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Teaching Through Façade

“I see you!” is a trending colloquialism. It is prevalent on social media and tv commercials. Think Google Pixel commercials featuring Druski, Jason Tatum, Giannis, and other NBA and WNBA stars. “ I see you” says you are doing the do, handling your business. “I see you” is different from pejorative side-eyeing, nosy eyeballing, or shade. “I see you” is an optical-verbal pat on the back. I see your skills, your talent, and your moves. I see your humanity.

I wonder, however, how do we see ourselves? Do we look in the mirror and offer the same affirmation? Or is our own internal self-talk lacking what we give to others? We will give a compliment while refusing to receive one. For some of us, there will always be something about ourselves we believe we can’t applaud. We have achieved, arrived, and accomplished, yet we are constantly looking over our shoulders waiting for “them” to “find us out.” Without question we have the title, desk, company computer, and business expense account. However, not a day goes by when you or I don’t hold our breath waiting for the ball to drop or the stuff to hit the fan. I see you. The ultimate question is how do we in the academy see ourselves?  

Coined by Drs. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s, imposter syndrome is described as an “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite high achievement.” It is the constant scrutiny, self-critique, position of doubt, posture of “I don’t belong,” and rewinding of being unsure and uncertain. Imposter syndrome evinces wherever a person feels they are not qualified notwithstanding credentials that testify otherwise.

Yes, there was a lack of cultural competency and attention to race, class, and gender in the initial studies. However, since then many psychologists and researchers of African American, Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQ life and background have noted that imposterism can be found across existential realities. There are many series of external and systemic factors that contribute to the sense of fraud and “fake person” experience: work drama, email mayhem, blind copy bullying, a low grade in college when you were valedictorian in high school, coercion to turn on the Zoom camera, or a slight off-color comment. These are some of microaggressions that lead to macro-agitation, and maybe to macro-medication. Imposter syndrome is especially evident when discussing first-generation college students, women of color, people who are the first or only in a position, transgender siblings, and anyone who must thrive in contexts that are predominately white, cisgender, and male.

A part of our duty as professors is to attend guild meetings. Such convening can be quite daunting for students who travel to present a paper for the first time or meet a “scholarly superstar” in person. Yet, I wonder how do we, as faculty, teach and sojourn with each other despite our own experiences of imposter syndrome? Our courses ought to help students see that their feelings of not being “good enough” do not rest solely on their shoulders. Classroom work should promote a pedagogy of decolonization which shuns imposter posturing and calls oppressive systems out for what they are.

The greatest harm of imposter syndrome is how it causes professors and students to suffer, and this leads society to suffer as well. Our giftedness does not illuminate a dark, dank world when we doubt ourselves and dare not show up fully. “I see you,” says I see you—all of you.

Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder

About Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder

Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder is Vice President of Academic Affairs/Academic Dean at Chicago Theological Seminary. She is the first woman and first African American to hold this position in the institution's history. As Associate Professor of New Testament, Stephanie is a noted Bible scholar, versatile speaker and prolific author. Dr. Crowder earned a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in Speech Pathology/Audiology from Howard University; a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary, and Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees in Religion from Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Crowder was a Fund for Theological Education Dissertation Fellow, Wabash Center for Teaching Fellow and Louisville Institute Summer Grant recipient. She has contributed to The Covenant Bible Study and Video Series and True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, and most recently Parenting as Spiritual Practice and Source for Theology. She served on the Editorial Boards of ON Scripture and Feasting on the Gospels and blogs for The Huffington Post and Inside in Higher Education. Her article on yoga can be found in the Disciples Women magazine. Dr. Crowder was a keynote speaker for the 2015 Festival of Faiths, 2017 Hampton University Ministers’ Conference and inducted in the Morehouse College Collegium of Scholars (2017). Her second book is When Momma Speaks: The Bible and Motherhood From a Womanist Perspective.

Dr. Crowder is married to Rev. Dr. William E. Crowder, Jr. They have two sons who keep this #SportsMomma and #WomanistMomma on the move.

Learn more via @stepbcrowder (Twitter) or

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