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Impostor syndrome, am I suffering enough to write about it?

Madeleine Neumann
Apr 4, 2017 · 5 min read

My whole life I was questioning myself:

Am I doing this right? Is this the right way I am going? Do I deserve what I get at the moment? Should I ask for a raise?

Let’s start from the beginning:

At school I was a loner. I was the girl who was picked last when teams where build, I was the girl who where bullied at school because I was different. I liked Pokemon, going out into the nature and never joined the gossip group. In this time I’ve asked myself whats wrong with me, why are they bullying me? What did I wrong? And the Idea came up, that MY behaviour must be wrong. It never changed in my schooltime that I was a loner. When I went to college, it gets a lot better (hey, I wasn’t bullied anymore, but I was never really a part of a group and the questioning, if something is wrong with me never stops).

When it came up to apply for an apprenticeship, I was questioning myself again: “Am I the correct person for this Job? It’s an IT-Job, you’re pretty bad at math, you can’t handle it! You’re not skilled enough with computers to do this job!” — I applied for a Job and get the Job. My Boss was really impressed of my skills and I finished my apprenticeship really well and get a certificate for the second best graduation in germany.

BUT — I can’t accept it! My boss payed me a reward for my good grades and I was like: “But it could be better, I was not the best, only the second best, I don’t deserve it!”

I quit this Job after my apprenticeship and started a career as Campaign Manager. I was pretty new to this topic and it was so fun to learn something new. I was working nearly 12 hours a day to be perfect in that job (sometimes a lot more hours). After 1 month my boss told me, that I have to be a mentor for a trainee for 2 months. At this point I was paralyzed. I was arguing, that I was only working for one month in this job and do not have enough experience to be a mentor for someone. He told me, that I am doing an awesome job and I am the perfect fit for a mentor. I was suffering from insomnia for 3 days. Since this trainee I was a mentor for 7 trainees. I quit this job too, because I nearly burned out because of the responsibility, the hours I worked a day and because of my collegues who where envious about the fact, that I was a mentor (again I was bullied because of who I am).

After that I started studying business administration. That was the time, where I started questioning my whole life. In my opinion, I’ve failed two jobs. In my freetime I was visiting the Opentechschool in Dortmund and learned some HTML and CSS and I also attended the “Javascript for absolute beginners” course. That was the time, where I discover my love for code. It was the first time in my whole life, where everyone accepts me for who I am.

A half year later I get an job offer in my company I am working now as a web developer. And I love my job! Now we’re getting to the point, where I discovered the so called impostor syndrome.

Discovering the impostor syndrome

I am working in my company since August 2014 — nearly 2 1/2 years. In this time, I learned a lot about coding (Ruby on Rails, HTML/CSS, JavaScript) and I’ve organised on my own a conference with 200 attendees, 17 international speakers and a lot of awesome sponsors. It went pretty well when I see the feedback I get. There was no “fuck up” at the conference but I had the feeling, I did not gave my best to create this conference. After the conference I get a break down at home and was crying on my very own. A friend of mine asked me two days later, whats wrong. Another break down in tears and he told me, that I am suffering from impostor syndrome. He gave me a few days later a piece of paper with this questions:

  • Does everyone overestimates you?
  • Do you tend to discuss yourself?
  • Does fear of failure paralyses you?
  • Do you decline your own success?
  • You can’t understand the compliments you’ll receive?
  • Do you focus more on what you haven’t done?

Yep, 100 Points to Gryffindor… ehm Madeleine! I talked to him again and he explained me, how to come out of this bad circle:

  1. Say every time to yourself: „It’s only in my head“
  • People acknowledge your work
  • They appreciate you as the person who you are
  • They will give you feedback, if something went wrong
  • Accept compliments, people critizise more, than giving a compliment

2. Write a diary

Give yourself a chance and write down, what you’ve done really well on that day

  • I cooked a really delicious meal
  • I wrote a very good part of code
  • I helped out an elderly person to enter a train

3. Ask yourself: “What would I do, if I was not afraid?”

Would I….

  • ask my boss for a raise…
  • ask the cute person in front of me out…
  • start a new job…
  • start a new project….

…if I where not afraid

4. Talk about it

I am helping myself right now to escape the impostor zone when I am writing about it

5. Captivate your friends

  • Every time you underestimates yourself, spend a cup of coffee or maybe a beer to close friends if they notice that you do it and point it out.

6. Stop commenting compliments

  • Say „thank you“ to the „sender“, don’t discuss yourself
  • Take a look, what you’ve done for the person/customer/boss and then ask yourself: “Would the person give me a compliment, if my work was as shitty as I think?”

This methods help me every day to get out of the impostor zone. I am not discussing myself as much as I did a year ago. I can accept, that I’ve learned a lot in the past 2 years. I can accept, that the conference went pretty well (that’s why I am doing it again). Maybe this methods will help you too :)

Last but not least: Be kind to yourself! You’re as perfect as you are and you’re the best person you can be!

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