Anyone Suffer from Impostor Syndrome?
---Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostor syndrome incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be---
The link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
Anyhow, I was wondering if any others here suffer from this. I certainly do, primarily from the perspective of a teacher, but also as a performer. Actually, even in writing this, I think to myself that perhaps I don't have Impostor syndrome but am *actually* just a fraud! Maybe I'm missing the "syndrome" part!
It bothers me less as a performer because if I give a bad performance, it really only affects me. But if I'm an incompetent teacher, I could be ruining the musical success of hundreds of people.
Here are some of the conflicts/self-arguing that I have, characterized by an attempted positive thought and then countered by a negative thought afterwards:
(+) All of my students say I am an excellent teacher. They constantly go out of their way to let me know.
(-) Most of these people are beginners, so how could they know what constitutes a good violin teacher?
(+) In trying to think of other teachers in my vicinity that I could recommend, it's hard to find others that I would recommend more than myself. In fact, when my schedule is full and a beginner contacts me, I can't give others' names in good faith, though I certainly attempt to.
(-) I may just not know that many local teachers. My pool of comparison is limited.
(+) When I receive a student who actually does precisely what I instruct, their progress is very fast and of good quality.
(-) Maybe those rare students were bound to succeed regardless of their instructor's abilities.
(+) Many of my own students don't make the fast progress that I'd like them to, but it's because of one reason or another, such as lack of parental support, lack of attention span, or lack of (__insert reason here___).
(-) Maybe a better teacher would find ways to effectively inspire the parents, command better attention from the student, and do whatever else was necessary to get fast progress.
And all of this brings up the thought: how does a teacher know that they're worthy of teaching? Isn't it presumptuous for me to just say that I *know* that I am? I don't have a history of students winning competitions or reaching very high levels of playing, so where is my proof? I know that there are some posters here that believe anyone not conservatory-trained and not capable of playing high-level repertoire simply shouldn't be teaching at all. It makes me doubt myself greatly. Yes, I think I can play high-level pieces, but is the quality high enough to validate me playing them? And if I'm not *truly* playing those pieces at the required quality, then am I really capable of leading students down the correct path?
I think of Jeewon Kim's sister who supposedly consistently gets nearly every student to a "bruch-level" equivalent on cello in 4 years or less. And I think to myself, how is this possible? And Lydia's teacher seems to get similar results on violin, if I'm recalling the contents of previous threads correctly. Has this success rate been amplified by many less-dedicated students either being given away to a different teacher or giving up early on? Or are these teachers really just capable of motivating/teaching/commanding/inspiring nearly every student who walks in the doors to achieve this high level of success, regardless of the situation? Are they seeing these students every day or something? Or is this from just a single weekly lesson?
Teachers that produce
I feel the same way. There are times I feel more confident in myself, but after a performance, I always walk away feeling like an "impostor" (for lack of a better word). Even when people tell me they loved my performance, I can't shake the feeling. It causes me some stress, but I think everyone's like that from time to time.
To Lydia's list, I would add a fourth thing: the teachers with consistently excellent students are high-level players themselves (or were such players at one time and have a profound fund of knowledge on which to draw, such as Galamian).
I know exactly what you mean. In my own professional life I suffer the same see-sawing of doubts.
Thanks for the reassuring words.
Erik's 'You raised me up' on YouTube is IMO the best among all violin covers of this song, if you single out the violin playing.
I dont have the syndrome, but due to other insecurities of my own Ive come to the conclusion that the only way to get out of a cycle is to accept that one cannot judge oneself so one does not ever really know if one is good or bad.
Just a quick answer here:
There's always a spectrum of any particular feeling or emotion, and self-doubt runs the gamut from narcissists who need more, to people who are entirely crippled by it and obviously need less. If you're concerned about where the needle points for you, see a psychologist.
I would say I feel a little bit of imposter syndrome every single day. I think it's the constant accompaniment to someone who is passionate about what the do and constantly striving to do better. The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. In terms of teaching in particular, I think there is both room and need for various levels of teachers in terms of skill. I know teachers who are fantastic at the conservatory level but wouldn't do well teaching a kid spiccato, and visa versa. As Eric Booth once so eloquently put it (google Eric Booth Carnegie Hall) "90% of teaching is who you are". It's clear from your post that you are a thoughtful, motivated, humble and that your students like you and learn from you. I have a little list of things I like to remind myself of for what good teaching is as it relates to private lessons, kind of like a true north of good teaching no matter the level, and no matter who walks in the door.
Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, everybody, as well as the alternative viewpoints. It's much appreciated, and also interesting to read. Lots of good points here.
Erik - you are not alone.
George, you’re very welcome.
I'll answer yes to the question.
Oh, I certainly wouldn't attempt to prepare a student for conservatory auditions. You are correct that knowing limits is of utmost importance. I do feel it's possible for me to change those limits, but that would require work that I'm not willing to put in (not to mention giving up on every other project I'm involved in!).
I haven't read the wiki article, but its opposite would be something along the lines of Attribution Bias, I guess, something I know a little about because a family member has it.
Getting beginners to Bruch level in four years consistently? I don't think there's any teacher in the world who can do that without being highly selective and passing less-serious students to other teachers.
Also, most good string players I've met have impostor syndrome. It's really the flip side of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Andrew, can you email me at SacramentoStrings@gmail.com so I have your contact info?
Andrew... Spot On!!! And that goes for any other profession as well.... at least the folks I want on my team.
I'm struck as to how certain character traits that used to regarded as simple aspects of normality are now labelled such-and-such "syndrome", or named after the psychologists who think they discovered them
@Steve. Quite! I mentioned attribution bias because the OP mentions attributing something to luck. Quite why over-confidence should be renamed the Dunning-Kruger effect, I can't imagine. There's probably a reason, but is it one I'd want to waste part of what remains of my life finding out about?
The Dunning-Kruger effect isn't overconfidence. It's the inverse relationship between competence and likelihood of being overconfident.
Erik -- I'll email you some time soon. I'm not going to be playing any music for at least the next two or three weeks because I re-aggravated the shoulder injury that I've mentioned before, yet again. (Not by playing viola, but by playing pickup soccer thinking it wouldn't really involve the upper body much. The game didn't, but the adrenaline did.)
In 2000 Dunning and Kruger were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize
If you had asked this question two years ago, just prior to retirement, I would have possibly regarded my self as an impostor in my profession.
@Toby "If you had asked this question two years ago, just prior to retirement, I would have possibly regarded my self as an impostor in my profession."
Can I put a “like” on Toby’s post? Love it!
I plead guilty!
Great discussion all. As a clinical psychologist, allow me to add a concept.