Impostor Syndrome

PIDP 3260 Professional Practice
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
April 21, 2018


In, The Skillful Teacher (2015), Dr. Stephen Brookfield admits,

“I will always feel like an impostor and will never lose the lose the sense of amazement I feel when people treat me as if I have something to offer” (p. 9).

Brookfield describes his statement as a “truth” (p.9) that he understands about himself as an educator; his confession terrifies me.


I discovered that impostor[1]syndrome is a buzzword[2]that articulates Brookfield’s reflective ‘truth’:

 “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women and among academics” (Corkindale, 2008, para. 3).

I am a woman, and I am an aspiring academic; impostor syndrome is something that I need to address in my professional practice because I have anxiety when addressing groups of learners. I have self-doubt even though (I know that) I possess the knowledge skills, and attitudes to be a successful instructor.


I think self-doubt is normal, but feeling like an impostor goes deeper in my opinion. I believe that impostor syndrome fosters irrational fears. I am okay with the one-on-one instructing that I facilitate in my current position, but my goal is to be a college instructor; this type of facilitation requires command of the subject and command of a classroom. I am confident in my abilities as a dental assistant, but no matter how well I know my subject, what if I can’t confidently convey it? Maybe I don’t know as much as I should know? Does this mean that I am an ‘impostor’? Will my learners view me as such?

I admit that I am relieved to discover that Brookfield, someone with a PhD in Adult Education, shares the same insecurities that I do. I decided to interview some educators, and asked them to consider Brookfield’s statement. Here are their responses (for legal reasons, I am not permitted to use one of my interviewees’ last name, so I omitted them all):

  • Lucas C. is a PhD candidate in Biomolecular Research at Utrecht University, Netherlands. He facilitates the lab instruction of under-graduate, and post-graduate students. Lucas explains, “At some point, you just realize that no one really knows what they’re talking about. Everyone tries their best to know stuff, but everyone’s knowledge is limited.” He then shared this hilarious meme[3]:
    Lucas confirms that impostor syndrome is a “thing,” and uses humour to alleviate self-doubt (personal interview, April 15, 2018)
  • Rachel T. is an aspiring Math teacher and BEd student at the University of Victoria, BC. She has completed her first practicum teaching Grade 12 Math. Rachel is confident in her subject, but she feels that the responsibility and expectations of delivering instruction challenges her self-confidence, and she confesses that she doesn’t feel “old enough.” Rachel also admits that her educated approach cannot always be relied upon as a practical approach to instruction, and she is surprised by her students observable understanding (personal interview, April 19, 2018).
  • Alison W. is a Yoga instructor with many years of experience. Alison identifies with Brookfield’s statement “wholeheartedly” each time that she directs a class, regardless of the level of her participants. She explains that she began by using a script and referring to her notes throughout the sessions because she was nervous, but soon realized that this made her appear incompetent and she would lose the flow in her class. To avoid impostor syndrome, Alison focuses on “directing from the heart without a script” (personal interview, April 19, 2018).
  • Lyn K. is a Certified Dental Assistant and college instructor with decades of clinical and teaching experience. Lyn is a master of her vocation (dental assistant and educator), and spends an immeasurable amount of time planning for success, but most importantly, planning for failure. She is humble and appreciative when her learners succeed (personal conversation April 20, 2018).


I am surprised, yet comforted, to discover that each of the educators that I interviewed experience varying levels of impostor syndrome. I gather from the interviews not to take myself too seriously (Lucas), believe in myself (Rachel), be myself (Alison), and be prepared (Lyn).

Moreover, I have considered the best way that I can alleviate feeling like an impostor is to stay current in my professional practice. I believe that Brookfield recognizes that he is a master of his profession, but I also think that he feels that he still has something to learn, “a degree of impostorship . . . stops us becoming complacent and ensures that we see our practice as being in constant flux and evolution” (p. 60).  I intend to continue to learn as well, even when I complete my PID. For example, I intend on pursuing a Certificate in Online Instructionat VCC this fall, and I will continue to regularly attend dental conferences to stay current in dentistry.

[1]impostor or imposter: both spellings are correct and are applied as cited.

[2]buzzword: word or phrase that is fashionable in context (Oxford Living Dictionary, n.d.).

[3]meme: a humorous image, video, or piece of text that is imitated (often with satirical variations) and generated by Internet users (Oxford Living Dictionary, n.d.).

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited