Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud,’” Kate WinsletInstyle.com
What I have recently realized is that that my blog serves multiple functions. It is my marketing platform, it is my space where I practice my writing skills and it is also a personal journal and even a pseudo-shrink of sorts. So what does have to do with the “Impostor Syndrome”? Well, today I will be writing about my personal struggles with the impostor syndrome. I will be tackling how the impostor syndrome rears its ugly head in my professional life, why I believe I feel like an impostor at times and what steps I take to combat these feelings.
What Is “Impostor Syndrome”
According to Wikipedia
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.Wikipedia: Impostor Syndrome
This particular description almost fits to the T my personal feelings at times about being in the technology industry. I have been struggling with these feelings for many reasons chief among which is that my college training was not in computer science. These feelings have gotten so severe in the past that I thought about quitting IT altogether despite the fact that I love what I do. I believe it is important to talk about not just our personal demons and psychological issues but our professional ones as well. Work in large part defines who we are. It defines our values, our character, our morals and perhaps even our legacy Therefore, I want to talk about why I believe I experience this syndrome at times and how I deal with such feelings. If my experience can help a fellow human-being, then I will consider this post to be a success.
Feeling Like and Dealing With The Feelings of Being an Impostor
One of my personal problems is my perfectionist attitude. I dealt with this problem during my academic career and am dealing with it now during my professional career. Since any form of work I do can always be improved upon, I am rarely satisfied with what I have done or created thinking that it can be improved. The problem with this thinking is that it also gives rise to the ugly feeling of being an impostor. “Your work could have been better therefore someone else would have done it better and therefore you don’t deserve this job, someone else does” is the usual internal dialog I struggle with. I am human and my work also contains mistakes at times and those mistakes tend to intensify this internal rhetoric.
How do I deal with this problem? What I have learned is that I must look at myself and my work not through my own eyes but through the eyes of others. If my boss, my colleagues, the people who test my work and even my seniors find my work not just satisfactory but exceeding expectations then it must be so. I must not feed my feelings of incompetence but combat them with the feedback I get from others. Otherwise my negatives internal dialogue threatens to take over and prevent me from doing my job well.
Luck and Circumstance
I am also very lucky. So lucky in-fact that at times, I have no explanation as to why I am lucky and others are not. Yes, I have worked hard to get where I am today but without my intelligence, I could never have achieved what I have and I did not work to get the brain that I have. I also see the many homeless in DC who are down on their luck through no fault of their own. They were perhaps born in abusive households or perhaps they have mental disabilities. I did not work to earn the parents I have, nor the sacrifices they made for me nor the opportunities they provided me. I live in a safe part of the planet that is very well off and billions of my fellow humans cannot say the same. What is so special about me? Why do I get to live in the US and have a roof over my head when some of my relatives struggle to even put food on the table?
My personal circumstance also tend to engender the feeling of being an impostor and that others less fortunate are more deserving of what I have. The only way I know of dealing with this feeling and one that has given me terrific satisfaction and fulfillment in life is charity. Whether helping someone with money, helping them with a problem or even mentoring someone junior; helping others has always been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have come to realize that they even though I am not responsible for the misfortune that befalls others, I am responsible for their continued misfortune if I do nothing to better their lot. Therefore, being charitable is the best way i have found of dealing with the second reason of me feeling like an impostor.
Burden of Knowledge
The third and final reason I feel like an impostor is what I like to call the burden of knowledge. I am mostly self-taught and as I learn more and more, this has also led to me being overwhelmed at times. The more I have come to know, the more I have come to realize how little I know. With every new course I complete, every new book I read/listen to and every new technology I learn about, the wide chasm of what I don’t know seems to get wider. This also causes me to feel like an impostor as I will never be able to learn all that I want to learn and perhaps I should just give up since.
Humility is the only way I know of how to deal with this feeling. Knowing that no, in one life I will never be able to learn all that I want to learn, I will not be able to accomplish all that I want to. I have accepted myself as an imperfect human and as someone who does not know it all and that’s ok.
This post was meant to be cathartic for me but I am hoping that it helps someone else. If anyone else is in the same boat as I, just know that you are not alone in feeling like an impostor and you are not an impostor. Remember to be humble, to be generous and to look at yourself through the eyes of others and perhaps you will defeat or at-least silence the impostor within.