Dealing with Imposter Syndrome as a Steelworker Facilitator

June 30, 2022
  • Misc. Resources

In my fourteen years of facilitation, and co-facilitating with members in the union, there are two common things I have noticed in myself and most co-facilitators. First, we try our hardest to do the best we can. Second, we are overly critical of ourselves. Could it be that most facilitators suffer from what is called “Imposter Syndrome”?

When told that we did a fantastic job, our response goes something like this: “Thanks, but you’re just being nice to me.” When told that there were things in facilitation that could have gone better, facilitators think, “I knew I wasn’t good, and now I’ve been found out.” These reactions could indicate imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome affects personal development because it prevents a realistic assessment of strengths to build on and challenges to overcome.

Three ways of identifying imposter syndrome in yourself and/or others

Feeling like a fake: A belief that one does not deserve their success. People who feel this way think, “I can give the impression that I am more competent than I really am.” “I am often afraid that others will discover how much knowledge I really lack”. This goes together with a fear of being “found out” or “unmasked.”

Attributing success to luck: The tendency to attribute success to luck and not to your own abilities. Someone acting this way would refer to an achievement by saying, “I just got lucky this time” or “It was a fluke.”

Discounting success: The tendency to downplay and discount success. Someone acting this way would say, “It is not a big deal” or “It wasn’t a difficult piece to facilitate anyway.” Discounting success makes it difficult to accept legitimate praise from the class or your co-facilitator.

What behaviour indicates imposter syndrome?

Diligence: People often work hard to prevent others from discovering that they are an “imposter.” Ironically, this often leads to more praise and success, which in turn increases the imposter feelings and fears of being “found out.”

Use of charm: To gain approval and praise from co-facilitators and participants. Avoiding displays of confidence: The belief that by showing confidence in their intelligence and abilities, they may be rejected by others.

Three ways to deal with imposter syndrome

  1. Support: Be able to discuss feelings associated with the syndrome with other facilitators
  2. Identify feelings of the syndrome: Noticing feelings of chronic inadequacy is an initial step in dealing with the syndrome
  3. Understanding the difference between feelings and reality: Reject the idea that “If I feel inadequate, I will facilitate poorly.” A better, coping statement would be, “Even though I feet inadequate, I can accomplish the facilitation tasks.”

Co-facilitation practice

Print two copies of this article. When you prepare for your next facilitation with your co-facilitator, go through this article with your co-facilitator

  • Mention your feelings about your own imposter syndrome and ask them if they feel comfortable speaking about theirs
  • Agree to address imposter syndrome as part of your daily debriefing
  • During the debriefing at the end of each day of the workshop, provide honest feedback about how each of you felt the other performed as a facilitator
  • Respond to each other’s feedback, considering the three steps for dealing with imposter syndrome (support, identify, understand)

(Source: Adapted from “Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?”)


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