This is the second of a two-part series in which I talk about impostor syndrome as a language learner. I know many of us in the language learning community have experienced or do experience impostor syndrome – that feeling that we're faking it, we're frauds, we aren't deserving of the praise we receive for our achievements, and one day someone is going to discover that we really have no idea what we're doing. There's a lot of content out there about impostor syndrome, both in general and with respect to language learning, but during a recent private conversation I had with Elle at Speaking Tongues Podcast (you can find her podcast here and YouTube here), I had to give this topic a lot of thought to consider what I do in my own life to try and manage impostor syndrome.
In Episode 31, I explored some connections between impostor syndrome and certain thoughts and ideals that are common in language learning. I talked about how vague, undefinable goals (such as fluency) sets us up to feel like frauds throughout our entire journey. I discussed how labels or titles (such as polyglot or multilingual), and especially the underlying characteristics or expectations we have of someone with such titles, can leave us feeling like impostors in our own journeys. And finally, I dug into how putting our language learning idols up on a high-status pedestal and comparing ourselves to their accomplishments will always cause us to feel unworthy, fake, or deceiving in our own language achievements.
Today I work through what I do to combat these things and manage the feeling that I'm not really learning my languages – the feeling that someone is going to call me out and tell me I don't really speak them. For me, these things include mindfully working against negative confirmation bias; claiming my own labels or titles without additional qualifiers; and deeply knowing myself as I am in order to leverage my identity, history, personality, and preferences to live authentically and genuinely as myself.
Impostor syndrome isn't easy to manage, and changing how we view and feel about ourselves within certain spaces doesn't happen quickly. But every step we take toward knowing ourselves and living unapologetically as ourselves is a step toward believing that we are legitimate, we are valid, we do belong, and we do deserve praise and acknowledgment for the real work and progress we’ve made.