I suck at this! Not the usual words that you'll ever hear me say - out loud! Definitely the words inside my head, words I say to myself quite a lot.
The Webster dictionary describes impostor syndrome as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.
Impostor syndrome goes very hand-in-hand with fear of failure, fear of success and self-sabotage.
Impostor syndrome is real. It affects many of us especially in the tech industry, in deeply crippling ways. It can show up in so many forms which range from anxiety, constant comparison to others, feelings of inadequacy and self doubt. These are only some of the ways in which impostor syndrome shows up - I know I experience all of these, and some.
Every time I get an opportunity to speak, mostly at meetups, I always proudly introduce myself as a mainframe developer who became a systems analyst, then a business analyst, a solutions architect...and now a cloud engineer.
I have been wondering if my constantly changing roles and therefore my always finding myself in positions where I am starting from the bottom all over again, has caught up with me over the years. Could I have escaped these entire feelings of inadequacy had I stayed in roles - and technologies - where I made sure to hang around long enough to become the Subject Matter Expert?
Nope, I don't think this is what would have saved me. No-one ever grows in comfort zones.
There are five common types of impostor syndrome; which one am I? And which one would you say you are?
A combination of 1, 2 and 5 is definitely where I am.
So how does one , if not eliminate, at the very least manage these feelings of being an impostor?
Books I've read, coaches, mentors, friends, have all given very similar advice. I have been trying to walk this advice, but we all know that like with most things - it's a journey which will present one with good and bad moments.
These will be moments where you feel like you're absolutely doing better at managing your impostor syndrome - and sometimes not.
So what are these actions that one can take?:
1) Data. Facts. - this is a list/log of everything that you've succeeded in previously. Whenever you feel like you are out of your depth, consult this list and remind yourself of times when you absolutely pulled off something you thought you wouldn't.
Friends, family, mentors etc. can contribute to this list, because sometimes......blind-spots right?
2) Acquire knowledge - back up your experience or intuition with knowledge. Invest time reading up on areas you want to improve on. Acquiring knowledge takes care of the "soloist" impostor syndrome, it validates the intuition that you have.
3) Finish the tasks you start - are we techies not most guilty of this? all our side projects? I know I am most guilty here :)
4) Ask for help - need I say more? find other communities that you feel comfortable speaking up in? I know from personal experience that it's not always easy to open up around people we work with - so finding those communities is really important.
5) Record positive feedback - I have a folder where I store all positive emails I get from customers etc. It's always awesome to have these to look back on at times.
Now that I have had these reminders of how to counter impostor syndrome, which ones will I be applying?
I need to be checking my list the most. I have a list, I just haven't checked it in a while :). I will be consulting it, to remind myself of times where I achieved things I didn't think I would.
I am grateful that I have found supportive communities which provide safe spaces for me to ask for help, I need to remember to ask for help more whenever I feel overwhelmed.
While at it, it will also be good to remember, as previously mentioned in this article, that this is all a journey.
In conclusion: Be kind to yourself as you work through all you need to work through, as you seek to hopefully eliminate impostor syndrome.