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expose your cracks and love will fill them
I was teaching recently and a student used a phrase that I hadn’t heard before: “I reacted systemically to the RhoGAM shot”. I have heard the word systemically of course, but never in reference to a reaction in the body. So I asked DURING a live class what that meant. As soon as I asked the question I immediately regretted it. Internally I began to panic, and thought, “shit, how are the students going to perceive me not knowing that? They are going to think I am not fit to teach them.” It felt like I had just exposed a weakness and I immediately wanted to remedy it.
As I sat there trying to brainstorm how I could validate my question and convince the students that I’m still qualified in my profession, I remembered an episode from New Girl. In this episode one of the characters is very stressed at the idea of living with his girlfriend, and his friend gives him some advice saying “expose your cracks and love will fill them”. This basically means that showing your vulnerability gives people the opportunity to love and support you.
So I intentionally chose not to over explain myself or try to “prove” to the students that I am knowledgeable. It was uncomfortable, and even as I write this now I am stressing that you are thinking about how unqualified I am.
Feeling like an imposter by default
Once I sat with the discomfort for a minute, I actually began to feel it was a good demonstration of my humanity. We teach our students that they do not need to know absolutely everything when working with clients. It’s a totally valid response to say “I don’t know, but I will find out“ but for whatever reason I hold myself to a higher standard. Not knowing doesn’t feel like an option and any signs of weakness make me worry that I will be immediately discarded.
I wonder how many of us feel like this? If we show any signs of imperfection then we will immediately be shamed/banned/judged. How often do we feel like we aren’t good enough, that we are imposters by default.
Is it imposter syndrome or is it the systems we live in?
Imposter Syndrome is a term that is referenced often when people, especially women or people from other equity seeking groups, feel like frauds in their jobs. They feel that no matter how much experience, education, credentials and knowledge they have, they are not good enough.
They are fearful that people will discover they are an imposter, someone who just happened to be at the right place at the right time. In other words, regardless of how qualified we are for a job, we always doubt our abilities.
However, over the past several months I have become increasingly curious and doubtful whether or not Imposter Syndrome is something that we feel and need to work on, or whether it’s a product of the culture and society we are living in. I recently came across an article called “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome” which very brilliantly details why defining Imposter Syndrome as a “syndrome” takes away the focus and blame and places it on an individual level, rather than viewing it as a symptom of the society we are living in. There is also an awesome TikTok Video on Imposter Syndrome and white supremacy which you can watch here (thank you Michelle for sharing this with the team!).
It makes sense that we don’t feel like we belong
For folks who identify as women we have internalized and ingested so much information about how we are not good enough. We are held to impossibly high standards by society, our families, our workplaces and ourselves. It makes sense that we don’t feel like we belong!
We can’t expect to ingest a lifelong barrage of how we are less than and then all of sudden snap into confidence when it comes to our work lives. Many of us overcompensate by getting multiple certifications or working longer hours and doing more work.
We work very hard to feel like we belong but in reality, the system wasn’t designed for us.
Give ourselves the same courtesy we give others
The feeling of not being good enough is not something we need to uphold. We encourage our clients, families and friends to learn and grow and we respect their process. So why can’t we offer ourselves that same courtesy? I wholeheartedly believe that our students should be able to say “I don’t know, but I will find out for you” to their clients without diminishing the value of their work. So why can’t I do that for myself?
Perhaps one way to fight against imposter syndrome and convincing ourselves that we are good enough, is by letting each other (ALL of us) be in a perpetual state of learning. Ergo, we don’t expect perfection from anyone.
Do you ever worry about showing vulnerabilities in a professional setting? Are you worried that you aren’t actually qualified to do your job, despite your experience and education pointing otherwise? Feel free to share in the comments.
expose your cracks and love will fill them
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