Previously we’ve discussed impostor candidates, people who speak themselves up to the point of deception. They call it the Dunning-Kruger effect and its far from an admired trait. The opposite of this however is known as the impostor syndrome. Marred by persistent feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt; sufferers of impostor syndrome discount their achievements and see themselves as impostors and frauds. These feelings are experienced by even the most talented individuals and up to 70% of the population as a whole. Can you relate?
Are You Suffering From Imposter Syndrome?
We can’t all be 100% sure of ourselves all the time – well anyone who is, needs to perhaps consider a more introspective approach to their careers and lives. At some point or another, we have all felt like someone is going to see through us, they will call us out from the back of the room and everyone else will nod in agreement. You are an impostor, you have bluffed your way into this role and you really have no idea what you’re doing.
That Old Feeling
Rooted in that recurring dream; it’s high school all over again and a teacher is belittling you in front of the whole class, or worse still, you’re writing your finals all over again. It’s a week before the exam of your least favourite subject and you’ve skipped class all year. It’s incredible how our minds never cease to stretch into the most impossible corners of our imagination sometimes. You managed to make your way through those final exams once but was it just a fluke? There’s no way you can do it again, right?
You Probably Can do it
The odds are that luck will only be on your side for so long. Even if you scraped through matric, your degree or that project; you are better equipped to deal with another challenge than you may have been before. Take a moment to breathe, set aside that tight feeling in your chest and think about your achievements to date. Even that compliment from colleague, client or line manager should do the trick… well, hopefully.
Make Sure You Can Do the Thing
Let’s look at this practically though. You’re faced with a do or die scenario, you have to take on a project which is nothing like you’ve ever done before. The odd expert here and there may give you the ol’ fake it or make it advice. You can’t get away with that as a developer though. Don’t tell someone you can code in a language that you just don’t know. That’s a sure fire way to fail. If however its something you have a basic knowledge of, you can probably push through and make it work. These days you have absolutely every tool right at your fingertips and you can research the snot out of it until its clearer to you. Thank Google for that.
Ask For Help
Still lost? That happens to the best of us. At some point we begin to have a clearer understanding of what we don’t know, as daunting as that is, this is when you have the knowledge to find out what you need to know. It’s a big step up from not knowing what you don’t know. Being able to ask the right questions is more likely to lead you to an answer. Further along still is recognising if or when nothing is working and you need to reach out to a colleague, line manager or a peer. There is no shame in that. Sufferers of impostor syndrome will often die before asking for help but this is a pivotal point; but you need to ask for assistance in order to prevent failure. No single person can know everything.
‘The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are sure while the intelligent are full of doubt’
– Bertrand Russel
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
Well, the worst that could happen is that you could actually fail. In real life however failure is far from the dramatic vacuum in the storyline of an epic cinematic adventure. Failure is in actual fact one very important stepping stone towards success; it is an opportunity to grow. If no one ever failed, how on earth would we learn anything? In her Ted Talk, Valerie Young discussed how even the most incredible minds of our time have suffered this potentially debilitating infliction and even failed, but through determination and healthy introspection have managed to still find success.
Give Yourself a Break
Of course, it’s easier said than done; ‘just be kind to yourself’. No amount of cheesy motivational posters will help when you’re elbows deep in anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt and fear of failure; it seems impossible. These are the four most prominent markers of impostor syndrome, but they are not unbeatable and you can overcome them and it starts with acknowledging your fears.
‘You don’t have to attain perfection or mastery to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved’.
– Margie Warrel
If anything fighting this beast known as the impostor syndrome is something that 70% of us deal with daily. You’re not alone. Compliment your colleagues and peers, and stop comparing yourself to them. Go forth and succeed, you can do the thing!