Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
Last year, my wife and I started batting around the idea that I should extend my coaching from the once-yearly tee-ball leauge to the local school. I suggested that since they didn't have a wrestling team, I might be able to lend a hand in that department. Here's the thing about telling people you'll do something – you have to do the thing!
More on that later.
Wikipedia defines the Imposter Syndrome I've been feeling over the past couple days above. Almost as soon as I was hit with the wave of excitement when the school gave me the go-ahead to start up the team, I was rushed by a similar feeling of personal betrayal. The little voice at the back of your head that tells you; you're not good enough, you don't know what you're talking about, you're out of your league.
I'm no grappling wizard. I'd wrestled my way through school, had a brush with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through college and have settled very comfortably into my current BJJ club three times weekly going on two years this summer. Now, when all the teachers who were interested in starting wrestling teams (and little old me) were all called to a local school for a seminar on basic wrestling to convey to our future teams, I was certainly pack leader – only one of the other teachers had any mat time. That said, wrestling is it's very own martial art – one I know is responsible for creating compact, hard-nosed savages.
I'm trying to be careful about how I approach this. I'm better with kids – after a long history of working with young offenders and the like – than I am with grappling. I'm also careful not to sell myself too short. I wouldn't be the correct choice for a competitive high-school team, but for a more recreation-focused grade school wrestling team, I really do feel like I would be a good fit. The Imposter syndrome says different, and that's where you've got to slow down, settle into that OODA loop and really pick apart your thoughts.
It's easy to get down on yourself. After all, when compared to 'greats', you're not lifting enough, keeping your life in enough order or pushing far enough toward your goals. Or, at least, that's how greatness can cast it's shadow.
If you observe yourself starting to get that anxious failure-speak in your head, start thinking about what you can do. After all, a very small minority of people regularly attend BJJ classes. Just last night, two guys came and left before our rolling sessions were even done. Orient yourself to those observations. I'm not trying to say I'm a black-belt. Hell, I'm not even declaring I've got the skillset of a blue-belt – I'm still waving that #teamwhitebelt flag proudly. I am saying, however, that given my spot as a regular BJJ player, I do have some kind of skillset the average person wouldn't. Certainly, it wasn't seen in our local workshop.
From there, decide. I'll do it. I'm great with kids and fully enjoy the responsibilities that come with coaching. I have seen the positive impact grappling has had on my life. If some sliver of that can be trickled down through me, I'd be thrilled. The only thing left is to do it, to act.
Pushing an anxiety through the OODA loop is a great way to measure reality. If I hadn't had any grappling experience and didn't have a history of working with kids, it would be found out in that little system.
I think it's easy to fall into the 'imposter' trap. There's always a bigger, badder dog and, in something like martial arts, there's a quick way to find out. That doesn't mean you're always the best fit, but it's fine to be confident where applicable. I wouldn't, for example, take the helm in any organized way at a BJJ club, but I feel like some transferrable skills I've picked up from my training over the last while will be more than enough to bring a handful of gradeschooler's into the combative fold.
It's important to know what you're not, but don't forget what you are along the way.