Imposter Syndrome, or the belief that you are not qualified for your job despite evidence to the contrary, is a plague that affects almost everyone I know. I’ve heard about it from engineers, teachers, writers, business owners, and of course, music teachers. (And it probably doesn’t help that you’re told by everyone you know that you’ll never make any money.)
There are a few things I can rely upon to always get my imposter syndrome fired up; writing for this blog, advertising for students, performing for my peers, student recitals. All of a sudden I start doubting that I have any knowledge, skill, or reason to be in my job. I spent a long time trying to remind myself of any and all accomplishments to help me feel better but it never worked. A few years ago I realized why. I couldn’t talk myself out of doubting my qualifications because I didn’t have all the qualifications I wanted.
Yes, I’m going to occasionally doubt my ability to take a student from Twinkle to Mozart Concerto, because I’ve not done it yet. I’ve only been teaching Suzuki Violin for seven years and I’ve moved three times.
Yes, I’m going to doubt my ability to help other teachers because I’m still becoming the teacher I want to be.
Yes, I’m going to doubt my ability to perform flawlessly, because I’ve never performed flawlessly. I have more practicing to do.
I compare myself to other teachers around me and find myself lacking. Well good! I can see my faults clearly. I am grateful that I can see where I have room to grow. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons people feel like an imposter is because they overestimate how confident and prepared other people felt at the same stage. Everyone’s an imposter! You have to keep working, keep growing to become who you want to be.
Just like your students, you have to practice. Just like your students, your current skill level does not predetermine what you can achieve.
As I’ve worked on this, I’ve created a list of mantras that I rely on when I’m feeling beaten down by imposter syndrome.
I am a beginner.
I have years of experience and training, but in the long scheme of things I’m a baby teacher. Just like I want my students to grow in their ability, I need to give myself a chance to grow in my ability. It’s not fair to compare myself to teachers with decades of experience.
Success is not a scarce commodity.
There are lots of great teachers that live around me. That does not reduce my ability to be a great teacher. Being around other teachers may make me sometimes feel afraid that I’ll never get enough students, but living in a place with lots of great teachers inspires others in the community to start lessons. I choose to have an abundance mindset about getting students. Someone else’s success does not limit my own potential.
I am surrounded by people who want to help me.
Having a sister and friends who are also Suzuki teachers is priceless. I am so thankful that I have a support group who can advise when I have to write a difficult email to a parent or phrase a Google Ad. I have taken teacher training from amazing teacher trainers who have been encouraging and patient with my many questions. I have studio parents who keep me going with their kind words, and students who make my day with their silly jokes and excitement about music. I have a husband and two children who would still love me if I really do turn out to be a total imposter. Fear is lonely. Reminding myself of my people fills me with courage.
I can be the teacher my students need.
A few years ago I was pondering what kind of teacher I wanted to be. All of a sudden I was struck by the feeling that I wanted to be the teacher that loved the kids who were hard to love. And I really do feel that way. I love the surly teenagers. I love the five year old who has the attention span of a goldfish. I love the student whose progression is so slow, I may be the only one who notices. I love them all. This does not make me better than other teachers, but it does make me the right fit for certain students. I love the oddballs because I am one.
I have made a lot of progress in my belief in myself, but I have to remind myself often of what I have learned. My imposter syndrome isn’t going anywhere soon because there’s still a lot of room between where I am and where I want to be. I’m so glad I have big dreams. The uncomfortable feeling of failure is worth it.
What helps you when you’re feeling like an imposter? Please help me add to my list of mantras!