Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Facing Down Imposter Syndrome

Becoming a coach is not an easy transition. Actually, part of being human is realizing that there are no easy transitions - becoming a teenager, moving to a new home, getting a divorce - most change is hard for us fragile beings.

I suppose much of it comes from discomfort with a lack of control. Most of us like feeling that we know what we're doing, and transitioning to a new place or a new position puts us in a place of Wobble, as my friend Bob Fecho calls it. Wobble is good however - it means we're changing, growing, and learning, becoming more than we were before. But it is also often uncomfortable.

Sometimes, those of us in this period of change subscribe to what is called Imposter Syndrome, or the feeling that we should “fake it til you make it." Imposter Syndrome is that uncomfortable feeling that you SHOULD know something, that others are depending on you for the answers, and that to not know them would appear weak. It can manifest as a feeling of guilt or shame or even in some cases in defensive behaviors such as anger.

I remember as a new coach, in a new building of teachers I didn't know, I felt I had WAY more questions than answers to give people. After several days of telling folks I would get back to them, I didn't feel like I'd helped anyone with any thing. I wasn't at all sure that they'd hired the right person for my job, that perhaps I'd just be better off going back to the classroom where at least I knew what I was doing. I remember wishing I could skip the next two years and just magically become an experienced coach who knew the answers.

If I'd had the words to label what I was feeling as Imposter Syndrome, I think it would have helped. I needed to know this was a perfectly normal feeling for a new coach, or even for a new teacher or new principal. I wish I had confided these feelings to someone, and that they had advised me to enjoy the Wobble that came with this new experience. There would only one time in my life I would be a new coach, and I could learn a lot from the experience if I only let myself reflect on it, pay attention to it, and use it.

If this is you this year, or if your next door neighbor down the hall is new this year (to the school, or the grade level, or to teaching), watch for the ugly evidence of Imposter Syndrome and do your best to squash it. Instead, tell yourself (or the other person) to enjoy the Wobble as a sign of growth. Embrace the chance to stretch yourself. And know that to not know something is never a sign of weakness. It is, instead, a sign of transition as our fragile selves change into something new.

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