So here’s the thing:
I’ve been a CTO, a founder, and a leader (all multiple times).
I’ve spoken at conferences, written and published my writing, and I’ve had success in my professional life.
I’ve tripped up, as we all have, but I’ve got it right more times than I’ve got it wrong.
And also, many times, I’ve had that little voice in my head telling me:
- Wait until they find out you don't know what you're talking about. - You are a fraud. - You're a classic 'fake it until you make it' know nothing! - There's nothing special about you, Anyone can do this. - You're just a lucky, lucky bastard.
I’ve written this piece numerous times! Why has it taken me so long? Because:
“What do I know about Imposter syndrome? What gives me the right to appear like I know what I’m talking about and why should anyone listen to me?”
In other words: Imposter Syndrome!
To us imposters, here’s the ‘truth’:
- I’m missing significant skills (aside from the gift of the gab).
- I’m missing qualifications, unlike some of ‘my peers’ with their PhDs and their certificates.
- Anyone could do my job.
- I don’t know what I’m doing.
Also, some more ‘facts’:
- I know nothing about miracle working.
- I cannot walk on water.
- I cannot turn water into wine.
- I have no ‘obvious’ superpowers ;)
Hi, my name’s Andy and I’m an imposter.
Many of us suffer, or have suffered at some time or another, from Imposter Syndrome. But, when you hear all of those ‘facts’, you are hearing the voice of your inner-critic.
My inner-critic has a name which, to avoid pissing off a very real person, I have anonymised to the very anonymous name of Mike (no, it’s not you, Mike). In fact, just to make it easy for you, the reader, to play along, let’s call your inner-critic Mike too.
Don’t waste your energy on listening to Mike. You got hired by someone who saw something in you that they decided was valuable. Or maybe you got asked to speak at that conference because someone believes you have something to say and worth listening to. Whatever. You are doing what you’re doing because someone else believes and has faith in you. Mike is the voice of some insecurities you’ve got that are probably worth sorting out, but, DON’T LET MIKE WIN THIS ONE.
Mike often kicks in when I am doing something new or ‘different’, and outside of my comfort zone.
“Really? Somone told you you could dance?? You do realise they’ll laugh at you don’t you?!”
Yes, Mike often tries to take over when you’re taking risks.
And when Mike interferes it’s good to remind yourself:
- Doing something new, different or outside of your comfort zone is a good thing.
- Taking risks (calculated of course) is a good thing.
You are probably an innovator, but:
- Mike tries keep you in check.
- Mike tries to stop you getting too big for your boots.
- Mike tries to make sure you don’t show yourself up.
- Mike stops you taking risks.
- Mike keeps you down.
I have suffered (see above), and I know how I deal with it, and how I’ve overcome and understood it. Maybe my experience will help you beat your Mike? Maybe it won’t. But there’s probably no harm listening to another imposter ;)
Stop measuring yourself by qualifications
You are qualified for your role or you would not be there. Some roles have obvious, mandatory requirements, and unless you’ve just committed fraud by faking some educational experience, You must have achieved the required qualifications.
In some roles, the qualifications are not mandatory, but somehow seen as important signifiers of certificated skills in certain areas. In many cases:
it’s not a necessary qualification. You have the experience and skills from your vocational experience. That’s not to say some of this stuff couldn’t be useful, but it’s often not essential (i.e. MBA anyone?)
If you don’t have it, you don’t need it.
If you need it you will actively seek out the knowledge
If you care about it and want to learn about something you will actively do that.
Stop comparing yourself to others
There is nothing to gain. Face it, someone will always be better than you at something. you don’t have to be as good as anyone else, just as good as you can be.
- Other people are not making this comparison. It’s just you.
- If others -are- making this comparison, and -if- this ‘other’ is more accomplished than you at something, then you just have something to aspire to (not be intimidated by).
Stop listening to Mike
Mike often sits on your left shoulder and tells you how crap you are. Why are you reading this shit? Go on. Stop wasting time… No. Tell him to Piss off.
Lower your own internal expectations
You can only be as good as you are. You don’t want to be perfect. If you were perfect you’d have nothing to aspire to. You’d probably be pretty boring too. Don’t expect miracles. And don’t set unattainable goals. That’s not suggesting you don’t compete to get better or better yourself, but set yourself realistic goals or you’re beaten before you start.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - remember this:
We are all imposters!
Only, no one else knows but you.