Imposter Syndrome

TASA 2015 Conference Special Award. Written by Sally Daly, TASA Executive Officer:

When Katie announced at the Cairns conference dinner that there was to be a surprise Award I felt a bit miffed that I had been left out of that loop and concerned that the Executive had gone rogue on me! When I realised the surprise Award was for me, my discomfort meter hit the red zone; contrary to my childhood preference, centre stage unravels me.

Although I was internally swaying with disbelief while Katie was announcing the Award, I was determined to seize the moment and use the opportunity to express my deep gratitude to you all. I remain incredibly grateful for the faith, trust, respect, encouragement, patience and humour that is extended to me in my role with TASA. Belonging to our family of humble Australian Sociologists is an honour that I cherish.

If only I’d cherished the Bollinger I was given on the night! That is long gone, shared with friends and family on Christmas Day. The accompanying card remains, though, where I can see it every day. It is tangible proof that I am seen and, yet, accepted, which is an incredibly affirming feeling. The front of the card reads ‘You need a little bit of insanity to do great things’ and inside the Executive wrote ‘and you Sally, have just the right amount’. Today, I want to try and convey why those words touched my core and why my TASA role fits me like a glove. To do that, I need to go back in time!

Award card

Award card2







As far back as I can remember, I have always felt I was not on the same station as those around me; off kilter, different.  A dichotomous feeling of having an invisible disability and a blessing.

I was a very confident, outgoing and outspoken child among three introverted and perfectly behaved siblings! In primary school my brown-bread salad sandwiches stood out dramatically from all the jam, peanut butter and vegemite white-bread ones. Food differences paled into insignificance, though, when my fellow Grade Six students were enrolled in the local high school and, instead, I went to a small community school experimenting in alternative education.

Sticking with the primary school years for a little longer, there were many other differences compared with the affluent middle class living around us at that time. I would probably bore you to distraction if I described them all so I’ll stick to a few. Our house was permanently in the construction stage and it didn’t have a television (there is a whole other post about that topic!). While other dads brought the daily newspaper home my dad modelled deviancy by stealing straps from the school he taught at, and conducted ceremonial burnings in our back yard while talking to us about corporal punishment. He is a pacifist who firmly believes in the right to speak. He had a front tooth punched out at a rally once. It didn’t knock him off his political perch.

Mum stood out too. The other mums in the 1970s, those that I was surrounded with anyway, kept house and had warm biscuits waiting for their kids after school. My mum attended community classes while trying to keep house and live up to all the other expectations on women during that period (there is a whole other post about that topic too!). Her efforts eventually opened the university door setting her further apart from her local peers. My young mind wished for parents like those around me. I didn’t want to feel or be different. Of course, I couldn’t feel prouder of them both now!

Fast forwarding my high school and teenage years as well as my twenties (this is a post and not a book after all!) to two decades ago; my thirties, when I determinedly dragged myself away from a dysfunctional life that stole my entire twenties. It’s all water under the bridge now but the experience changed me, fundamentally. Consequently, my tolerance levels for being micro-managed in any situation are extremely low. That management style suffocates me and my automatic response to being suffocated is akin to a threatened fox terrier.  I also became fast out of the verbal gate, a trait that can definitely rub people up the wrong way. Both afflictions can leave me feeling a little insane. A small price to pay for freedom. Suffice to say, it is a blessing that my TASA role requires me to work independently.

To celebrate my end of twenties liberation, I kicked off my thirties jumping out of an aeroplane at 10,000 feet. While those around me were settled down with children, I spent a few years 230km North East of Alice Springs working in an Indigenous community generating fresh wonderful memories. On the heels of my outback experiences, I travelled solo overseas for two few years starting with a short bout of culture shock in Timor followed by an abundance of exciting, and sometimes outright scary experiences throughout Asia and Europe.

Being in the right place at the right time and my smile (I was told!) were two factors that, at 35 with no working visa, secured me two separate jobs in my travels in cultures that are both traditionally reserved for the much younger backpacker; pulling beers in a London pub and milking cows on an Israeli Kibbutz. My spontaneous tongue ring acquisition gave me some kudos with my younger co-workers!

I spent the latter part of my thirties expanding my world and mind further, creating a new set of different and wonderful memories. Back in Melbourne, living in the family home I had left two decades earlier, I did a Swinburne TAFE course to open the university door and I got my undergraduate degree, majoring in sociology and psychology. During my studies, I met my extraordinary husband online and followed my graduation by giving birth to a couple of gorgeous and lively lads, in fairly close succession, at an age that is referred to as the ‘Geriatric Mother’ in the Royal Women’s Hospital.

The message I am hoping to convey is that I feel like I have always swum against the tide whilst swimming with it. I am guessing that an observer would not see my tumultuous internal war. I am white bread boring really; middle aged (as my lads have informed me), married with two children, paying the bills and getting by. I don’t set out to walk a different path to most. Metaphorically speaking, when I do venture into the busy streets, more often than not, I am walking in a different direction; a double edged sword of exhilaration and exhaustion.  In sociological terms, I have experienced imposter syndrome all my life.

Experiencing your gratitude for the work I do and discovering that the Executive value my difference and feel that I have just the right amount of insanity has been life-affirming. Seriously. Thank you TASA; my role affords me the perfect amount of flexibility, autonomy, independence, variety, challenges, and creativity opportunities.

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2 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome

  • Christopher Baker


    Dear Sally
    Firstly, on the TASA 2015 Conference Special Award. Well deserved and it great to see that the Executive and indeed the membership value your contribution for what it is … extraordinary!
    Secondly, on this piece in Nexus. What a delightful piece of celebration, reflection and encouragement.
    So in addition to congratulations, from myself and I believe many, many TASA members, I also say THANK YOU.

  • Brady Robards


    We are so lucky to have you, Sally! TASA would not be the same without you. Thanks for your piece – I feel like I know you a bit better now.

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