3 Ways To Beat Imposter Syndrome That'll Help You With Your Classroom Management
Updated: Nov 13
One of the secret ingredients at being good at behaviour management is confidence. Confidence is the assurance that you have the right skills, aptitude and character traits to get the job done.
But there is a sinister belief that stops us from being the action heroes of our classrooms that needs to be booted out of house and that’s Imposter Syndrome.
In this week’s blogpost we will:
1) Define what Imposter Syndrome is & who it mostly affects.
2) Look at how these thoughts can create a 'vicious-cycle' that destroys your performance in the classroom.
And most importantly,
3) Look at 3 ways that you can defeat these pesky thoughts & feelings & become the superhero of your classroom.
Are you ready? Let’s do this!
What is Imposter Syndrome?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Imposter Syndrome as “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success1.”
In other words, despite everything you may have achieved in your career or your life, you have a nagging feeling that you are a fraud & you are one step away from being ‘found out.’ That’s a total bummer. And it’s a lot more common than you think.
According to studies, Yahoo!Finance reports:
A whopping 7 out of 10 of working professionals (23 million people) worry about being exposed as ‘frauds in the workplace’
Millennials (aged 22 - 37) are 11% more likely to feel like they are imposters than those in the Baby Boomer generation (aged 55 -75).
Those that class themselves as minorities: LGBTQIA+, BAME and those with disabilities reported struggling more with these feelings with a 10% increase on their more represented counterparts.
The Cycle of Limiting Beliefs
Imposter Syndrome becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Despite all your skills & accomplishments, Imposter Syndrome can rob you of the energy and creativity that will help you become a great teacher. Imposter Syndrome is the ‘spanner in the works’ that destroys your confidence.
The best way to illustrate how this affects you is by using ‘the cycle of limiting beliefs’ framework which was created by the motivational speaker, Tony Robbins.
Everything in your life starts with your beliefs.
If you have the belief that you can be a great teacher, you will look at your potential – your current skills and talents and you can apply them to your career.
Your potential will determine the actions that you take and if the actions go well, they will strengthen your beliefs and on and on it will go until you reach higher levels of success. This is known as the ‘Virtuous Cycle.’
What Imposter Syndrome does is lead you down a darker path.
These insidious thoughts chip away at your confidence telling you that everything that you have done is a fluke or you are somehow ‘bluffing it.’ It will make you question your potential and mercilessly critique your abilities.
This limits the actions that you take & because you don’t give it your all. You are more likely to get a poorer result than expected, strengthening those lingering doubts and harming your self-confidence.
The ‘vicious cycle’ begins and leaves you with shot self-esteem, chaotic classrooms and a less satisfying career. This needs to get nipped in the bud. Let's discuss 3 to overcome this death spiral.
1) Make a List of Your Accomplishments
You've just had that terrible Year 10 class, you've had a lesson observation that went completely Pete Tong, or you didn't hit a BlueSky objective and you won't be moving up the pay scale.
Whatever the event is, your confidence is shattered and you feel like warmed up dog crap with a side dressing of blue bum flies.
A very simple trick is to grab a scrap piece of paper and a pen & write down everything that you have achieved thus far. It could be as grand as passing your NQT year or as small as getting Johnny Tableflipper to take off his jacket before he stepped into your classroom.
Put at least 20 ideas down. If you feel OK, go for broke & write 50 - 100 ideas if you're in the mood. I learnt this trick from entrepreneur & author Rob Moore in his great book You're Worth More - it's an absolutely cracking read that I highly recommend.
Our minds are naturally geared towards the negative because your brain has one job: to ensure that you survive. Our 'ancient' brains have been wired to constantly scan for threats like sabretooth tigers or falling trees.
While this great when we were in the savannahs of Africa 100,000 years ago, it's not so great when we are dealing with horrible teens or indifferent bosses. This exercise forces you to break the negative thought patterns & look at yourself more objectively.
