This week was apparently Impostor Syndrome Week, but I don’t know why.  One of my apprentices mentioned impostor syndrome in his most recent blog post, and a friend from the tech community mentioned it in a post on Facebook.  Both of them linked to this NY Times article.  I also was dealing with my own personal bouts of impostor syndrome this week.  For me personally, I tend to get these feelings when I feel like I’m in a situation that’s way over my head.  In reality, they typically are situations that are high-stress and the emotional toll of the stress ends up triggering my impostor syndrome.

Am I really capable?!?

That came up in my first bout of impostor syndrome.  I sit on a non-profit’s board of directors, and we had two pressing issues on our plates for this meeting.  In both cases, I was optimistic going into the meeting and quickly switched to the realist position, which put me in a dissenting position for both issues.  At my core, before my realist kicks in, I’m an optimist.  However, the older I get, the quicker my realist kicks in.  Having worked with non-profits and their projects at various GiveCamps – including Cleveland GiveCamp – I knew there were things to watch.  When I get into a dissenting position over big things like this, I always question myself in terms of whether my position is valid and then that leads down the impostor syndrome path.  Thankfully, there are other realists on the board, which makes it easier for me to bounce back from that.  When one of us chimes in with our dissenting views, one of the others chimes in as well.  Once I see that I’m not that far off base and actually do know what I’m talking about, then it’s a lot easier.

How did we do this?!?

This is from my second bout of impostor syndrome this week.  With the help of the staff at the Software Guild, The Bit Factory, and the community, I was able to pull off a great event on Wednesday night with Julie Lerman speaking about EF7.  The people who made it happen behind the scenes rocked – Dave, Victor, Randall, Eric, Annal, and most of all Amanda!

For a last minute event put together around Thanksgiving, I figured we’d get a low turnout, but honestly, we did great!  However, deep down, I was still beating myself up and thinking “I could’ve done better”.  Seeing that everyone enjoyed it, though, helped me from beating myself up further and falling into the impostor syndrome trap.  That and the following day, I was on the phone with one of my tech event organizer friends, and when he mentioned his range of attendees for the same space, I realized that I got this event planning stuff.

I don’t have this….

This was from the last bout of impostor syndrome this week.  I had a stressful situation at work, one where I felt like I was wearing the bad cop hat a bit more than I really wanted to.  Deep down, I knew I was in the right position to make these calls, but after the stress of this week so far, my “flight or fight” response was quickly changing from fight to flight.  I was done, crumbling under it all, too afraid to click the Send button on the email because I was making decisions for more than myself, and I feared this wouldn’t work well.  But rather than completely running away, my realist showed up and after talking with my colleagues, I knew I was not only okay with my decision but that it had to be done.  It was an act of tough love, loosely speaking.

How to Survive Impostor Syndrome

Every person deals with it differently.  Some completely get engulfed by it and then spiral out of control.  Some are alert enough to see when it’s coming and they seek help.  Since I deal with it more often than I like to admit, I’ve been able to identify when it’s getting triggered, and I take a few steps:

  • Write out the situation as it’s playing out, and figure out how to get the inner self-confidence to be louder than the inner impostor.  I’m good with helping others with this; yet I’m still working on myself with this part.
  • Disregard non-constructive feedback.  No offense to those who have feedback that isn’t constructive – it’s just noise, though, if I don’t have action points.  The last thing I need is more internal noise if I’m trying to fight impostor syndrome.
  • Talk it out.  Depending on the situation, I tend to rely on different people to talk with them and get myself out of that rut.
  • Worst case – I reach out to the ones who are near and dear to me and know just how to pull me out of the low parts and summon my self-confidence.  These guys have been in my life awhile and know just which buttons to push to get me out of the funk and chaos that comes with impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome – along with the self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and depression of it all – is something I battle.  However, the more I identify it, the better I get with managing it.  It’ll be a lifetime of managing it, but I think I got that!