This is what Impostor Syndrome feels like for me: I am a fraud. I feel it every morning when I wake up, and every night before bed. I wonder when I get my snuggles from my kids if they will ever realize that I am an impostor. If they will someday realize that I didn’t do “good enough” to earn their love. If they will realize that I don’t know what I’m doing for days at a time. Is this something we all feel? Or am I unique? Isn’t motherhood supposed to magical? Didn’t everyone tell us that once it was “your” kid that you would understand? We love these little beings with everything in us, but there is a gnawing secret feeling that we are going to let them down. That we are actively letting them down. I feel like a bad new Oprah right now pointing at moms and saying “You get to feel like an impostor!” and “You get to feel like an impostor!”

We need to get a handle on that.

Impostor Syndrome is a term used to describe feeling like a fraud in real life. These people can be people (like myself) who performed well in school. They enjoy objective markers of success like taking tests or writing papers (imagine that?), but they find themselves lacking in the real-world application of skills. There is a very “real” fear that someone will find out that they aren’t the right person to be there. Guys, I don’t want to freak you out, but we will not know if we are doing this parenting thing correctly for many years. There is no grading that occurs to let you know in the meantime. Unless you go by what your kids say, but I suspect that they might be grading on a curve that lines up with the number of bribes they can get. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on those little taskmasters. It’s a feeling I get, though.

impostor syndrome

Image: iStock/michaelquirk

With this feeling breathing down my neck, I started to consider how this can be a positive. How can we possibly use this awful feeling to our advantage? I mean, fright or flight has a survival instinct attached to it. Is there some sort of instinct that feeling like an impostor allows us to tap into? Does a chameleon feel like an impostor when he changes color and that’s why he does it? Probably no way to know – even in the masterful google search engine.

Below are 5 ways to embrace ourselves. Not literally (although that could be a 6th thing you try), but ways to be ok with the feelings we have and to even benefit from it.

1. Perfection Is Unattainable Even After Preparation

Proceed with caution on this one, as much as we want that to be a take away when they are older and make mistakes. Anyone else have a self-assured 4-year-old out there? We don’t need them to know just yet that there is any wiggle room. Whoofta. Teaching your children that it’s ok to question things and know people are imperfect is kind of a good life skill. This may help break the cycle for them. We wouldn’t feel like such impostors if we could just get ourselves to be perfect in every single way, and yet we don’t expect that from anyone else. Make friends with your ability to feel imperfect and move forward making allowances for it. Feeling imperfect isn’t the same thing as being incompetent.

2. Excelling in Learning Is Fantastic, But the Magic Happens When You Think and Use It

Personally speaking, I was very focused on grades. I was focused on the test and once that was over I never revisited the knowledge. Were you like that? Then it must especially hurt now that you aren’t being graded on parenting. It may also make you want to rip your hair out when they don’t seem to care so much about test grades.

Try to follow along with your child on this. Boosting the understanding of your child by explaining the material is the important part, not the letter grade (internalize that dialogue to remind yourself). You can fail every written test or speech, but you can still be very successful at your career. Vice versa, you can never take a test on a subject and still be ok at it. For example, look at us mothering. We are doing great things with no training.

3. There Is No End All Be All “Right Way” (Or We Would Have Found It in All the Books)

Prepare to be bad at some things. Just as there is no right way to eat a Reese’s, there is also no right way to handle everything that comes at you. This might be the hardest lesson there is. It may also be the thing that I struggle with the most. There is never a right answer for every situation in parenting. Even people that don’t have Impostor Syndrome find themselves doubting things. Those of us that struggle with it and who have done research on the “correct” way to parent especially feel at a loss when there isn’t an immediate answer that seems right. You will not know for many years whether you did something correctly.

4. Caring So Deeply Is What Causes the Worry

This is somewhat important. If motherhood and being a good role model was something that didn’t matter, you wouldn’t bother feeling like a fraud. That sounds weird, but it checks out. The simple fact that you are trying to get a handle on this is a clear sign that everything you are doing in life is coming from a place of caring. That matters a lot and that is what we can wear on our sleeve and let our children know.

5. Stop Comparing (this one contributes to Impostor Syndrome so much!)

So what if Susie’s mom can cartwheel while baking a pie and wears full makeup while she competes in a 10K? Her accomplishments take nothing away from what you have done with your life. Learning that lesson after becoming a parent, so that you can teach it to your child as they grow, is perfect. It’s just the right time for everyone to figure out that Facebook is the devil and that life on there is not real. It’s like the movies. Everyone has Director’s cut privilege on their timeline and you aren’t going to get the nitty-gritty. What better way for your child to learn and grow than by you learning and growing at the same time.

It’s different times that we live in. There are things that have popped up into our lives that even 10 years ago we didn’t see coming. One thing that will always help you is to find the positive and move with it. Embrace what you can about your current state and as you do, you may find yourself changing into the powerful know it all parent you always wanted to avoid becoming… er… I mean, wanted to be.

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(Image: iStock / grinvalds)