Us Brits are known for our modesty, politeness & 'stiff-upper-lip' in the face of trouble. Although these are fantastic traits, we need to also learn how to blow our own horns from time-to-time.
2) Separate EVENTS from FACTS
Cristiano Ronaldo, then playing for Manchester United, in the 2008 Champion's League Final against Chelsea, missed his spot-kick in the penalty shootout. That was the EVENT.
Manchester United, despite Ronaldo's failure, went on to win the shootout and achieve their record 3rd win of Europe's most elite football competition.
Ronaldo, a plucky starlet with crazy potential, FAILED in the time that his team needed him the most. Luckily, he didn't let that haunt him & has gone on to be one of the greatest football players that have ever lived.
Imposter Syndrome makes you feel that any EVENT that happens to you, automatically becomes a FACT.
You have a bad lesson = you are the worst teacher that has ever lived.
You have a rude student = you are a terrible behaviour manager.
And so on. This can cripple you over time and set your anxiety levels through the roof. Don't let it do that to you.
One way to defeat this thought pattern is by doing what is known as a 'cognitive reframe' - bending your reality to suit your needs. One way to separate events from facts is just by exchanging one simple word for another.
Turn all your FAILURES into FEEDBACK.
If you feel like you totally 'failed' in a lesson, instead ask 'what feedback could I learn from this negative experience so that I will be better next time?'
If Johnny Tableflipper has verbally abused you, instead of feeling like you 'failed' to manage his behaviour, ask yourself 'what triggered his poor behaviour in the first place? What warning signs did I miss & how can that feed into my approach in the next lesson?'
This approach forces you to LEARN rather than WALLOW in what has happened & makes you better in the process. This is having a growth mindset in action.
3) Set Micro-Goals
Extensive research has shone that Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism walk hand in hand. In an article by the American Psychological Association, one of the pioneering researchers of Imposter Syndrome, Dr Rose Clance stated:
So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help. That perfectionism can lead to two typical responses... An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear that he or she won't be able to complete it to the necessary high standards. Or, he or she may overprepare, spending much more time on a task than is necessary.3
If you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, your quest to be 'perfect' could ironically set you up for failure. Perfectionists, rather than learn to walk, believe they should be sprinting like Usain Bolt in the 2012 London Olympics - that's an awful place to be in.
Instead learn to set 'micro-goals' - tasks that are small, achievable and will give you a 'quick win.'
If you have a very difficult class full of absolute hellraisers, rather than read them the Riot Act, set a micro-goal to add some pleasantness to your classroom.
It could be:
Greeting them all at the door as they come in.
Praising them when they do the right thing.
Giving them a 5 minute 'chillout session' if they have worked hard and so on.
You might not think it, but those small positive actions compound into major differences over time. The entrepreneur & investor Jeff Olson wrote a wonderful book called The Slight Edge all about how habits good or bad compound into huge success or massive failure.
I wrote a book review based on his concept - click the link below to read more!
You are not alone. I hope that this article has convinced you that there are so many people who are racked with doubt and anxiety about their ability. Let me let you into a little secret:
You are human & it's OK to feel unconfident sometimes. But as my favourite saying goes:
"Feel the fear but do it anyway."
Did you enjoy that blogpost? Well, there's plenty more where they came from. Join the AHT blog below and get free, weekly blogs, articles and goodies fresh out the oven, waiting patiently in your inbox. It will take you less than 30 seconds.
Do it and add that to your list of accomplishments.
Karl from actionheroteacher.com
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2020. Imposter Syndrome. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impostor%20syndrome.
2. Yahoo!Finance. 2020. 75% of women in the UK workplace fear being exposed as career frauds. [ONLINE] Available at: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/75-of-women-in-the-uk-workplace-fear-being-exposed-as-career-frauds-050000715.html?.
3. American Psychological Association. 2020. Feel like a fraud?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud.