Hello folks! Welcome back 👋🏻 I trust you are doing well.
As you probably figured from the title, today I'd like to talk about impostor syndrome. I know what you're thinking: "Ah, another one of these posts... Bye 🙄". Just hear me out before you leave. I promise I won't make it too long (at least not 30 minutes long).
🚨 DISCLAIMER #1: Be warned; this one sounds like a rant. Not suitable for the faint at heart. Proceed at your own risk or hit the back button before you regret it.
I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while now, but I just couldn't find the words to approach this topic. After a conversation with @theowlsden , I finally got the clarity I need it, and here I am, finally writing about it.
Let's settle this topic once and for all, shall we?
So sorry to reiterate this point here, but I need a baseline. For those unfamiliar with the term, here's a definition I found on Wikipedia:
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.
As you can see from the definition above, impostor syndrome is entirely mental and often fictitious. I personally believe that those experiencing it or those who have experienced it, are to blame for feeling this way (this includes me too). What I mean by this is that we effectively engage in self-sabotaging activities, therefore increasing the likelihood of falling victim to impostor syndrome. We literally bring this upon ourselves with our actions.
Now, let me be very clear about one thing: impostor syndrome !== self-doubt! I've heard and seen some folks say that impostor syndrome is not real and that it is just a fancy term used to refer to self-doubt. I don't agree in the least with such statement. In fact, I am under the impression that the folks making such statement, have not experienced impostor syndrome. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I personally believe that self-doubt is merely a part of what makes up impostor syndrome as a whole.
In the next sections, I'll be sharing with you what I believe are key contributors to impostor syndrome.
🚨 DISCLAIMER #2: The opinions and thoughts expressed below are my own. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please consider seeking help from a professional. This blog is not intended to serve as medical advice. Proceed at your own discretion.
Expectations, we all have them, yet they are not inherently bad in nature. Having expectations is good to some extent, so long they are realistic. Unrealistic expectations are the key ingredient for disappointment and do far more harm than good.
Suddenly you expect yourself to know everything, to not have to ask anyone for help, to seem and be competent at all times. All you do is create expectations for yourself. You think (and want to believe) that these expectations are being forced on you by others, when in reality, it's all your doing. You played yourself! You set such unattainable expectations for yourself and consequently ended up getting disappointed the moment you couldn't meet them.
Here's my two cents: accept that you will never know it all. Accept that it is okay to ask for help, to not have the answer to all questions. Be okay with admitting that you don't know, with saying: "I'm stuck, I need help". There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your knowledge and/or skill gaps. You are here to learn. What you don't know today, you'll know someday not too far in the future. So, go easy on the expectations and set them straight, for good!
You know the drill: you hop on your social media of choice and scroll through your feed until you are almost brain dead. Awesome! While scrolling through your feed, you see all these awesome folks you look up to. You can't help but think one (or all) of the following:
- "Oh, X is so cool! I wish I could be like them..."
- "Man, how I wish I had that many followers..."
- "Damn, I'd love to work for Y; that's my dream company! X is so lucky to be working there... I hope I can make it to Y one day..."
GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, WILL YOU?! 😡 Nothing infuriates me more than to see and hear people lament about how unsuccessful they are when COMPARED to others. Gee, focus on your damn self! Stop looking left and right for people to measure yourself up to! Nothing wrong with admiring someone, but never EVER compare yourself to them. You are two different people, with different qualities (strengths, weaknesses, skills etc.) and different life circumstances. Feeling sorry for yourself will get you NO WHERE.
Let that sink in for a bit, okay? And don't blame social media for how YOU feel when using it. Sure, social media is pretty evilly engineered, but YOU choose how much time you spend on it and doing what. If it makes you feel so bad about yourself, why are you spending so much time on it? Are you a masochist by any chance?
Focus on your journey and your journey alone. Notice how I say journey here. It's not a race by any means. It's not about how fast you go and how famous you get. Slow but steady is fine. Progress is progress. Stop getting distracted by other people's success and focus on YOURSELF.
Fun fact: most people don't share their failure stories on the net. They typically feed their audience the feel-good and badass content. You choose if you want to keep indulging and getting deluded by these one-sided fables. 🤷🏻♀️
This one is closely related to setting unrealistic expectations. I see many skip the beginner phase. They never state a role they held with the word junior on their resume (they typically omit the word junior altogether). Why would they, right? Everyone's a senior dev straight out of college/uni/bootcamp, RIGHT? Obviously not! 🙄
By ignoring your humble beginnings, you don't help yourself. You just corner yourself further and make the encounter with your inner impostor more inevitable (just like Thanos 😉). At this point, you are already falling in the vicious circle that is setting unrealistic expectations. By not acknowledging where you are currently standing in your career you'll wind up expecting yourself to be at a level much higher than the one you are currently on. To top it all, you'll get in the way of your growth, both personal and professional.
To all the newbies (or otherwise) out there: come to terms with the fact that you are just getting started. Stop trying to be a freaking senior dev since day one. Embrace the journey, welcome the struggle. Failing to accept where you are currently standing in your career will only get in your way. You have been warned...
You accomplish something? You don't acknowledge it. You hit a milestone? You don't celebrate that win. People compliment your work? You invalidate their compliment. See? I was right. All you do is self-sabotage! You get in your own way over and over and over again. Yet somehow, you hope you'll feel better about yourself by engaging in these destructive behaviors. Truly delusional...
If all you do is keep yourself small, how do you expect to grow? Take pride in what you do and have accomplished and continue building on top of it. Change your mindset (especially how you see yourself and think about yourself) and notice how everything around you starts changing too.
My message here is clear: GIVE 👏🏻 YOURSELF 👏🏻 MORE 👏🏻 CREDIT 👏🏻. Take that compliment. Celebrate that win. Know that what you have done up until now has value, no matter how small an achievement it is.
Hooray, you made it this far down! 🎉 Thanks for tuning in for this one. Smash that 💖 or 🦄 if you believe this should have been a TEDx speech. Just kidding!
I truly hope that you could take away something from this rant (if not you may want to read this again 🤭). I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so don't hesitate to drop them below. Let's keep it civil and constructive, shall we?
Now, say your goodbyes to your inner impostor!
Take care and see you next time! 👩🏻💻👨🏻💻
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