Sunday, February 20, 2022

Imposter syndrome - a coin with 2 sides?

Lots have been written about Imposter Syndrome, especially with how it relates to the world of software development. I wouldn't normally write about such things here but I've recently been struck by a new, related idea and it felt too long for Twitter.

"anonymous" mask
Talking about complex issues can be hard as it's natural to assume that other people have similar thoughts and experiences as yourself. But that's not always the case.

But what if all imposter syndrome is not the same?
I think there are two kinds (there may be more but two is enough for me, now.)
  • I don't deserve to be here.
  • I don't deserve to be allowed in there.

The order doesn't matter.

It's easy to think they are the same but there are some subtle differences.

One is about loss and one is about gain.

But, both are about self-doubt, fear, a lack of appreciation for own value, and neither are necessarily rational.

In that "people in tech" often think of themselves as logical and want everything to be logical this can make it difficult to talk about.

It's also possible to have both thoughts about yourself. Not about the same thing but about different or even similar topics at the same time or in quick succession.

It sometimes feels like everybody has imposter syndrome at least some of the time.

Not everything is imposter syndrome though. Sometimes you can be in positions you don't deserve to be in. Sometimes you'd like something, to be, or do something that you're not qualified for or yet capable of.

But what can we take from this? It doesn't sound like I've made any great insight.

Well, here's the thing that struck me. 
It's important not to assume that the imposter syndrome another person is currently feeling the same kind of imposter syndrome as you.

For example:

If you're someone with a job and your imposter syndrome makes you state you don't feel like you should be there, it can be really disheartening for the people who would love to be there but their imposter syndrome tells them that they don't deserve to get a job there. 

Or people with good jobs they clearly deserve saying they have imposter syndrome can be really disheartening for those without a job and have struggled to get one, for years and so feel their own sense of imposter syndrome about being worth employing.

It works the other way too. If you have imposter syndrome about not being recognized or accepted for something, it's tough to hear people who are recognized say they have imposter syndrome about being acknowledged that way.

Beware of dismissing other people's imposter syndrome. Especially when it's different from the type you experience.

Both types of imposter syndrome offer an opportunity for self-improvement. As a prompt to increase technical skills and as an opportunity to acknowledge your own value and worth, regardless of 


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