“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.