In Academia World, there’s this thing called “Imposter Syndrome.” It’s when you doubt you’re smart enough or worthy enough to be where you are – teaching, educating others. I heard a lot about it as I went through my courses, and I heard about it when I read my books, wrote my essays, and nodded my way through class discussions. The higher up I got in my education, the more prevalent this feeling seemed to be.
I had heard about it, but I never felt it, until I realized that I was a representation of my people.
I was speaking with my academic friends on a panel about Community Research, in Ontario, and I was talking very briefly about my struggles of balancing storytelling protocol, academia rules, and being a member of the community I was doing research in. And I looked around and the teachers, the professors, and Six Nations community members – they were taking notes.
I didn’t understand what I was saying that was so important that it had to be written down. I wanted to tell them to stop, to put down the pens. I wanted to quickly review what I had said and see if anything could be taken out of context.
I wanted to hide.
Imposter Syndrome, you devil.
Instead, I smiled, took a deep breath, and got through it. I spoke of personal experiences, of being asked to sit down at the kitchen table and an Elder wanting to share stories specifically on the topic I wanted to cover in my thesis – and the damage that asking them to sign a consent form does. How consent forms implies something may be taken and used the wrong way, instead of being seen as a protection of their words. How my upbringing would demand that I listen and learn, as I was there to gain understanding, not to take over and make them a participant. I spoke my truth, and tried not to let my voice shake as pens glided along white loose-leaf paper.
I am told everyone feels like an imposter at one point or another, in Academia. Everyone doubts his or her words.
I hate that feeling.
Tea and Bannock has one basic requirement that all our main bloggers must adhere to. We must mentor another artist who works in visuals. We must give back to our communities; we must share our experience, our education and our passion.
I recently put a call out for a mentoring application for other artists in the Saskatoon area. I received ten applications within 12 hours.
I was shifting through them, and was amazed at the stories they were sharing. Indigenous women, who look to the camera and see a way to express their story, their passion, their relationships with their Indigenous heritages. It was humbling.
And I had a terrifying thought.
I don’t know what I can teach them.
I wanted to delete my post. I wanted to cry a little. I wanted to call a friend and make them tell me I was Good Enough to do this. I wanted to sit in a dark corner, eat all the Easter Mini-Eggs in the house, and pretend I wasn’t a photographer and that no body knew me.
Because you know, I’m not dramatic or anything.
Sigh. I hate that feeling.
So instead of embracing the drama, I took a walk. I grabbed my point and shoot – a Fujifilm x100s – and just played with my daughter outside. We walked around the neighbourhood, played on the swing, and danced through mud puddles. In the midst of all that, I took images of her, of the nature around us, of our life. I felt the cool wind on my cheeks. I saw her curly hair flying in a ponytail as she went down the slide. I heard the crunch of dry grass underneath our feet.
I let the weight drift away from my shoulders and I laughed loudly, tossing my head back.
I love that feeling.
My mentoring session will be coming up soon, and I thought it safe to say that while we offer this, and I wanted to offer this, it’s still scary. I still remember the raw terror of doing my first session, of my first wedding, of my first commercial gig. And while the terror of those first few sessions still linger in my mind, I am so grateful for the fact that now, when I head out to a ten-hour wedding or a commercial gig where I only have one shot to get it right, that my experience and my past mistakes enable me to bring my best. My mistakes have always made me a better photographer – some of us learn through achieving new heights, some of us learn by falling incredibly low.
At the end of the day, I’m thankful to be in position where I can hopefully help others a little bit, the way some photographers stepped up and helped me on my journey.
And so, I breathe deep, laugh a little, and continue on.
– tenille campbell
2 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome”
Thanks for writing about this subject. I experienced it when I worked in a school some years ago. It’s a ghastly feeling, and I hadn’t realized that other people feel it too.
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