Living With Imposter Syndrome — 7 Coping Mechanisms

Let me start by saying that Imposter Syndrome isn’t something that has crept up on me over a period of years, or manifested itself in certain jobs or types or work. In one form or another, it has been present throughout my young and adult life, personal and professional, and managing it can be hard work, but I feel I’ve nearly cracked it!

I’d like to have an attempt at explaining how.

Have you ever been in a room of people and you absolutely convince yourself that everyone in that room is smarter than you are? That when you open your mouth, little of any substance will come out and the people around you will expose you for the fraud you are?!

Have you ever dreaded a call or meeting because you knew you would be asked questions that you didn’t know the answer to?

Have you ever stood up in front of rooms of people, sweaty-palmed, heart-pounding, thinking that your every move or word is being judged?

Have you ever not applied for a dream job or company because you thought you simply weren’t good enough to work there?

Have you ever thought that the work you do just isn’t good enough, or you’re not as valuable as you ‘hoped’ you might be?

I suffer from these things almost daily.

Now I seem to get tagged with phrases such as ‘expert’ or ‘thought leader’, which I find deeply uncomfortable as I progress my career in infosec.

So what coping mechanisms or thought-processes have I employed to cope?

1. Give up caring whether you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’

You’re a vitally important cog in the wheel and everyone should value your opinion whether they agree with it or not.

2. The other people in the room often don’t know the answer either

Remember that not everyone is Stephen Hawking. There’s plenty he doesn’t know too!

3. The worst outcome is nowhere near as bad as you think it might be

So you don’t know the answer? The world will keep on turning. The sun will still rise in the morning. You’re not a walking Wikipedia.

4. Seniority is not a sign of someone being ‘better’ than you

They’re simply doing a different job. Many good leaders want YOU to tell THEM what to do! Don’t be intimidated by job titles.

5. People are learning from you

You may not think they are, but consciously or subconsciously, they are and you are valuable to them.

6. Keep learning

The only way to get better is to invest the time to learn. Then teach it to others.

7. Understand that you will fail. Repeatedly.

And it’s ok.