or reminding yourself truths that you are prone to forget: God is real, that he loves you that you are precious and special and that there is meaning even in the little things you do.
Some great articles to consider on the issue from Psychology Today are, “Voice of Reason” and “Why Saying Is Believing” — The Science Of Self-Talk from NPR. But let us be careful of falling into the postmodern “positive thinking trap” of creating something from thought alone. It is nonsense. Yes, there is something called self-fulfilling prophecies or what is called the The Pygmalion Effect. That is very much real and testable.
But the fluffy-duffy “lets all think positively” and “lets all get along” mentally is naive and foolish. Its tantamount to sticking our head in the proverbial sand. We need to be real with what is really happening in the world, such as trafficking of human beings and terrorism that cannot be overcome by lighting a candle and humming while we eat Hershey’s hugs and kisses.
The most popular use of this type of thinking is The Secret–which claims everything is just a product of thoughts, is riddled with logical fallacies. See these links for that: Logical Fallacy of the Secret and this great article about it from the Skeptic Magazine.
William Ian Miller wrote a book called “Faking It” its about one of the dirty little secrets of humanity: that we are all faking it much more than anyone would care to admit. He writes with wit and wisdom about the vain anxiety of being exposed as frauds in our professions and hypocrites to our creeds. He finds, however, that we are more than mere fools for wanting so badly to look good to ourselves and others. Sometimes, when we are faking it, our vanity leads to virtue, and we actually achieve something worthy of esteem and praise.
For example, when you pretend you are brave, you may become brave. When you pretend to be kind, you may actually become kind! When you pretend that you know what you are doing, and pretend to learn it, you might start knowing what you are doing!
Its also about body language. It affects how others see us, but it changes how we see ourselves.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. See this wonderfully helpful video from TEDS …
Cuddy’s personal website is here.
Let stop making excuses and start doing what God made us to do. And if you are afraid, its OK, do it anyway. The results will surprise you, they did to me.