Imposter Syndrome for Middle Schoolers


In the fall, I was at a high school open house listening to all the high points of why you should enroll your child at their school. The director of admissions went on for an entire cup of coffee about their accelerated academic program, as well as the intervention program the school offered to meet the kids where they are at.

I sat there, thinking about my child, whom I think is amazing and does not fall into either of these categories, when another mom literally stands up and says, “These programs sound wonderful for 5% of kids that will utilize them; however, I want to hear how you treat and educate the other 95%.” I quickly snapped out of my dream, and internally cheered for this lady. Why wasn’t I brave enough to ask that question?

middle schoolers

Fast forward three months and my other middle schooler has decided to sign up for basketball. His friends all play and they really needed another player. I was not going to force the issue. I wanted this decision to fall entirely on what he wanted to do. He decided to go for it! He is having fun with his friends, he is getting exercise, and he is part of a team. He has really picked up the game. He got in the car last week after his first game, and I said “Great job, you were so close to scoring, keep shooting.” My son looked right at me and said “Yeah, but I just don’t excel at anything, I am just average.”

His words stopped me dead in my tracks.

He is not average. He is amazing, funny, intelligent, and an amazing teammate. As moms, we of course think our kids are amazing. But what about the kids that don’t score the most baskets, get the lead role in the play every year, win the spelling bee every time, get to be the line leader, sell the most rolls of wrapping paper, or have zero demerits for the whole year? What about the “average” kids? How are we as adults, educators, coaches, and mentors molding the “average” kids into successful adults?

I think as a society with social media, we as adults and most certainly impressionable middle schoolers have lost sight of normal and average. We have created the illusion that if you are not #1, nothing else matters. But is it an illusion? Or a reality? The school website only posts pictures of the same top students, the playbill only posts the lead roles, Instagram only hashtags the A team players, PKs are always taken by the top scorer, and the select teams pick players based on popularity. 

We were at a local college game last month, and the other team received a technical foul. We were up by 20 points, and the coach picked a second-string sophomore to take the shots. He went 1-1, played for another minute, and then was subbed out. The first string players, the student section, and the crowd all went wild. A core memory for life, and it only took 90 seconds. 

This is not everyone gets a trophy sales pitch.

There are so many 4.0 students that deserve their hard work recognized, the A team player who played got a double-double, and the first chair musician who nailed her performance. This is recognizing the efforts of kids who are doing their best but still seem to fall short in the eyes of adults.

We want our youth to keep showing up, keep trying, to feel like their efforts mean something before they stop showing up altogether. How can you as a parent, teacher, mentor, coach, friend, aunt, or uncle build up a kiddo in your circle? I’d venture to say growing up, most of us were just “average.”

A special thank you to today’s guest blogger, Katelyn Grube.

Katelyn is the mom to two amazing kids and wife to Paul. Four furry friends (2 dogs, 2 cats) complete their family. She is also a pediatric nurse who loves to drink coffee! Katelyn was also featured in CMC’s Superhero Mom series, which you can read HERE if you would like to learn more about her.


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