Impostor Syndrome, Please Go Away

In less than 24 hours, I’m co-presenting with four heavyweights in the student affairs online world. Renee Piquette Dowdy, Christopher Conzen, Amma Marfo, Josie Ahlquist and I are presenting on “Blogging Bravely.” This NASPA presentation will hopefully serve as a reflection tool, resource-sharing opportunity, and the jump-start that some people may need to get to blogging. Sounds awesome, right? 

Here’s the issue: I’m terrified and I have the Impostor Syndrome to thank. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Impostor Syndrome, it’s a phrase coined in the late 70s after a group of researchers examined the experiences of highly motivated and career driven women and has become a hot topic in recent years after Sheryl Sandberg addressed it in her book “Lean In.” More or less, it is the feeling that you are somehow an impostor who is not qualified, doesn’t have much to bring to the table, and doesn’t deserve recognition or promotions. This also spurs on the feeling of being “found out” by others that you are indeed under-qualified and don’t belong. While this is an oversimplified description, for me it means a total sense of intimidation and feeling the consistent sense of, “Who am I to be included in this incredible group? Who am I to possibly impart my ‘wisdom’ to session attendees? When will my co-presenters figure out I’m not on their level?”

Let’s talk about my co-presenters for a moment. I’ve known Renee since grad school and she is incredible. She does consulting work for fraternities and sororities to help build their educational curriculums, is a big-time blogger, and has an incredible reputation in the field. Christopher is a leading advocate for community colleges, has developed an amazing online presence, and never fails to push the field forward. Amma just wrote a freaking book, you know, in her free time. Josie is getting her doctorate and has quickly become a go-to content wizard when it comes to technology, social media, and college student identity development in digital spheres. She’s also married to a celebrity. Combined, these four people have 7,700 Twitter followers. 

I’ve been blogging for less than a year, have a fraction of those Twitter followers and I am still very much finding my voice as a writer and blogger. Every time our group chatted via Google Hangout or sent around emails, in the back of my head was the voice saying, “This time they are going to figure out you are out of your depth. This email is going to be about trimming down the presentation panel. THIS Google Hangout you’re going to say something that ‘outs’ your lack of experience.” If I’m being completely honest, I’m also thinking about all of the folks reading the abstract thinking, “Oh, I follow Josie on Twitter…I’ve read Amma’s book…I love that Chris says what he truly thinks…Renee is an incredible example of a strong, successful woman…Who the hell is Marci Walton???” I have little doubt that most of the folks in the room tomorrow aren’t just coming to hear about blogging, but also to hear about blogging from these specific people. 

So where does that leave me? Ironically, researchers suggest that folks with the impostor syndrome should write out their accomplishments as a way to give perspective and shine a reality into what’s truly going on. With this in mind, here’s what I plan to bring to the presentation tomorrow:

I have a story. I have a voice. I have opinions. I have skills and a great education. I have something to contribute.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to contribute and give voice to those in the room and in offices throughout the world of student affairs who feel like at any moment they are going to be discovered. To those professionals who question going into the field and feel like they have so much to learn. More than anything else, I’m going to show up and talk about what it’s like to blog bravely.

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One thought on “Impostor Syndrome, Please Go Away

  1. Bryan Mc says:

    Hey! Great post! I was in that NASPA Session and really appreciated your point of view, in starting my own blog I’ve got that “imposter” feeling myself. To see someone – on a NASPA panel no less – name that feeling was one of the things I had hoped would be talked about so Kuddos!

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