How I deal with Imposter Syndrome

I first encountered the term Imposter Syndrome in Scott Hanselmans article “I’m a Phoney. Are you?” and have been increasingly able to relate to what he has to say. I decided to write this article in order to share my experiences with the affects of imposter syndrome and how I try to deal with it.

This article contains much more personal content than I am typically used to writing. I discussed this article and its value with a friend before beginning writing it; I was concerned that it wouldn’t be worth writing and would just be perceived as a sob story. This was his reply:

The very reason you are worried about writing it is because you are questioning its worth which in itself is imposter syndrome.

This is a very good point and when I thought more about it I can think of many blog posts I didn’t write in the past because I didn’t think the content was good enough to be useful (rather than focusing on what a blog is supposed to be).

I don’t consider myself to be a bad developer. I understand that software development is a huge topic and that we all have a lot to learn. I have had a fair amount of success in my (relatively short) career so far. I have regularly had colleagues and friends coming to me for technical help and advice. Despite this I sometimes find myself doubting that I deserve to be where I am in my career. In particular when I am discussing complex topics with people who know more about them than me I can be really doubting of my own abilities. I know that no one knows everything and that we all have a lot to learn however were it as easy as just understanding that I, and so many others, would not be affected by imposter syndrome. When I think about it realistically like this I realise how irrational it sounds.

So how do I deal with imposter syndrome?

I now discuss it openly and honestly; in the past I’ve always avoided the subject in an attempt to come across as confident and knowledgable. I’ve found that by discussing it people are very supportive and I am not alone; it reinforces the fact that we all have stronger and weaker areas of knowledge due to experience and personal interests. It’s important to remember that we don’t know everything and that’s okay.