I'm a Fraud and They All Know It: 6 Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
I’ve accomplished a lot in my career. I’ve built successful teams and products, spoken at conferences, and written for major publications. I’ve struggled and prevailed and learned a lot along the way. Through it all one thing remained constant: the little voice in the back of my head saying,
I’m a fraud and they all know it.
[bctt tweet="I'm a Fraud and They All Know It: Overcoming #ImposterSyndrome, by @JohnnyC115" username="StartupInst"]
That voice has been there since the very beginning. I was hesitant to take on a computer science major in college because, “those other students know more than I do.” It didn’t matter that there was no real evidence for this claim, that inner voice had it on loop. It took the prompting of a good friend to get me to push through and take my first programming course.
I recently discovered this voice has a name. Imposter syndrome is the inability to internalize accomplishments, leading to a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. The more I’ve opened up about my own struggle with this voice, the more I’ve learned how common it truly is.
My latest struggle with this voice came during my recent job search. Technical interviews are nerve-racking enough without an internal monologue screaming that you aren’t good enough the whole time. This led to some spectacular fails during what should have been routine coding exercises. It was after one of these failures that I decided to finally confront my imposter syndrome head-on.
If you suspect the same little voice in your head is making you feel like a fraud, getting in the way of your potential, here's how to overcome imposter syndrome:
Call it out
One of the best strategies for dealing with imposter syndrome is to call it out when it is happening. Giving it a name takes away some of its power over you. When the voice gets particularly overwhelming for me, I stop what I’m doing, take a breath and say, That is just imposter syndrome talking. Ignore it. I find this stops things from escalating into a full-blown crisis of confidence.[bctt tweet="To beat #impostersyndrome, call it out when it is happening, says @JohnnyC115" username="StartupInst"]
Keep a record of successes
Imposter syndrome is the inability to internalize accomplishments, which simply means we need to maintain an external source of validation for these accomplishments that we can revisit whenever we need a boost. Whether it is a folder containing emails from people thanking you for your help or a portfolio of projects, having a place to go to see your successes will help combat the internal doubts.
I had the privileges of working closely with the summer cohort of the Startup Institute’s full-time program. Turns out the hours I spent mentoring during the program were as helpful to me as they were for the students. Sharing your talents and helping others achieve their goals is a great way to quiet the inner hater.
[bctt tweet="Sharing your talents + helping others is a great way to quiet the inner hater, says @JohnnyC115" username="StartupInst"]
Seek support from friends
Sometimes you need others to help pull you out of your funk. This is when having friends who know your successes can become so helpful. I am very fortunate to be friends with some great developers who know my work. Whether they're reminding me of my past successes or providing perspective that the challenge I’m facing is, in fact, quite difficult, talking to them always brings me back to center.
I spent a lot of time this summer challenging myself to do something new. My Github account has several projects I took on to prove I could learn something new. If the inner voice was determined to undermine everything I had done before, I would accomplish something new in the spirit of defiance. These projects now serve as part of my record of successes.
Realize you are not alone
I hope this post can be helpful to others struggling with their own internal hater. You are absolutely not alone. Everyone has moments of weakness and doubt when that voice creeps in. For some of us it is more persistent, but we cannot let it hold us back. When that voice starts nagging you, recognize it for what it is and talk about it. There is tremendous strength in admitting weakness.[bctt tweet="There is tremendous #strength in admitting weakness, says @JohnnyC115 #impostersyndrome" username="StartupInst"]