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  • Writer's pictureAndie Kantor

Imposter Syndrome

Updated: May 17, 2021

I have a group of friends who I see a couple times a year. We all live hours and hours away from each other, so take turns meeting near each other’s houses. There are always copious amounts of fine food and alcohol involved. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we stay in, but always we have a great time.

One of them is also a school librarian. Her work schedule is full, and both teachers and students love her. She is an incredible published poet, she writes for library journals, and speaks at conferences. She is highly intelligent and highly accomplished.

The other is a book seller in a large educational resource company. He is the area rep for California, Arizona, and New Mexico. He also speaks at conferences and is quite well known.

And then there’s me. Yeah.

We had a Zoom together last week, and the librarian--she would correct me to “teacher librarian,” as we are teachers of libraryness--that’s my word, libraryness, by the way--if you couldn’t tell--she would correct me to say “teacher librarian” --admitted that she didn’t feel like she offered much to the group, that she didn’t have a thing. This came about because she told us a story of a jerkface ex-boyfriend who rated her pumpkin pie a B+.

A B+ is like… second place. It’s like ...the first place of losing. No one wants a B+ for something they are proud of, much less an educator, much less an educator who is super proud of her pie.

Also, Thanksgiving is always at her place and she always makes said pie. There was this one time when my bestie taught me how to make a pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving and it was amazing and I told my librarian friend--teacher librarian friend--about it and she had literal tears of sorrow in her eyes and told me that she guessed she didn’t have to make pumpkin pies any longer.

She is sensitive about her pie. Her pie is, by the way, incredible.

So she tells Book Seller and me about Jerkface-Ex and his dumb comment, and casually mentioned that her pie is her offering, and without it, what is she good for in our little group?

Book Seller and I were, understandably, shocked that this would cross her mind.

“But you’re amazing,” I said.

“And you and Andie are my best friends,” he said.

We both looked at her like she was crazy.

“I have a confession to make,” I mumbled. “When you two talk sometimes about this conference you’re speaking at, or that one, and you compare notes--or this author you’ve read, or that one, and you compare notes, sometimes I just watch you each talk because I don’t feel like I have anything to add. In fact, I feel that way a lot of the time. You’re so ...erudite and I… like books about self-helpery or ones with magic and spaceships.”

Book Seller and Teacher Librarian were, understandably, shocked that this would cross my mind.

“But you were my teacher librarian mentor,” she said.

“And you introduced us!” he said.

They both looked at me like I was crazy. Bookseller mumbled that he, also, felt this way, and the three of us talked about it, reassuring each other that we all are loved.

This is called Imposter Syndrome, and it happens a lot. We elevate others and shrink ourselves--and the ridiculous thing is that there really isn’t a need for it, and we all do it anyway.

I think that Neil Gaiman said it best, when he wrote

"Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for."

You are not better, or worse, than anyone else. You have stuff to say sometimes, and sometimes you don’t. You may be highly accomplished at some things, and others you aren’t. And all of these things make up precious you. You are enough--right now, just as you are. Take a look around you, at the people in the spaces you have been invited to, and if you think you don’t belong there recognize that THEY do. They want you there.

I invite you to be the greatest you--be the greatest you that ever has been, and ever will be. After all, there will never be another you. There is never a need to compare yourselves to others--let them be them.

Love yourself. You deserve it.

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