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The Teaching Space Podcast

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May 23, 2019

Episode 57 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores imposter syndrome.

What is it?

“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” (Psychology Today, 2018).

My Recent Experience

I experience imposter syndrome ALL THE TIME. This often comes as a surprise to people as I present as an extroverted person positive about their broad skill set. I’m actually an introvert (I get my energy from being quiet and on my own). I have a broad set of skills, but as a result, I usually feel I lack expertise in anything; "jack of all trades, master of none".

I recently signed up for a series of lunchtime lectures on conducting research because it’s something I’m interested in, but know little about. At the start of the first session, the lecturer asked us all to explain why we came to the session. I was in a room full of Master’s and PhD students... I’m not working towards, nor do I have a Master’s or a PhD... so why was I there? Did I have a right to be there? Serious imposter syndrome alert.

Ironically, it turned out I was also the only person in the room who had published anything. While my book, The Productive Teacher, might not be based my own officially documented academic research, it’s mine, and it’s published. I have also written multiple articles for industry journals. So on this occasion, I was ok. But it doesn’t always work out that well for me. Can you relate?

Imposter Syndrome Triggers

You’ll notice the title of this episode refers to “managing” imposter syndrome. Unfortunately, you probably cannot make it disappear. However, I believe you can manage it if you know the situations that trigger you. Here are examples you might relate to:

  • Lesson observations
  • Returning to teaching after a break
  • Talking to parents about their children or employers about their staff
  • Attending courses
  • Job interviews
  • Working with a new group of learners
  • Teaching a new topic
  • Social media

Strategies for Managing Imposter Syndrome

Here are a few ways you can try to manage imposter syndrome:

  1. Recognise it’s normal: teachers and trainers are front and centre in a group of people, it’s natural to feel like an imposter sometimes. Recognise that and stop judging yourself. Place a hard limit on negative self talk.
  2. Temporary social media ban: if social media triggers your imposter syndrome, stop. Unfollow those who trigger you and stop overloading yourself with input.
  3. Reframe your feelings as reflection: I sometimes thing imposter syndrome is reflection gone wrong. Reflection is good - negative self-talk is bad. Go back to basics. Use Rolfe (What? So What? Now What?)
  4. Be honest with students: while I don’t advocate you telling your students you are a total fraud and don’t deserve to be there, you can often be more honest than you think. If you are tackling a new (to you) topic, approach it with your learners in a more collaborative way. Empower them to teach you. The results might surprise you. Use this approach with care.
  5. Confide: finally, talk to a trusted colleague. You’ll likely discover that EVERYONE feels the same as you at some point. It helps - honest.

Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to to sign up.