Imposter Syndrome

June 3, 2021

Deloris Thompson

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Have you ever felt like a phony at work? Like your co-workers are going to find out you are a fraud? Hours spent studying and the grades proving you understand feel like simply luck?

These feelings are nothing new and you are not the only one going through them. Doctors, engineers, actors, even presidents have felt the same. An article printed in The Journal of Behavioral Science explains that 70% of the population has dealt with it. Since boot camps started a lot more people have migrated to developing. It is a great starter that can open a lot of doors. Ruby on Rails, React Native, C++ is just a few that make it possible to find that new career. One door that even seasoned veterans find a hard time closing is imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications. — Time Magazine

The term was developed by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 originally as an imposter phenomenon. They focused on self-starting, successful women. Women that others look at and assume they have it all; from confidence to financial success and independence. What they found was shocking; no matter how powerful or confident, imposter syndrome was always there waiting to pounce. But why? Did Former President Barack Obama feel it? Has Steve Wozniak ever walked into a boardroom unsure his tech was up to par? Is it just women? Simply put no.

Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. — Harvard Business Review

As research increases, we are finding that everyone experiences it at some point in their life. A moment when you are not “able to internalize and own your own successes.” — Dr. Audrey Ervin. My very first experience with it was when I made the Dean's list. I spent hours studying, making sure my work was perfect and handed in extra credit, yet I still felt like I did not deserve it. All of my hard work felt like just luck. I was lucky the textbooks were not overly complicated or that my teachers were amazing. I couldn’t own my own success.

How do you break the imposter syndrome spell?

Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out. — Maya Angelou

Taking control of my thoughts was the first step. Everyone has good and bad thoughts but realizing which ones are actually helpful is important. When we realize which thoughts are just hindering our success we are one step closer to beating imposter syndrome. Accepting constructive criticism is also important. Without it, we will never truly know where to improve. The most important step in breaking the spell is knowing when to ask for help and being comfortable with it. At Echobind we have a fifteen-minute rule. If you are stuck on a problem for fifteen minutes reach out for help. Imposter syndrome can make asking difficult. Thoughts like “what if they find out I am a fraud?” can slow you and your team down. When we ask for help, we accept that we do not know everything, but we are also breaking down the “fraud” barrier.

Everyone has positive and negative thoughts. Not allowing the negative ones to control our actions is important. Remember you deserve the success and worked hard for it. Celebrate every small win; even if it is a single commit PR or an A on a report. Every little win you embrace brings you one step closer to accepting your hard work.

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Deloris Thompson

Deloris is a software engineer at Echobind by day and student, mom, and wife by night. She is obtaining a Bachelor's in Computer Science at the University of Advancing Technology.