The Impostor Syndrome Among Us by@jaykayy

The Impostor Syndrome Among Us

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Joshua Omale HackerNoon profile picture

Joshua Omale

Taking life one step at a time

Spoiler Alert: This is not about the popular video game where the red crewmate is almost always the impostor. I have no facts to prove this, though.

I occasionally think of myself as that red crewmate, feeling out of place even when among familiar faces. For the longest time, I’ve attributed these feelings to my evident introversion. But does introversion tell the true story? As a designer, I have had to question my level of creativity and competence, especially when I’m among more experienced designers.

At some point in our lives, every human has felt alienated in a place, whether it be work or school. This is proof that we all have the occasional (or even frequent) battle with Impostor Syndrome.

What Exactly is this Impostor Syndrome?

image

For starters, it is not a disease. It’s more psychological than physical.

Impostor Syndrome involves feelings of doubt and incompetence about your capabilities even though you might be a professional with many relevant years of experience and lots of achievements.

You typically feel that you are a fraud and fear that you would be discovered one day as a phony by your colleagues and peers. You also feel that most of your achievements are a result of dumb luck and good timing and not personal skill.

Another Spoiler Alert: You are not the red crewmate. You are not an impostor.

About 70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. This means that a lot of people around you have likely experienced it. Many popular celebrities have admitted to feeling like impostors in the past. Even Einstein got a taste of it! So anybody and everybody can be affected by it.

Impostor Syndrome in the Tech Space

image

The Tech Industry can be an intimidating place. Impostor Syndrome typically exists more among women in tech and among people that didn’t have any tech background prior to going into tech professionally. For instance, a software developer who self-learned but studied Pharmacy at University might feel out of place among other developers who all studied Computer Science. Does that make the other developers better than the Pharmacy graduate? No, not necessarily.

According to a 2018 survey by Blind, 58% of tech workers feel like impostors. The survey included professionals from some of the most prominent tech companies in the world like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, and Uber.

Blind asked the respondents one question in the survey, “Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?”. From 10.402 respondents that were surveyed, Blind was able to determine that 57.55% of them had experienced Impostor Syndrome.

image

In that same survey, a software engineer expressed feeling like a fraud even though he had 14 years of experience. Another user also said he had some self-doubts after joining a big tech company.

image

Also, in 2021, PreSales Collective also conducted a poll asking tech professionals if they had experienced Impostor Syndrome in the past 12 months. 82% of the 1,062 respondents stated they had experienced it.

So the next time that the devil on your left shoulder tells you that you’re alone in this apparent fraudulence show him this survey.

What Brought this Workplace Epidemic to our World?

image

Well, I can assure you that it wasn’t made in a lab. Impostor Syndrome is mostly brought on by individual factors or the combination of these factors. Some of these factors include:

  1. Occurrence of a Major Milestone:

    Most times, when we get a big job or complete a degree, negative thoughts tend to creep into our heads about whether we truly deserve that success. These thoughts then evolve into doubts about our capabilities and skills.

  2. Evolution of Technology:

    Technology evolves at such a fast rate. You can be an expert in a particular tech today, and then it becomes obsolete in 2 or 3 years. This is why most experienced developers feel like frauds.

  3. Perfectionism Personality:

    Perfectionists focus on how things get done and the outcome. Impostor Syndrome in these individuals is a result of setting unrealistic goals.

    The perfectionist carries around a hundred-percent-or-nothing mindset. A 99% performance is considered a failure.

  4. Unrealistic Expectations by the Media:

    We’ve all heard stories about young tech geniuses that taught themselves 5 languages and learned to code while they were still crawling (not necessarily a fact). While it is good to learn tech at a young age, the constant portrayal of this fact leads some professionals to feel like impostors.

    In reality, most people did not learn professional work early on in their lives, and that’s okay.

  5. The Internet (Google):

    Have you ever been trying to fix a bug in your code, and instead of trying to go through the code manually, you use Google to search for the error message and get an instant solution?

    We all use Google to search for solutions when we are stuck at work. Does that mean that we would not be able to properly do our jobs if Google did not exist?

So is there a Vaccine for this Syndrome?

image

Sadly, there are no vaccines for this syndrome that has become something of a workplace epidemic. Whether you are a designer, a developer, or you don’t work in the tech space, Impostor Syndrome would still weigh you down.

In the journey to train your mindset to rediscover your value and potential, some proactive steps need to be taken. Some of these steps include:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and identify priorities

  2. Challenge your doubts

  3. Do not compare yourself to other people

  4. Talk about it

Acknowledge Your Feelings and Identify Priorities

Before any problem can be solved, it must be first identified as a problem. You need to acknowledge that you feel like an impostor. This helps separate how you feel from who you actually are.

Always remember,

“We are not always what we feel”

It also helps you learn more about these feelings. In reality, that feeling might never truly go away forever. Instead of trying to find a permanent cure, you can work on identifying the smaller factors that trigger it. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Why does getting a new job make me feel like a phony?

