Imposter Syndrome + in’s and out’s of the deadly disease.
The disease that paralyzes people from realizing their potential!
You decide that you want to learn how to play basketball. An epic challenge that has been on your mind for weeks. You despise getting beat by John every time you play basketball at the local gym on the weekends. It’s time to beat John once and for all.
You notice a class that teaches it every Tuesday for about an hour and fill out an application of, say, 50 applicants. For the sake of this example, the organizers put all 50 applications into a tryout and took the best 25 applicants (you were a part of the best 25).
But as you start your first few sessions, you notice how everyone seems to be so much better than you are. Questions and self-doubt creep into your mind: “Do I really deserve to be here?”, “I mean, I only do it for fun.”, “These people are so much more advanced than me, I shouldn’t have gotten in, they made a mistake!”.
Imposter Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity and incompetence despite evidence that you are skilled and successful (taken directly from the APA). The reason I used sports as an example (not just because I loved sports growing up) is that imposter syndrome can be seen clearly through it and provides a nice connection into other areas of life. I won’t harbor on it too long but: Athletic ability is easy to see. Someone may be good at passing, or at shooting, or at dribbling the ball. It’s easy to see what others have and what you don’t. But on that same token, you have skills that others don’t have. (I’ll get to this point later, but keep this in mind as we continue.)
This comes up a lot in groups, clubs, internships, jobs, or anything that requires a standard to overcome to be embraced by others. But coding is a field where imposter syndrome thrives. If you’re not familiar with coding or don’t want to hear about all that tech stuff then don’t worry this isn’t that article. But the reason coding is so ripe for imposter syndrome is for two reasons: 1) the massive depth and breadth of knowledge possible to learn and 2) computers introduce an alternative way of thinking.
These two reasons present dangerous false realities that are a good representative for any job, activity, or career that you may experience this, but before we get started…
*DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional, psychologist, or in any health care related field. I’ve just experienced it multiple times and wanted to share my experience if it will help! *
Let’s stay with the basketball example and then move towards coding and other job related fields.
False Reality #1: Everyone knows more than me.
The picture above is an exceptional example of the truth of this false reality. As you can see, the reality is most people know specific areas of what you know. But you have your own knowledge that no one else knows. While playing basketball someone may know how to shoot, but you know how to pass. For example, when programming, you may not understand functions but can explain loops. This is the exact reason people get in groups to work together on tasks. One person’s knowledge is unique from another’s which allows everyone to learn what they don’t know and use each other’s expertise to build their own.
If you’re feeling this:
- Understand that you are not alone. Most people feel they’re not good enough, even though they are.
- Understand that you have your own area of expertise that other people don’t.
- Know that people only learn in two ways: 1) By their own experience or 2) By someone else’s experience. Your perspective is valuable to the team, not to mention all the skills you bring!
False Reality #2: I’m not cut out to be here. They made a mistake.
One person’s path is not your path. A popular saying goes around at the college I attend: “What’s for you won’t pass you.” You’ve probably heard it before said in some other variation. When you’ve been accepted, when you’ve made the team, when you’ve made the cut, you’ve done just that — you’ve made the cut. You applied and got accepted. You have the right to be on the basketball team, a right to be in that position at your job, and a right to be in the club.
(Not to throw my worldview in your face but it helps explain this feeling really well!).
If you’re feeling this:
- Understand that you’ve already proven yourself capable, valuable, and qualified to do it!
- Understand that your “worthiness” is not tied up in comparing yourself to others. Again two things here: 1) You’re a human being that already makes you worthy 2) Your comparison should be only be within yourself, making sure you got a little better than yesterday.
False Reality #3: I’ll never know as much as everyone knows.
You may not know how to dribble the ball with your left hand. But keep you practicing and you will soon be able to dribble with your left hand. You may not understand a specific topic in your field, but as long as you fight through the initial pain messages your brain sends, you will overcome — It’s proven!
If you’re feeling this:
- Everyone started out as a baby and had to learn to crawl, walk, and run. When you learn something new, it will be tough, but the person who stays on the path the longest wins.
- There’s always that initial wall we knock our heads into when we first start learning something where we are so tempted to quit. But once we break through that wall, our enthusiasm and knowledge increase dramatically.
- Just stay on the path taking steps to wherever you want to go and you will make it there!
NOTE: A lot of the tips I gave are related to the mind. This is on purpose. The mind is important! Because what we think about goes into our heart and comes out into our actions. That’s why it’s so hard to change. We don’t do the things in our mind; we do the things in our heart.
Last Quick NOTE: It’s not about results. It’s about what you did to get those results. Don’t ever quit. Did you hear me? Let me say it louder, in case your day-dreaming…
DON’T EVER QUIT! You are fully capable. I’m not trying to be cliche, I’m being serious. If you’re reading this right now you have what it takes… Don’t quit.
My last tip I can give is to get support! It’s hard going through these feelings and struggles alone. Talk with your peers, your manager, the professor, friends, family or anyone willing to listen. Having someone there in the thick of things is so beneficial.
More great videos on Imposter Syndrome of people more credible than me can be found: Here
Still here? You’re a trooper! Checkout my new YouTube channel if you want more videos on software engineering and the tech industry. Thanks for reading and God bless.