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Gedalya Krycer
Gedalya Krycer

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Facing Imposter Syndrome: Do I Belong?

At the beginning of this year I set several goals.

A few include…

  • learn more React & CSS,
  • do more things after work that bring joy,
  • and find my place on my product team.

Tackling most of the goals were pretty straight forward. There are plenty of courses on React I could take and fulfilling activities in my free time that I could prioritize.

That last goal, find my place on my product team, that one however was a bit more allusive to define…

What does it even mean to "find my place" on my product team?

Feeling Out Of Place

My role on our team is pretty easy to identify. As a Front-End Designer, I get to work on the look and feel of our software throughout a feature cycle.

Towards the beginning of a project I work with our UX and product teams on how the feature looks and works. Once we have a direction, I often collaborate with my full-stack developer teammates in implementing the front-end code.

This combination of design and code is so much fun and in all honesty β€” a real dream role for me. Part of what makes it so great are the amazing people on my team. They are incredibly caring, fun to be around and so talented in what they do.

Yet, despite all of this being true, I sometimes often fear not belonging and being a fraud. This fear has followed me into almost every project, team meeting and can keep me up at night.

Realizing There Was Disconnect

Throughout my first year in this role I frequently reflected on these thoughts, further defining them as:

  • A belief of inadequacy: I lack the talent, experience and skills to design easy-to-use features and write high quality code.
  • A feeling of insecurity: What if I'm bringing my team down by not making timely contributions that will truly benefit our customers?

Our company's culture promotes genuinely safe spaces to speak vulnerably and be heard. So I shared these concerns with both my managers.

It turns out that my self-perceptions did not align with how they viewed me. Sure, there are plenty of areas that I can grow in, but in their eyes I was still bringing value and doing my job well.

So how do I get over/past/through feeling so inadequate, feeling out of place and ultimately view my work through the same lens that my peers & managers do?

With these questions in mind, I decided to change my original goal of "finding my place on my product team" to "accepting my place on my product team".


Digging Into Imposter Syndrome

Now that I had a clearer idea of what this goal was about, a way to make progress on this goal was to learn more about what fuels my fears. So I started reading a book called "The Imposter Syndrome", by Phil Roberts.

(There are several non-affiliate links to this book throughout the post. I am not being paid to promote it, simply want to share a resource that is helping me.)

This book proved to be incredibly helpful in demystifying the worries I (and as it turns out many others) where having. In fact, Phil talked about how over 70% of people feel this way at one point in their life or another.

Experience vs Syndrome

Funnily enough, he shares that because so many people have these thoughts β€” Imposter Syndrome is an "Experience", not a "Syndrome".

A syndrome is defined as β€œgroup of signs and symptoms that occur together to characterize a particular abnormality or condition”.

Imposter Syndrome does not characterize an abnormality, rather it is considered a shared experience.

I felt a lot of relief reading that, because an "Experience" certainly sounds less daunting to work through than a "Syndrome".

Imposter Syndrome Characteristics

The book also lists many different feelings and beliefs that can be associated with Imposter Syndrome. Below are the ones I really resonated with.

  • Self-doubt
  • Feeling like a fraud
  • Attributing success to external factors or luck
  • Fear of being found out as a fraud
  • Berating my performance
  • Fear of living up to expectations
  • Overachieving to prove worthiness
  • Sabotaging success out of fear
  • Setting challenging goals then feeling disappointed when I fall short
  • Negative inner voice
  • Dwelling on past mistakes/failures
  • Constantly comparing myself to others
  • Feeling inferior if I am not recognized as the best or special in an area

Are there any that speak to you?

Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (CIPS)

Mid-way through the first chapter was a collection of 20 statements called CIPS. These can help determine how intense someone’s experience is with Impostor Syndrome.

I scored 79, which is just two points away from β€œIntense” (81+), and signifies a β€œfrequent” (61-80) experience. 😬 This really confirmed for me that this is an area I can focus on healing and have a lot of room to grow.

(Here is a free online version of the test you can take for yourself.)

Some Quotes from Chapter One That Resonated

  • β€œWorking ourselves so hard may indicate we need this external validation in order to feel worthy.”
  • β€œYou may be trying to prove that you are in fact not a fraud when in reality, you are the only one thinking this way. This is exhausting…”
  • β€œWe need to be the one who is confident in order to internalize our success and not feel like a fake.”

Why Write This Post?

After reading "The Imposter Syndrome" I've found it easier lately to identify and challenge the insecure thoughts as they come up. More and more I feel like I do belong in my role and have something to contribute.

A lot of this post came from notes I took while reading this book. Writing is such a helpful tool in understanding and internalizing new information. So I might write some more posts in the near future pulling out parts that I really identified with and where my fears come from.

I also wanted to share with any budding designers & developers reading that feeling inadequate and like an imposter is a shared experience. If you feel this way too, it's going to be ok! As I'm learning for myself, those feelings aren't always a true reflection of what we have to offer.

I encourage you to get curious around the subject and where your fears stem from. Try to talk about them with your teammates if you feel comfortable. You might be surprised that they can really relate and may have similar feelings.

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