Dealing with Impostor Syndrome

Jon Shaulis (b|t) asked us in this month’s t-SQL Tuesday topic about impostor syndrome. Do we have it? How have we worked past (or around) it? The first question is easy – I don’t know anyone who hasn’t dealt with impostor syndrome, unless that someone is new enough to whatever job or task they’re doing that they don’t have enough experience to know there’s no way you can ever know everything.

The second question can be more difficult. Also, if you lose self-confidence in one area of your life, it can destroy your self-confidence in all areas of your life without you even realizing it. Being self-aware, which is something we should all strive for, unfortunately makes you more prone to this in my opinion.

So, we all think of ourselves as “normal” because we grew up with us, and we know how we feel, and how our family or peers were or are, and what we look like in the mirror, and how much we curse when we accidentally jam our foot into the doorframe – all of those things are familiar and “normal”. We know what we do know and all of those things that we don’t know. When we see someone who knows more or is better at something than we are, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that person knows so much more “stuff” than we do.

But there’s something that it’s easy to forget. You know something that no one else in any given room does. You are better at something than each and every person. And the opposite is also true: each and every person in the room can do something better than you, or knows something you do not. Everyone has unique experiences and our brains all do “thought algebra” differently. Wait, whut?

So I can look at a and b, and to me, a + b obviously equals c. To someone else, a + b = m. Neither of us are necessarily wrong, everyone just collates information differently, and not everyone solves things in the same way. Nothing has more than just a single solution (well, except the meaning of life, but since no one has figured that out yet…)

So what does this have to do with impostor syndrome? Everything, actually. It’s very hard to do, and I am just as bad as everyone else with this, but we all need to realize how special and amazing each and every one of us are. (It’s still hard to not say “each and every one of you”, and to include me in the amazing people. See?) Maybe there are skills we still need to learn, and we probably will learn those skills. But as people, we are all unique individuals with the capacity to do amazing things. We also need to surround ourselves with friends who remind of this regularly. Discussing this with people we trust, who we know care about us and not about what they can get from us, will go a very long way to help us stay in the right frame of mind when dealing with impostor syndrome!

Thanks for listening 🙂