Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in your tech job? Like you’re not smart enough, skilled enough, or experienced enough to do what you do? Like you’re a fraud who’s just pretending to know what you’re doing, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, chances are you’re suffering from imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling of being inadequate or incompetent, despite having evidence of your achievements and success. It’s the feeling of being an impostor who’s fooling everyone into thinking you’re good at what you do.
Imposter syndrome is not uncommon. Most people have experienced it at some point in their lives. But that doesn’t make it any less harmful.
Imposter syndrome can negatively affect your confidence, performance, motivation, creativity, and well-being. It can make you doubt yourself, avoid challenges, fear failure, seek validation, overwork yourself, or even sabotage your own success.
But the good news is that imposter syndrome is not a permanent condition. It’s a psychological phenomenon that can be overcome with the right mindset and strategies.
Ready to kick imposter syndrome to the curb? Let’s get started!
Recognize and challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs
One of the first steps to overcoming imposter syndrome is to become aware of the negative thoughts and beliefs that fuel it.
These are the thoughts that tell you things like:
- I don’t deserve this job, promotion, recognition, opportunity.
- I’m not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, qualified enough.
- I got lucky, I had help, I fooled them, I just worked hard.
- I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m making it up as I go along, I’m winging it.
- They’re going to find out, they’re going to fire me, they’re going to laugh at me.
- These thoughts are not facts. They are distorted perceptions of yourself and your abilities that stem from fear, insecurity, or perfectionism. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
The key is to challenge these thoughts with rational and realistic evidence. For example, you could ask yourself questions like:
- What are the facts that support or contradict this thought?
- What are the positive outcomes or feedback that I have received or achieved?
- What are the skills or qualities that I have or can develop that make me capable and competent?
- How would I talk to a friend or colleague who had this thought?
Celebrate your achievements and acknowledge your strengths and skills
Often, people with imposter syndrome tend to downplay or dismiss their accomplishments, attributing them to luck, help, or hard work rather than their own abilities. They also tend to focus on their weaknesses or gaps rather than their strengths or skills.
This can lead to a vicious cycle of low self-esteem, low confidence, and low performance. Louise L. Hay says “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
To break this cycle, you need to start giving yourself credit for what you do well and what you have achieved. You need to recognize and appreciate your value and contribution.
Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Keep a record of your achievements, such as projects completed, goals met, problems solved, feedback received, awards won, etc.
- Review your achievements regularly and reflect on what you learned, what you enjoyed, what you improved, and what you contributed.
- Share your achievements with others, such as your manager, your team, your network, your friends, or your family.
- Accept compliments and praise graciously, without deflecting or minimizing them.
- Identify your strengths and skills, such as technical skills, soft skills, personal qualities, etc.
- Use your strengths and skills to help others, such as mentoring, teaching, volunteering, etc.
Seek feedback and support from others who can help you grow and learn
Sometimes, people with imposter syndrome tend to isolate themselves or avoid asking for help because they fear being exposed as frauds or being judged as incompetent. They also tend to ignore or reject constructive criticism because they take it personally or see it as confirmation of their inadequacy.
This can prevent them from learning from their mistakes, improving their skills, or expanding their knowledge.
To avoid this trap, you need to embrace feedback and support as opportunities to grow and learn. You need to seek out people who can challenge you, inspire you, teach you, or mentor you.
Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Ask for feedback from your manager, your peers, your clients, or your mentors on how you can improve your performance, skills, or knowledge.
- Listen to feedback with an open mind and a positive attitude. Thank them for their input and ask questions if you need clarification.
- Implement feedback by making changes or acting based on the suggestions or recommendations you received.
- Seek support from people who have more experience or expertise than you in areas that you want to learn more about or improve on.
- Learn from others by observing how they work, asking questions about how they do things, or requesting advice on how to handle situations.
- Join a community of like-minded people who share your interests or goals. You can find online groups, forums, blogs, podcasts, courses, etc. that relate to your field or niche.
By applying these strategies, you can overcome imposter syndrome and boost your confidence in tech. You can also inspire others who might be struggling with the same issue. Remember, you are not alone, and you are not a fraud. You are a valuable and talented tech professional who deserves to be proud of yourself and your work.