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Who’s on First?

Paul MacCormack


At some point in your career you have probably had this question arise. It starts off in the shadows of your awareness and can sometimes grow into a full-blown sense of terror. It usually shows up when things are shifting, something new and challenging is on the horizon, or even when the grind of the season catches up with you. It may be a simple phrase or question… but no matter the form, it can contain a multitude of fear and judgement. And ironically, because this conversation usually occurs within your own mind, no one else ever hears it. 

“Who do you think you are?”  

“You’re in way over your head.”

“Once they find out you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll be fired for sure.”

“You are a fraud.”

In psychological terms this phenomenon is called “Imposter Syndrome.” The term was coined back in 1978 by two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. They described it as “a feeling of phoniness in people that believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” People who suffer from this often push themselves to achieve but live with the nagging sense that it's only a matter of time before they are found out. 

These feelings of inadequacy are generally born of the very tendencies that make Superintendents good at their jobs. She/he may be quite driven, given to the habit of overwork, and perfectionism. Supers are folks who like to please others and the pursuit of that obsequious goal can itself be a full-time job. It’s also not uncommon for Superintendents to work in a sort of “feedback vacuum” by times as well, further fueling feelings of doubt and uncertainty.

Supers are oftentimes also victims of unrealistic expectations. Whether they come from owners, management or golfers or oneself, they are kindling for the story of never being enough. Unrealistic expectations push Supers to unhealthy places that they have no business being. When you find yourself in these scenarios, you often make decisions that work against health and well being. 

Unrealistic expectations push Supers to unhealthy places that they have no business being...

So, what’s a green keeper to do if plagued by thoughts and stories that tell them they’re not enough? Well here are a few suggestions. 

  • Learn to be ok with not knowing. When you started this gig, there was no possible way to know everything. This notion that Supers always have to know all the answers all of the time, further reinforces the idea that our knowledge is constantly insufficient. Accepting that no one person will ever have to know the solution to every single problem can afford you the space to seek out folks that can help.

  • Recognize and accept that you have these tendencies. The first step to address most any issue is acceptance. Once you can name it, it becomes easier to bring your awareness to it. Learn to become curious about your thought process and stories surrounding the idea that you’re not enough. If you can see them coming, it can lay the foundation for dealing with them in a more positive way.

  • Give yourself a break. When you find yourself lost in a swirling vortex of doubt, pausing and offering yourself some compassion can go a long way. When we bring an air of acceptance and compassion to most problems, we can step outside the loop of judgement.

  • Remember that perfection is an illusion and that unreasonable expectations are just that — unreasonable. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it is true and just because someone expects something of you doesn’t mean it is reasonable. Working to develop a healthy relationship with these two can go a long way to easing your feeling of shame and self doubt.

  • Know that you are not alone. I would hazard to guess that there isn’t a Superintendent around that hasn’t experienced feelings of deficiency at some point in their careers. Reach out and talk to someone about your experience, you might be surprised how they will reply. 

Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it is true and just because someone expects something of you doesn’t mean it is reasonable...

It can also be helpful to pause and reflect on all the accomplishments that led you to to where you are today. It’s a normal human default to focus on what’s missing in a given situation, but it can be very illuminating to actually think about all of the goodness you’ve acquired and shared with others along the way. You are not in the position you are in by accident. You have put in the time, built a valuable skill set, and made a difference in a great many lives. These positive reflections can go along way to helping you remember that no matter what, you are more than enough. 

Thanks for reading.

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Another great article and so true. It’s important to talk to others about your successes; as well as your fears and failures. 
Hearing someone else tell you that they have experienced the same or similar feelings and fears can be extremely enlightening. 
We are all in this together and there are many of us out there ready to help. 
Thanks Paul!

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Thanks so much David. So many of the conversations I have with Supers that are struggling have this theme within them somewhere. We are all so much more than we give ourselves credit for.


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