An Impostor Syndrome Update

One week ago, I was holed up in my hotel room, furiously typing out this post as an alternative to a meltdown. One week ago, I was trying desperately to understand why I agreed to co-present a NASPA session on a topic that I was anything but an expert on. One week ago, I was predicting an inevitable professional crash-and-burn once I opened my mouth and started to talk. One week ago, the Impostor Syndrome had me in its grip and I was doing everything in my power to get it together.

I closed last week’s post with a pledge to bring the following to the conversation:

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.

One week later, and I’m happy to say I accomplished my goals. I won’t pretend that my heart wasn’t in my throat as I looked into the rapidly growing audience, especially as I scanned the crowd and saw VPSAs, Deans, two of my incredibly supportive co-workers, my NASPA mentee, and more popular SA bloggers and contributors than I care to mention. The seats were quickly filled to capacity and there were between 20-30 people standing in the back, and it suddenly became very real. Was I really going to share my experience with the Impostor Syndrome? Was I really going to talk about the harsh criticism that almost made me stop blogging? Did I actually expect to share with 125+ relative strangers my inner critic? Guess what, I did and I’m all the better for it.

I shared my story. I put myself out there and got back not just a receptive audience, but nodding heads, sympathetic smiles and even a few hearty laughs! Our presentation team got a flurry of tweets under #SAwrites and having a standing room only crowd certainly wasn’t a blow to the ego. While all of these forms of affirmation were lovely and kind and so indicative of the field, they were easily quantifiable. One of the thoughts I shared during the presentation was not getting caught up in the numbers game. Whether it be Twitter followers, blog shares, or number of unique visitors, it is so easy to get focused on the numbers and, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “comparison is the thief of joy.” What really meant the most to me and brought me joy, were the people who reached out to me personally to say they found congruence with something I had to share. Personal connections matter, especially in the world of storytelling. 

The main lesson I learned from this experience is by showing courage, you can inspire courage in others. The more you share of yourself in an authentic fashion, the more others are willing to do the same. Finally, none of these actions can be done in a vacuum and I never would have thought to propose a presentation to NASPA about my blogging experience. Thank you to Renee Piquette Dowdy, who welcomed me with the a sunny disposition and open arms that prove seven years has nothing on BG love. Thank you to Amma Marfo, for not only being an awesome roommate, but also a thoughtful sounding board. Thanks to Chris Conzen, who I met in person 20 minutes before our presentation, and was singing selections from “Frozen” with a mere 10 minutes later to help ease my nerves. Thanks to all three of them for sharing my posts and bringing me along.

Finally, a most heartfelt thanks to Josie Ahlquist, my social media spirit animal. Although we worked together several years ago, I feel like I’ve gotten to know her more via Twitter and blogging during the past year. Josie was kind enough to invite me to the conversation for “Blogging Bravely,” and I will forever be grateful. We talk a lot about women’s support and leadership in student affairs, but it is another thing to put your money where your mouth is, and that’s what Josie did. She had social capital, chose to bring me along and, in turn, has opened doors for me that I couldn’t have opened on my own. I’m inspired to blog even more bravely because of you and all those in the student affairs blogging community!


What would a NASPA presentation be without a presenter selfie? Thanks to Chris, Josie, Renee, and Amma! 



2 thoughts on “An Impostor Syndrome Update

  1. ammamarfo says:

    Fact: some of the best parts of that presentation came from you, and you should be incredibly proud of the openness and candor with which you shared your story. I know a lot of people in that room are better for it, myself included. It was an absolute pleasure to stand alongside you and talk about this part of our lives. Sending roomie love across the timezones, and I look forward to our paths crossing again- not just online, but real face to real face!

    • marcikwalton says:

      Courage inspires courages. I’ve been able to show up as a whole person because people like you have done it before me. Looking forward to roomie love continuing across the interwebz and at conferences to come!

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