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The Imposter and Me

Imposter Syndrome- It can be so easy to doubt yourself and think you’re not good enough.

Cate Knight documents her struggles and how some people have used that to their advantage.

cate knight imposter

Deep down I guess I know I’m not utterly useless. I wouldn’t be where I am if that were the case. My grounding in CBT allows me to acknowledge the fallacy of certain statements through sheer weight of evidence, but there are areas in life where things are purely subjective. This is where “She” comes into play. The Imposter. 

I interviewed for 3 teaching jobs in one day as an NQT. I was offered all 3. It was a heady buzz!! I was one of the later members of my cohort to get a position & had been waiting for something that “felt” right. 

The night that I accepted my first position as head of music was brilliant. My parents opened bubbly! I was thrilled. 

Two days later a letter from the school arrived. It politely informed me that the position was NOT head of music as stated and I would NOT be given a TLR for the post. Suddenly “her” voice was there:

“What? Did you really think someone would give YOU responsibility? They probably realised they had made a mistake hiring you as soon as you left the interview!!”

That night I cried as if my heart would break. The sparkle left me and instead I viewed my approaching September start with trepidation. 

It actually turned out that I LOVED my job!! Everyone seemed pleased with me. At first. But then I had a few wobbles. Forgetting to sign homework diaries in form. Getting locked in school because I stayed too late. I began to apologise as soon as I opened my mouth. 

“Sorry for being a pain”

“Sorry for asking so many questions”

“Sorry but I don’t know how to do that”

“Sorry, you must be so fed up of me”

The imposter was getting all the sustenance she needed. I fed her insecurities daily by taking on culpability for anything and everything. 

People tried to be kind, to help me, to lift me but, as is ever the case in life, one or two saw my under confidence as an opportunity. The buck would get passed in my direction because people knew I would accept it and apologise for not having offered in the first place. 

The voice in my head kept on at me:

“Why are you so tired? Others manage ok!!”

“It’s no wonder your ex left you for someone with their s*it together”

“You can’t even do this when people are being KIND to you! You are never going to survive”

And the next thing I knew, the imposter was inviting her friend, the black dog, to stay. 

Teaching is a tough job even when you are buoyant, fresh and full of enthusiasm. When you are clinically depressed it becomes a millstone, strangling, drowning and dragging you down. 

The imposter voice became louder than my own:

“No one likes you! They’re being polite”

“You are a rubbish musician! Just shut up and stop making people endure your playing/singing”

“The kids don’t really enjoy your lessons it’s just that they think Music is a ‘doss’”

“You’re weird. Different. Just give up already!”

The self critiquing required in teaching is a brilliant skillset to have. It makes us excellent learners. But… It also gives Ms Imposter a platform and a microphone. 

In performance reviews, inspections, observations people would ask:

“So what did you think of the lesson?”

And she would crow internally with delight and proceed to rip everything to shreds mercilessly. 

I have therefore, spent most of my teenage/adult life feeling a bit inadequate. 

Invidious comparisons do not help and I have grown within a culture of media that has embraced these far too much. Celebrity TV, beauty shows, competitive reality shows… all left me feeling like I had simply not been given the right manual to life. 

She still pops into my life for visits. 

Recently she decided to disrupt my hobby and my job. She called me “amateur”, “unambitious”, “foolish”

I made the mistake of inviting her in. I forgot how unpleasant she can be. 

It is becoming a less frequent visitation schedule. Therapy, working in a compassionate job and having an amazing support network have all meant that I feel ok to meet her at the door and say “not today thank you”. But she still catches me unawares, finds my insecurities and uses them to hurt me. 

We all have an inner critic and in some ways it can be healthy. But only if they’re kind. Because actually, none of us should tolerate deliberate unkindness or discomfort intended to hurt us. 

So… next time your imposter pays you a visit be prepared to slam the door or at least ask them politely, but firmly, to leave. 

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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