Today I want to talk about impostor syndrome. Something near and dear to my heart

So what’s impostor syndrome for those of you who are not familiar?

The definition I like explains that

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of success. Any proof of success is dismissed as luck.

I want to share a little bit about my own experience. Every time I get promoted, I’ve felt like an imposter.

When I first became a software engineer I thought, “Everybody here is so smart. I’m right out of school and this feels super scary!”

Then when I became a senior software engineer, I feel the same imposter syndrome even though I’ve been there for a while. Except it’s a different conversation. It’s “Now that I have the senior title, what does this mean for me. Maybe they made a mistake. Maybe they’re going to regret giving me the promotion.”

I think the hardest time I really felt like an imposter was when I became a first-time manager.

I can’t help but compare myself to experienced managers who’s been doing this for a long time. When I started managing managers, there’s a bit of that showing up again as well. 

I now believe that every time we grow, we undergo imposter syndrome. Sometimes it takes us a longer time to believe in ourselves and go through that experience. And sometimes it doesn’t really affect us.

I’ve learned that this is a concept that is important to know as a leader. It’s about knowing yourself, knowing when you’re going through that and also knowing when your team members are going through that. 

Team members who are going through it may not be aware, may be hiding it and working through it on their own. As a leader, we can support them so that they won’t beat themselves up for it and be able to stay productive.

One thing that has helped me is to find my “tell”. What is the tell that when someone goes through imposter syndrome, they will go to try and de-stress or distract themselves?

For example, for me, I know I’m going through impostor syndrome when I eat when I’m not even hungry. I constantly seek out anything that’s very sugary or full of carbs because they make me feel good and they keep me busy!

For you, it could be going on Facebook, Reddit or Hacker News. Anytime you need to work on important work, you find yourself mindlessly looking at social media.

When I notice I’m sabotaging myself with unhealthy habits, I tell myself I’m experiencing growth, doing something out of my comfort zone, and feeling like an imposter.

I’ve now learned ways to make myself feel more confident during this growing phase. 

Things like sharing what I’m going through with close friends, family or trusted co-worker.

Being more compassionate with myself like not being hard on myself for not getting things right the first time.

I also increase the things I do for self-care so that I ensure I pace myself without burning out.

Even Neil Gaiman suffers from imposter syndrome.

For you, it could be to ensure you get your meditation in, or really prioritizing gym time and maybe socializing more with your friends to de-stress a little.

I hope this is helpful for you to know that a lot of us experience imposter syndrome, you’re not alone.

Comment below / Email me: Have you experienced imposter syndrome? What’s your “tell”?


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash