The oldest in the room, imposter syndrome, and accepting compliments with grace

Hello friends!

What a weekend. For months it was looming, and I was kind of dreading it.

I knew what was involved: 5-9pm on Friday night, 8:30am-9pm on Saturday, and 8:30-2pm on Sunday for a certification training which I had signed up and paid for last year.

I was not looking forward to spending so much time on the minute details of bike riding, having 50+ years experience riding a bike, racing my bike, leading bike rides, and teaching people how to ride bikes.

I know I’ve been referred to as “The Bike Lady” in my town, so demonstrating basic bike handling skills in a parking lot, hours of classroom modules, and how to ride through intersections on the road all seemed like it was going to be so elementary and very boring.

But I get it now. It wasn’t about my skills. It was about how to teach those skills most effectively to less experienced (or inexperienced) people who want to ride bikes.

A League Of American Bicyclists Instructor Certification, provides a solid foundation, and excellent cred for me to initiate a bike riding program for parents and kids in my city, called Bike Bus. I hope you’ll click the link. Parents riding bikes with kids to school, picking up other kids along the way (like a bus does), which has been catching on everywhere all over the globe. There are dozens of articles about this phenomenon from the Upper West Side of NYC to Barcelona, Montclair, NJ and many, many more cities.

It was never questioned that I could ride my bike to school as a kid, but it has become far less usual nowadays. Many parents in my town have told me they’re afraid to let their kids ride because of traffic, so they drive them to school, which makes them traffic. This is a great, healthy, fun way to get kids (and their parents) out of cars.

Thoughts about being the oldest person in a class.

Polli with LCI cert

The best thing about the weekend was meeting and working with people who are all passionate about street design, road safety, public space, and yes, riding bikes.

The participants in this program were mostly under 30. Two were 40-ish. They are all professionals in transportation organizations, university, or non-profits, and all have fantastic resources and knowledge. I’m not a professional in any of these areas, and I always introduce myself “just” an advocate – as a founder of Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition, it’s actually a rather big deal, so why do I play it down?

I usually begin interacting in groups with stupid imposter syndrome, then I realize that I have a ton of wisdom and experience, and people actually want to hear and learn from me. It blows my mind every time. This was no exception.

Polli LCI with PowerPoint

We have to banish imposter syndrome.

That reminded me of Reshma Saujani’s baccalaureate speech at Smith College this year, Imposter Syndrome Is Modern day Bicycle Face Here she is on X: “People ask me all the time: how do I overcome #ImposterSyndrome? And honestly, I’m done answering that question. Because here’s the thing: imposter syndrome isn’t a syndrome at all — it’s a scheme.”

Bicycle face was an actual diagnosis intended to repress women. See how the two are related? I’m learning and growing all the time, and I hope you are too.

Accepting compliments with grace is hard to do. 

At the end of the weekend some expressed genuine shock that I’m 70, and some made really nice comments about my energy, my appearance, and a woman emailed today to tell me that she’s inspired by me, and that I’m as “sharp as a tack”. It’s hard to wrap my brain around all of this. I too often deny or deflect – here’s some good advice on how to accept a compliment.

To my women friends (yes, guys you can answer too!) ~ what are your thoughts about imposter syndrome, confidence, accepting compliments, or anything related to this theme?

Hope to hear from you!









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