We read this old blog by Scott Hanselman recently and it really rang true. I’m a phoney. Are you? discusses the inadequacies we all feel at work — the suspicion that someone will finally see through us and expose us for the fraud we believe ourselves to be. This is the Imposter Syndrome:
“Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
For all of us, the more our knowledge expands so too does the toolbox we use to problem solve — not only do we acquire more specialist tools, but our breadth of understanding increases exponentially as areas of our understanding and experience become interlinked. This in turn means that our search for a solution to any given problem is slowed at the initial step: before even selecting a tool we must first decide in which toolbox drawer to look. Naturally we then feel stupid, slow and less competent than our 20-year-old selves, not to mention less confident.
Another aspect that reinforces the imposter syndrome is the reaction to your work by those outside your field of expertise. For example, IT professionals do not get direct appreciation of their efforts or what they actually achieve from their non-IT friends. I have had much admiration for the video displayed in this video player, but rarely is it understood what it is I am proud of having created: the video player itself.
However, we are so wrong to allow expanding knowledge or misunderstanding to cloud our self-belief and confidence in our hard-earned competencies.
If you are proud of having created, organised or managed something, however undervalued by others, you are good at what you do. You take your time to find the right solution for the given problem, and because you do not suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, you are willing to listen to others and improve your work further.
Your knowledge and experience of your field is better than ‘adequate’ by far. Those outside your profession do not have the tools to understand what you do, just as you do not understand exactly what it is they do — it is unfair to expect the endorsement you would like from those unqualified to give it.
give yourself a shiny — go team you — crack open the Bolly, dahling — top banana
and you are getting even better!
If you have got this far, read the blog by Scott Hanselman and feel good about yourself : )