How Do You Deal With Imposter Syndrome?


#1

Every time I get a new job or project I never feel qualified. I always have the thought in the back of my mind that I somehow faked my way into the position or that there are so many other people that would be better than me for the job even though I know in my head I do have the experience.

How do you deal with these feelings and become more confident in your abilities?


#2

This is a great question, @shaleco. Thanks for asking it.

I used to feel imposter syndrome a lot more than I do now and I think the key change I made was changing my identity from “expert” to “learner” and practicing “not knowing” instead of “knowing.”

These days, I don’t feel like I know anything. I’m always not knowing. If someone asks my opinion or for advice, the only thing I know is that “I don’t know” will be part of the answer. Oh sure, I’ll have ideas and excitement and experiences to share, but the underlying framing of all that is my not knowing. And that’s because I don’t know So. Many. Things. (What a strange relief it is to unburden oneself from knowing.)

To start identifying as a non-expert/non-knower, I rewrote my website bio, which was peppered with achievements, and instead revealed and thanked all those that helped me along the way and downplayed my role in achieving this or that (which was the honest-to-goodness reality of it anyway). I also started describing projects more honestly, focusing on sharing all the things that didn’t work instead of glossing over those things, which is what I used to do.

I’m not perfect at it and there are still times that I make myself out to be some ideal version of myself, but it’s becoming second nature to be more humble and honest, which is way way better than any sort of false sense of security I ever got before.


#3

@shaleco just be yourself


#4

I’m not sure if this helps as I’ve never really felt imposter syndrome, but I think it’s because I think of myself as a novice rather than an imposter.
Fine, other people can program better than me, for example, but that doesn’t make me an imposter by putting apps on the store; it just makes me a beginner trying to learn through action.


#5

@beck I like your approach very much!


#6

I’ve learned so many things from scratch by myself in my life that at some point I just stopped thinking about being qualified or not completely. It is a kind if confidence which a full scientific education gives you - you just know how to approach the unknown. These days it is a simple question: do I have time and interest to spend on this particular topic or will l do something else?


#7

These could have been my own words!


#8

Perhaps as a complement to what @beck suggested, a couple of thoughts. First, it is not a bad thing to take on a job or project that you are not actually fully qualified for. The experience of going beyond your capabilities and letting time, what you learn from others, and your own efforts fill up the gap is what maturation is all about. Confidence doesn’t come from being what you are, it comes from growing into what you want to become.

The second suggestion is to learn to develop what behavioral psychology sometimes calls cognitive schemas. All of us do this all the time: imagine “what would it be like to be the person who does this job”, “what would it be like to have the skill to do this thing”. Ask people who you trust: “how do you do this – what it is like”. That mental model or schema, informed by real world input, can be your guide pointing the way out of the feelings of inadequacies. I’ve done this throughout my career – imagining what the next level of accomplishment or skill would be like, and doing what I can to make that real.

Finally, the feeling you have @shaleco is entirely normal and despite the discomfort can be used as a kind of sixth (or seventh or eighth) sense to guide your decisions and personal plan of action. But, make sure you also give yourself time to be in situations where you feel comfortable and confident – safe places with family or friends – to create some energy to use when you feel challenged by experience.


#9

That’s a great perspective to have! I definitely need to get more comfortable with admitting when I don’t know something and using it as an opportunity to learn something new.

Thanks for taking the time to answer.


#10

Interesting that a question about impostor syndrome has attracted so many answers that are basically about overcoming the Dunning-Kruger effect.

@shaleco, I would try to dismiss the idea that “there are so many other people that would be better than me for the job” entirely. There’s almost always going to be someone out there who’s better at “X”, but that comparison isn’t really relevant. This hypothetical “someone” isn’t the one who was hired to do this job or selected to do this project.

Also, keep in mind that someone did pick you for this job. They clearly thought you would be able to handle it, trust their judgment​.


#11

Truly excellent guidance, @quorm.


#12

Such a simple yet crucial point that many of us sometimes forget.

Another way I look at it is to consider all of the times a new person was hired anywhere I’ve worked. Rarely was the prevailing attitude, “OK, let’s see whether this person can cut it.” Most of the time, it’s more like, “What a relief that we finally got this job filled with somebody who can do it.”


#13

It would be a strange business that hires people who are considered failures by the hiring manager.


#14

I retired :grinning::grinning::grinning::grinning::grinning:


#15

Something that might be helpful is to take stock of your life to date. This could be reviewing your resume and thinking about the projects you have worked on, school work, etc. depending on where you are in your career. You can also journal about your daily accomplishments, and generally about how your day went. Plan for the next day/week/month/etc. and tick things off to reinforce that you are making accomplishments.
Therapy can be helpful too.

Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Support yourself.


#16

I am also struggling with this in my own professional development and have found the mindset that if I am assigned a task it is because someone believed in my ability to complete it. I find that I underestimate my abilities!


#17

The School of Life is a good resource. They have a Book of Life that covers many topics of interest, includeThe Imposter Syndrome.

Many of the articles are bound and sold has small books. I was just reading On Confidence and thought of this thread.


#18

Start by knowing how common it is. It has its own wikipedia page!

I don’t think it’s an easy cure but as you age, it lessens, or at least, it did for me. Try not to compare yourself to others. You do you better than anyone in the world and as you find what you do well – even the smallest things at first – you start to see the gold others see in you.


#19

Great question and thanks for being real and vulnerable! Here’s how I deal with it to get my mind right with one simple yet empowering word:
Think “why not me” instead of “why me”.


#20

Thanks for sharing! I’ve been looking over some of the articles on that site and there is a lot of valuable information.