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Five tips on overcoming imposter syndrome

“Everything you've ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” George Addair

UX/UI Design
5 minute read

At any time, I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” — Mike Myers (Actor, Comedian)

Imposter syndrome can indicate that you are seeking to enhance your skill set, however, it should not consume your soul and render your abilities ineffective. This article will provide tips on overcoming your imposter syndrome.

Get into the habit of documenting

During my tenure as a full-time Software Engineer in 2016, I faced challenges articulating my thought process during technical meetings. Even though I knew how to handle the task, I felt I could do a better job translating those actions into words. As you can imagine, my inability to express myself during the meetings invited an unwelcome guest: The imposter. I compared myself to other teammates who could flawlessly talk about the pros and cons of a code change. I felt that they always possessed a photographic memory of the entire codebase. Thankfully, a helpful teammate assuaged my struggles by advising me to jot down my thought process before the technical discussions. The notes acted as my North Star in speaking up confidently.

Ever since then, I have been documenting a summary of my work at the end of the day. Nowadays, I grab Notion or Polywork to record my personal and professional activities. I write down the goal of a task, a list of activities that I have performed to achieve the goal, resources that aided me, my key takeaways, and what I could have done better. Journaling helps me become self-aware and control my imposter syndrome. Whenever someone asks me what I have worked on, I can refer back to my notes and deliver my response without stammering. The other advantage is that whenever I start a new project, my past documented activities act as my guide in handling the new one with more courage.

If you struggle with recalling details, documenting your ideas can boost your self-confidence and silence the critical inner voice. You can fight your fears with proven records of your activities.

Write a love letter to yourself

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." — Benjamin Spock (Paediatrician)

You deserve a big round of applause for making it this far. I am sure that your younger version would be proud of your accomplishments.

You might have doubted your abilities in the beginning phase of any project, but once you make progress in the task, your anxiousness can be replaced by sheer joy. What was your secret to achieving this? What did you do to excel? Include these in the love letter, and do not shy away from expressing your admiration for yourself. Highlight your strengths with examples, and do not forget to include testimonials from your peers. Your future self would love to be reminded of how you aced a problematic situation in the past. Write those scenarios in the letter to offer strength to your future self in escaping from the prison of imposter syndrome.

Reframe your thoughts

Negative thoughts will strip away every ounce of your confidence and rob your potential. Take a moment to reflect on why you feel the negative emotions. Was it because someone judged you harshly before? Perhaps your environment had zero tolerance towards mistakes? After reflecting, validate your feelings. We cannot alter the past, but we have the power to control the present.

Next time, when you are tempted to think: “I am incapable of doing this task”, reframe the thought as “Why don’t I give this task a try?”. After that, think about how you will approach the task. One possible way is to look for a trusted mentor who can guide you. Incorporate their feedback and plan your action items.

Next time you encounter the trap of comparisons, think about what you can learn from the other person. When something does not go well, reframe this experience as a learning opportunity. Identify what you have missed from your part and formulate what you will do differently in the future.


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Seek feedback often

Let's play a guessing game. We will guess which individual is more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome.

Alice meets her manager on a biweekly basis, and they conduct discussions on Alice’s progress, roadblocks, and personal goals. These fruitful meetings help Alice gauge her abilities effectively. Alice gets opportunities to clarify her understanding and can align her expectations. Bob receives feedback only during the performance review session, which happens only once a year. Throughout the year, Bob is unaware of his performance.

As you can guess, Bob is more likely to be the victim of imposter syndrome. Without the regular feedback loop, Bob might underestimate his capabilities. The lack of self-confidence will ultimately surface in his performance. Alternatively, Bob might overestimate his skill set. In this case, he will be in for a shock when he receives his results from the review session.

Whenever you feel the sting of imposter syndrome, try to tackle it by seeking feedback. Consider doing regular check-ins with your peers. Hearing others’ perceptions can give you clear insights into where you are doing well and where you should be focusing.

Grant yourself a free pass in making mistakes

“Everything you've ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” — George Addair (Motivational Speaker)

Thomas Alva Edison is famous for his work on the light bulb. The book, Creative Confidence states that Edison conducted countless failed experiments. However, he gained valuable lessons from each of those experiments, which led to his legendary invention. Edison believes: "Real measure of success is the number of experiments that can be crowded into twenty-four hours."

What would have happened if Edison feared failure? The upcoming generation would have never reaped the benefits of the light bulb. The main takeaway is to be kind to yourself and not view failure as the end of the world. If you are not making mistakes, you limit your chance of learning new approaches.

Concluding thoughts

Imposter syndrome leads to self-doubt, low self-esteem, setting unrealistic expectations, burnout, fear of mistakes and other undesirable effects. Remember that you have been chosen to shoulder responsibility because you possess the potential. Did someone praise your effort? Write that down. Write that love letter to yourself, and feel free to share it on socials so that others are also inspired to write. Your letter can prevent others from feeling like an imposter. If you want to maintain your sanity, avoid comparison and avoid suffering in silence, reach out to your trusted network. I hope the tips in this article armour you with defeating imposter syndrome. Everyone deserves to believe in their potential.

Sources and recommended readings