You vs. You: Impostor Syndrome and Overcoming It

“They’re gonna find me out! My manager and my team are going realize I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m not on their level, and they are going to fire my a*&. How will I make my car payment? Maybe McDonald’s will hire me back. I was a cute Fry Girl!”

-Me, circa 2005 during my first month as a Tech Support Rep

What is Impostor Syndrome?

I would just like to say Impostor Syndrome is a mother$^@%*#.

It makes you reek of self-doubt, question your own abilities, and lower your confidence. Check out this definition of Impostor Syndrome from dictionary.com:

Impostor Syndrome (noun): The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. “People suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”.

I’ve been in this field for over 10 years and sometimes experience the waves of self-doubt. For me, this can occur when starting a new job, being presented with a project or task I’ve never done, or while waist deep in troubleshooting a problem. At the beginning of my career, this self-doubt kept me from going after promotions, taking on new tasks, and going to networking events.

You could have the knowledge, the know-how, and the credentials to back up that you know a certain technology or skill, but in certain moments, Impostor Syndrome can take you out at the kneecaps, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

  1. Know that you are the “Chosen One”. Your company hired you for a reason. You didn’t fool anyone because before that interview, you studied and reviewed videos. During the interview, you put in 100% effort and showed the hiring managers the best version of yourself. It’s normal to have a freak out moment when starting the new job or when presented with a new task, but if you take a moment, breathe and realize you were hired for a reason, you’ll be alright.
  2. Learn something and put it to use. Recently at my new job, I was asked to brush up on Active Directory for an upcoming project. I felt myself get anxious because I didn’t have a lot of AD experience. I immediately found a book on AD and started to study a bit. But then, I decided to take it a step further and prepare for the MCSA Server 2016 , so I could be ready for any other server-related projects. If you’re being asked to learn something for an upcoming task, if you see a job posting for a position that catches your eye, but you don’t have enough experience, research and learn about that thing. Read a book/article, watch a video, reach out to someone who has knowledge on what you want to do and ask for a bit of guidance. The more you learn, the more confidence you build within yourself and your abilities in your career.
  3. Realize that your achievements aren’t driven by luck. After I would fix an issue or come up with a good plan to resolve an issue, someone would say “You really helped out that customer!” or a simple “Good job!”. I would respond by downplaying my efforts and say, “I got lucky”, “It’s nothing. You could’ve done the same thing”, or “Nah that wasn’t me. That was all Google!” I realized that doing this was not a way of being humble, but I was stripping away the validity in my skills. The work that you put into earning your certifications, into getting those interviews, and into resolving those issues were because you put in the effort and work. Own that and just say “thank you”.
  4. Just Do it. Sometimes you gotta be like Nike and just do the thing. Ho-humming and mulling over doing something can heighten the anxiety and feeling of Impostor Syndrome. If you jump in feet first and are successful, cool. If not, the failure is a lesson learned and you do just that: learn from it and try again.
  5. Create a “Wall of Encouragement”. I’m a visual person. When I have that moment of getting in my own way, I must take a step back and literally look at the facts. In my home office, I have a “Wall of Encouragement”, which includes an inspirational quote my mother gifted me years ago. Underneath the picture sits 2 certs I’m proud of earning: My CCENT and CCNA. If a wall of encouragement doesn’t do it for you, make a list of achievements and successes of things you’ve experienced and place it somewhere in easy reach. To be all the way real, I carry a list of accomplished goals and skills learned in the Notes app on my phone. I use this to make me realize I’m going in the right direction and that I can do whatever it is I want to achieve.
Wall of Accomplishments
My “Wall of Encouragement”

Having moments of doubt in a situation is normal. Acknowledging those feelings and being proactive in diminishing that self-doubt is key to being successful. This effort along with time the Impostor Syndrome will go away.

Thanks for reading. See ya!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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