I had no idea what I was getting into. When I graduated from college, I was excited to start my dream job as a sixth grade teacher in a middle school. I was young, eager, and awkward and determined to bring all of the innovative ideas of the late ’70s into my classroom. And I did. Disregarding the textbooks, my students read newspapers, ransacked libraries, and designed research projects based on their interests. In my spare time, I built an outdoor education program that was the highlight of the year. Lucky for me, my principal welcomed my youthful enthusiasm with an only slightly skeptical permissiveness. I was pretty oblivious to what my fellow teachers thought of all of it. It is possible they were not pleased. I was young. Eager. Awkward.
In my third year teaching, I was told I ought to look into working with gifted children. I was told my teaching style appealed particularly to students who were more capable, independent, creative, analytical, and advanced. At the time, I thought, “What’s a gifted child?” Obviously, I wasn’t one. But I ended up in a job teaching gifted kids in a pullout program in a new middle school in a different state. I had freedom to design the curriculum based on the students’ needs and interests, class sizes were small, and the students were sensitive, creative, and endlessly curious. The teachers in my school were definitely not pleased, as I was stealing kids from their classes. But I tried to appease them with my youthful, awkward charm. I was not successful.
And yet, it was a fine introduction to the wild world of gifted education. I went on to expand my horizons and began providing training for classroom teachers and classes for parents on the social-emotional needs of these kids. I continued to be young, eager, and awkward. But, of course, when I was in my 30’s, I didn’t feel young. Or eager, really. Just awkward.
It became apparent to me during this educator phase of my life that I was working with GIFTED people. Humans with advanced intelligence, among other things. But I think I just ignored any implications or extra pressures or impostor-like ruminations. I loved the work. So I just did it.
After about ten years, I was ready to jump onto a new career path. I had been into all things psychotherapeutic for many years so why not become a psychotherapist and get paid for indulging in this passion, too. I went back to school for a counseling degree, worked in an agency for four years, and then started a private practice with a focus on those kids I had been stealing from their classes. It seemed obvious I would focus on this population in my practice because I knew they had specific mental health needs and I felt a particular bond with them. I was especially interested in family dynamics, family legacies, and trauma so transitioned to working with adults. Gifted adults. Um. Super smart grownups.
At that point, you would think, I would freak out. Impostor syndrome, here I come, baby. I mean, really. It was clear that many of my clients were well beyond me in the brain-mind-capacity zone. But they were so fascinating! So easy to love! Being with them, I was in my happy place. My hormones would regulate. My loneliness would vanish. My hair would become manageable.
So, I continued to ignore the impostor who lived under the pingpong table in my basement. I was surprised but she actually seemed to be fairly content if we talked now and then and I brought a bag of Cheetos with me. (The years of therapy as a client probably helped, too!)
My new career path expanded to this blog, a couple of books, interviews, conferences, and international consultations with even more fascinating people with names I can’t always pronounce correctly. It is kind of a miracle.
Why am I telling you this? you might ask.
Besides the fact that you might be curious about my
thrilling back story, here ya go: It is not as hard as you might think to ignore your impostor syndrome. Even if you are young, eager, and awkward. If I can do it, so can you. And on those difficult days, well, find out where your impostor lives and join them for a conversation. I’ll bring the Cheetos.
To my bloggEEs: Do you experience impostor syndrome? Can you imagine how you might ignore it and get on with finding your true paths and living your rainforest-y life? I will be here cheering you on. With love!
(Note: For those of you who are extremely observant, I went to great lengths to straighten my hair in those days.)