Experiencing Impostor Syndrome

Audrey: This matter of "qualification" is a really interesting one. What counts as that? A degree? Time spent in the field?

So this is Maha Bali and I thought Audrey Watters and I could discuss our experiences of impostor syndrome here. Others are welcome to chime in with questions or comments :) ##Q1: So, Audrey, I was really touched that someone as successful as you would admit to having impostor syndrome. Could you tell me more about how and why you experience it? And how it reflects in your work? ##Q2: Another thing that strikes me is your openness about admitting to having impostor syndrome. It made me wonder if there are men who would admit to such a thing? (Anyone can answer this one)

Audrey: I think there are a lot of things that contribute to my imposter syndrome. Some of it has to do with the lack of a "formal academic credential" in ed-tech. (My academic background is literature and folklore.) What I've learned about education -- its history, for example -- has been something I've done on my own. So there's a fear, perhaps, that I've missed out on something important.

I also am mansplained all the time by men in the field. It's something that makes me feel like they see me as an imposter. Or at the very least, they have very little respect for the work I do.

I recognize sometimes that I overcompensate as a result. (Case in point: this massive end-of-year ed-tech series I'm writing.) I have to work doubly hard to be recognized. But that's really not imposter syndrome. That's the rampant sexism in ed-tech.

Alan: I have it, admit it frequently, and thrash it out Cogdogblog and ditto Frankly, I suspect everyone except psychopaths (and what other disorders are defined without an ability to see themselves from the outside) have it at some level. In fact, any one who denies having this at some level, to me, is an imposter to themselves... Alan Levine keeps forgetting to sign, is that really needed?

Maha: See also Impostor Syndrome which is also inspired by Alan Levine post Shut Up Inner Critic

##Q3: my (Maha) personal experience with impostor syndrome does not exactly fit with the post Alan posted above. It does not necessarily hinder my creativity, though I can see how suspending judgment helps encourage creativity. What I have is rather a kind of willingness to be vulnerable openly rather than allow my impostor syndrome to stop me. I wonder how others experience it?

Nick Kearney The willingness to be vulnerable seems to me to be very important in relation to this. I experienced imposter syndrome especially while I was doing my doctorate. I had this insistent sense that all my findings were banal. I found it quite hard to talk to anyone about the work because of this, but found that when I did it was enormously helpful in dealing with the "imposter" feelings. I think I have got used to them (still have them right now as I try to figure out forking!), and getting used to them seems to involve transdforming them into a kind of inner voice with which to dialogue. Many of the voices I value out there have echoes in that voice. I am wondering how others feel the notion of vulnerability involved here may relate to notions of "openness" and "working out loud".

To me it does fit with Lamb's idea; it's not that it stops you, it's that it is always running at some level. What you describe is an ability to modulate it, like turning down its volume. But I'd suggest this ongoing question of how the world sees is is operating all the time at some level. I remain a total imposter. But an imposter suggests there is some ideal you are not matching, that's another curiosity -- Alan Levine

Maha Bali responding to Alan above (and partially to Nick): i don't know that it is always an ideal we feel we haven't achieved (like how it feels being a PhD student) or if it feels more like ppl are giving me more praise than i deserve or something. Like being invited to be part of this, i am feeling "omigosh Omigosh Mike invited Li'l ol' me into this? And i think, oh he must just need someone from the region to give it some diversity, and how come i am in the midst of all these cool ppl. But i also know on some other level that i deserve the attention ; i guess i just get surprised each time it is given, kind of. F2f, tho, i do sometimes get the "you FINISHED ur PhD?" because i wear jeans and timberlands to work. And I am not very formal so it doesn't help matters. I dunno

Audrey: I'm looking at the responses from Alan and Nick. And I"m not sure we're talking about the same thing when we talk about "imposter syndrome." Here is the Geek Feminism's definition . Or at least, I think there are really significant differences in the ways in which men and women, white folks and POC experience this. Men -- and I'm talking about ed-tech specifically here -- granted insider status by virtue of their boy-bits. Women, not so much.