  • Why am I not happy that I achieved XYZ?

  • Why am I not confident in my work?

Even if you do not get a clear answer to these questions, identifying the problem makes you feel more empowered.

Also, identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on them individually. Instead of saying “I suck at being a designer,” say “I suck at designing fintech logos” and consciously attempt to work on becoming better at it.

Challenge Your Doubts

For you to have gotten to where you are as a professional, you must have achieved a number of things. It might have been graduating from university, being part of the development of a product that has been launched, having your designs shown on social media platforms, etc. These achievements, no matter how small they might seem, are evidence that you are good at your job.

In every profession, there would always be room to learn more and become better, but that does not mean your past achievements automatically become void.

Anytime you feel like a fraud, refer to the small wins you’ve had in the past. You can also refer to times clients, colleagues, or superiors have commended you about work you have done.

Learn to always celebrate small wins!

Give credit where it is due. When you remove a repeated semi-colon from your code, you fix a bug, and that’s a win.

You can create a Notion board and add your achievements there. This can help remind you of these small wins every time the Big Bad Syndrome pays you a visit.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Other People

While there can be healthy comparisons, people often compare themselves to others the wrong way. Comparisons can either propel you to want to push yourself harder or just make you feel like you are a fraud. Remember that every human is different and has unique abilities.

It’s okay to run life’s race at your own pace. You might not succeed in every task you take on, but that’s okay. It’s okay to need time to learn something new, even if another person might grasp it immediately. Develop your own abilities. Success does not always require perfection. It requires hard work.

Talk About it

Most people do not like talking about their feelings of being a fraud because they are scared their worst nightmare might become a reality: I am actually the red crewmate. I am an impostor!

But in reality, talking about our feelings make us feel better about it, especially when we talk to someone that is going through the same thing.

Always take the quote “No man is an island” literally. You do not have to handle it yourself. Talk to a classmate, colleague, or mentor. This can offer some sort of guidance, validate your competencies and encourage you to grow.

You can also mentor a few people about your work. This helps reinforce your skills and abilities.

Takeaway

Insecurities never fully go away. Even as I write this, I feel like an impostor. Just remember that these feelings are natural, and it is okay to feel them. Be conscious about not dwelling on feeling like an impostor for too long so it doesn’t affect the quality of your work.

Like Julie Zhuo said:

“If you accept, as research suggests, that the imposter syndrome tends to be irrational, then the best-case interpretation is more likely to be true than the worst-case interpretation.”

You deserve that position.

You deserve that promotion.

You deserve that new job.

You are not the red crewmate.

You are not an Impostor!


Spoiler Alert: This is not about the popular video game where the red crewmate is almost always the impostor. I have no facts to prove this, though.

I occasionally think of myself as that red crewmate, feeling out of place even when among familiar faces. For the longest time, I’ve attributed these feelings to my evident introversion. But does introversion tell the true story? As a designer, I have had to question my level of creativity and competence, especially when I’m among more experienced designers.

At some point in our lives, every human has felt alienated in a place, whether it be work or school. This is proof that we all have the occasional (or even frequent) battle with Impostor Syndrome.

What Exactly is this Impostor Syndrome?

image

For starters, it is not a disease. It’s more psychological than physical.

Impostor Syndrome involves feelings of doubt and incompetence about your capabilities even though you might be a professional with many relevant years of experience and lots of achievements.

You typically feel that you are a fraud and fear that you would be discovered one day as a phony by your colleagues and peers. You also feel that most of your achievements are a result of dumb luck and good timing and not personal skill.

Another Spoiler Alert: You are not the red crewmate. You are not an impostor.

About 70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. This means that a lot of people around you have likely experienced it. Many popular celebrities have admitted to feeling like impostors in the past. Even Einstein got a taste of it! So anybody and everybody can be affected by it.

Impostor Syndrome in the Tech Space

image

The Tech Industry can be an intimidating place. Impostor Syndrome typically exists more among women in tech and among people that didn’t have any tech background prior to going into tech professionally. For instance, a software developer who self-learned but studied Pharmacy at University might feel out of place among other developers who all studied Computer Science. Does that make the other developers better than the Pharmacy graduate? No, not necessarily.

According to a 2018 survey by Blind, 58% of tech workers feel like impostors. The survey included professionals from some of the most prominent tech companies in the world like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, and Uber.

Blind asked the respondents one question in the survey, “Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome?”. From 10.402 respondents that were surveyed, Blind was able to determine that 57.55% of them had experienced Impostor Syndrome.

image

In that same survey, a software engineer expressed feeling like a fraud even though he had 14 years of experience. Another user also said he had some self-doubts after joining a big tech company.

image

Also, in 2021, PreSales Collective also conducted a poll asking tech professionals if they had experienced Impostor Syndrome in the past 12 months. 82% of the 1,062 respondents stated they had experienced it.

So the next time that the devil on your left shoulder tells you that you’re alone in this apparent fraudulence show him this survey.

What Brought this Workplace Epidemic to our World?

image

Well, I can assure you that it wasn’t made in a lab. Impostor Syndrome is mostly brought on by individual factors or the combination of these factors. Some of these factors include:

  1. Occurrence of a Major Milestone:

    Most times, when we get a big job or complete a degree, negative thoughts tend to creep into our heads about whether we truly deserve that success. These thoughts then evolve into doubts about our capabilities and skills.

  2. Evolution of Technology:

    Technology evolves at such a fast rate. You can be an expert in a particular tech today, and then it becomes obsolete in 2 or 3 years. This is why most experienced developers feel like frauds.

  3. Perfectionism Personality:

    Perfectionists focus on how things get done and the outcome. Impostor Syndrome in these individuals is a result of setting unrealistic goals.

    The perfectionist carries around a hundred-percent-or-nothing mindset. A 99% performance is considered a failure.

  4. Unrealistic Expectations by the Media:

    We’ve all heard stories about young tech geniuses that taught themselves 5 languages and learned to code while they were still crawling (not necessarily a fact). While it is good to learn tech at a young age, the constant portrayal of this fact leads some professionals to feel like impostors.

    In reality, most people did not learn professional work early on in their lives, and that’s okay.

  5. The Internet (Google):

    Have you ever been trying to fix a bug in your code, and instead of trying to go through the code manually, you use Google to search for the error message and get an instant solution?

    We all use Google to search for solutions when we are stuck at work. Does that mean that we would not be able to properly do our jobs if Google did not exist?

So is there a Vaccine for this Syndrome?

image

Sadly, there are no vaccines for this syndrome that has become something of a workplace epidemic. Whether you are a designer, a developer, or you don’t work in the tech space, Impostor Syndrome would still weigh you down.

In the journey to train your mindset to rediscover your value and potential, some proactive steps need to be taken. Some of these steps include:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and identify priorities

  2. Challenge your doubts

  3. Do not compare yourself to other people

  4. Talk about it

Acknowledge Your Feelings and Identify Priorities

Before any problem can be solved, it must be first identified as a problem. You need to acknowledge that you feel like an impostor. This helps separate how you feel from who you actually are.

Always remember,

“We are not always what we feel”

It also helps you learn more about these feelings. In reality, that feeling might never truly go away forever. Instead of trying to find a permanent cure, you can work on identifying the smaller factors that trigger it. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Why does getting a new job make me feel like a phony?

  • Why am I not happy that I achieved XYZ?

  • Why am I not confident in my work?

Even if you do not get a clear answer to these questions, identifying the problem makes you feel more empowered.

Also, identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on them individually. Instead of saying “I suck at being a designer,” say “I suck at designing fintech logos” and consciously attempt to work on becoming better at it.

Challenge Your Doubts

For you to have gotten to where you are as a professional, you must have achieved a number of things. It might have been graduating from university, being part of the development of a product that has been launched, having your designs shown on social media platforms, etc. These achievements, no matter how small they might seem, are evidence that you are good at your job.

In every profession, there would always be room to learn more and become better, but that does not mean your past achievements automatically become void.

Anytime you feel like a fraud, refer to the small wins you’ve had in the past. You can also refer to times clients, colleagues, or superiors have commended you about work you have done.

Learn to always celebrate small wins!

Give credit where it is due. When you remove a repeated semi-colon from your code, you fix a bug, and that’s a win.

You can create a Notion board and add your achievements there. This can help remind you of these small wins every time the Big Bad Syndrome pays you a visit.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Other People

While there can be healthy comparisons, people often compare themselves to others the wrong way. Comparisons can either propel you to want to push yourself harder or just make you feel like you are a fraud. Remember that every human is different and has unique abilities.

It’s okay to run life’s race at your own pace. You might not succeed in every task you take on, but that’s okay. It’s okay to need time to learn something new, even if another person might grasp it immediately. Develop your own abilities. Success does not always require perfection. It requires hard work.

Talk About it

Most people do not like talking about their feelings of being a fraud because they are scared their worst nightmare might become a reality: I am actually the red crewmate. I am an impostor!

But in reality, talking about our feelings make us feel better about it, especially when we talk to someone that is going through the same thing.

Always take the quote “No man is an island” literally. You do not have to handle it yourself. Talk to a classmate, colleague, or mentor. This can offer some sort of guidance, validate your competencies and encourage you to grow.

You can also mentor a few people about your work. This helps reinforce your skills and abilities.

Takeaway

Insecurities never fully go away. Even as I write this, I feel like an impostor. Just remember that these feelings are natural, and it is okay to feel them. Be conscious about not dwelling on feeling like an impostor for too long so it doesn’t affect the quality of your work.

Like Julie Zhuo said:

“If you accept, as research suggests, that the imposter syndrome tends to be irrational, then the best-case interpretation is more likely to be true than the worst-case interpretation.”

You deserve that position.

You deserve that promotion.

You deserve that new job.

You are not the red crewmate.

You are not an Impostor!

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